In addition to the option of filing criminal charges, a victim of sexual assault may also have the option of filing a civil personal injury lawsuit against his or her alleged perpetrator. Today, we will examine how such a civil case may work and some of the potential difficulties involved in obtaining compensation from a verdict or settlement.
Civil action and damages for sexual assault
A sexual assault can certainly result in a criminal prosecution, leading to penalties involving prison time, probation, fines, and potential other sanctions against the offender upon conviction. A civil lawsuit in these cases is used as the primary means of obtaining monetary compensation – referred to as damages – for the harm sustained by the plaintiff.
Under civil law, sexual assault is not a legal theory which may be used to hold the perpetrator accountable for his or her misdeeds. Instead, pursuing a civil lawsuit against someone for the sexual assault he or she has committed against you must be done on the basis of personal injury actions. These may include intentional infliction of emotional distress or civil battery and assault.
Damages claimed for sexual assault or abuse in a civil case arise from the physical or emotional harm inflicted upon the victim, in addition to continuing harm the victim will suffer from the initial abuse. This often includes compensation for pain and suffering and mental anguish, including anxiety or even responses similar to PTSD arising from assault or abuse.
Even if you obtain a successful verdict or settlement which holds the perpetrator liable for his or her actions against you, unless the defendant/perpetrator has sufficient assets, you may have difficulty collecting your monetary award. Often, liability insurance policies cover incidents resulting in personal injury lawsuits, such as slip and fall accidents, car accidents, and dog bites. However, these insurance policies do not cover intentional acts. Therefore, these cases pursue the only source of compensation available, which is usually the personal assets of the defendant/perpetrator.
Other potentially liable parties may be sued
A civil lawsuit may be brought against another party along with the person(s) who carried out the assault. For example, if the assault occurred at a school, place of business, or other institution, that entity may be held responsible under the theory of negligent supervision or on the basis of the failure to provide proper security.
Proving your sexual assault case in civil court
When it comes to proving that the defendant/perpetrator is legally responsible for the assault, whether or not the incident resulted in a criminal prosecution and a conviction of the defendant may help determine if your civil lawsuit will be successful. You may be entitled as the plaintiff in a civil suit to utilize evidence from the criminal case that the jury used to find the defendant guilty.
Even if no criminal case occurred regarding the alleged sexual assault (or even if the defendant was found not guilty), it will still be easier for the victim in a civil case to demonstrate the defendant is liable for the alleged abuse. The reason is that in a civil case the standard of proof is lower than in a criminal case. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil case the burden of proof is “by a preponderance of the evidence.” That means in a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff only needs to demonstrate that the defendant more likely than not committed the alleged offense.
The Memphis personal injury attorneys at Bailey & Greer, PLLC, are here to help you obtain the financial compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses resulting from a sexual assault. We serve clients throughout West Tennessee. To arrange a free consultation at one of our law offices in Memphis or Jackson, call us today at 901-680-9777 or fill out our contact form.