Yes. Victims of sexual assault or sexual abuse can – and regularly do – file civil lawsuits against the perpetrator. The purpose is to acquire monetary compensation for the physical and emotional harm suffered by the victim. In many cases, a criminal prosecution is also pursued which can result in a requirement that the perpetrator register as a sexual offender, jail time, fines and/or probation. These civil lawsuits are handled by personal injury lawyers who take on sexual assault – plaintiff cases.
A sexual assault/sexual abuse attorney will assess the severity of the emotional and physical injuries suffered by the victim and those which the victim will continue to suffer from; he or she will then determine the “cause of action” under which the civil case will proceed. In a sexual assault case, the legal theory used could be, among others, assault and battery or intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Because of the shocking and horrific nature of sexual crimes, juries often award very high damages to plaintiffs. Since most insurance policies do not cover intentional acts, often the only way to collect damages is if the perpetrator has substantial assets or wealth.
In some cases, a civil suit can be brought against an organization. If the abuse happened at a business, school, church or other organization then it could be argued that there was negligent supervision or security. If leaders of an organization failed to respond to complaints of sexual abuse or assault then that too could lead to a civil suit.
If there is a corresponding criminal case that resulted in a conviction then it could increase the chance of a successful civil lawsuit. Even if the defendant was acquitted in a criminal case, the victim will still have an opportunity to show that the defendant is liable for the alleged abuse because the standard of proof is lower in a civil case. The plaintiff must only prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the alleged wrongful act (the standard is called “by a preponderance of the evidence” in legal terms).
There are no up-front costs to hire a sexual assault – plaintiff lawyer. Personal injury clients pay only a percentage of the settlement or jury award, which motivates the attorney to recover the highest amount possible.
We look forward to answering all of your questions and speaking with you about your legal needs. When you call our office or send us a message through our consultation request form we will provide a FREE initial consultation and case evaluation. Our attorneys offer home and hospital visits with evening and weekend appointments available.