Victims of sexual assault or abuse are encouraged to report the incident to authorities, who will likely launch a criminal investigation. This action may result in criminal charges being filed. The victim may be able to file a lawsuit against the perpetrator through means of a sexual abuse lawsuit. A successful case can help provide a means to recovery for the victim by providing a form of justice and financial compensation. A qualified sexual abuse lawyer will be able to explain available legal options.
What is the Difference Between a Civil Lawsuit and a Criminal Lawsuit?
Criminal Lawsuit – After a crime is committed and then reported to proper authorities, a criminal case starts. If an investigation by law enforcement culminates in an arrest warrant, the suspected abuser will be arrested and formally charged with a crime. A prosecutor will then be tasked with proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. If found guilty, the court will order punishment in the way of incarceration, probation, fines, or any combination of these.
The punishments, however, do nothing to help compensate the abuse victim. Additionally, a victim does not have any input into how a case is presented to a jury, what kind of plea deal is offered to the offender, or any other factors that go into the case created by the prosecutor.
Civil Lawsuit – This type of case is filed on the victim’s behalf in civil court instead of criminal court. The resulting determination is based upon a “preponderance of evidence,” meaning that the evidence is presented. The judge or jury analyzes it to determine whether or not the abuse was likely to have occurred. If the decision is affirmative, the court reviews the type of damages requested by the victim and whether the awarded amount is equitable and fair. This type of lawsuit, a civil one, is not filed as a means to determine whether the accused perpetrator is innocent or guilty but merely to determine if this person or entity is liable for the injuries inflicted upon the victim.
Can You Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Sexual Abuse Case?
An individual who has been injured due to sexual abuse will want to seek legal assistance from a lawyer with civil tort law experience. Civil wrongdoing that causes emotional or economic harm to someone, for which the participating party is legally liable, is a tort. Personal injury law is the field covering civil torts of various kinds that produce injury and economic harm. Unfortunately, not every personal injury attorney is experienced in handling sexual abuse cases. A victim should seek a legal representative who is well versed and experienced with this kind of lawsuit.
The following is a brief listing of services that an experienced attorney can provide for a sexual abuse victim:
- Assistance in understanding the multiple requirements connected with filing such a lawsuit, including the time frame of the statute of limitations
- Expert knowledge regarding legal options in seeking compensation, plus insight into additional types of resources and assistance available
- The determination of the liability and responsibility of all individuals and entities who could potentially be at fault. There may be more than one person, other than the abuser, who is liable. If the abuse took place within a school, church, or other institution, there could be multiple people involved in an attempted cover-up. Failure to provide sufficient security or failure to report abuse allegations to authorities properly could make others liable.
- Assistance to determine a lawsuit’s value is the economic plus non-economic costs incurred by the victim because of the abuse.
- Help in pursuing a settlement from an insurer providing coverage to the perpetrator or another potentially liable entity. This type of assistance is very relevant in abuse situations that involve teachers, staff members, or clergy in an institution where the abuse took place.
- Filing the necessary court documents in a victim’s personal injury lawsuit
- Legally representing the abuse victim at all hearings and pre-trial conferences.
- Presenting proper litigation in the case
- Help in collecting the victim’s damage award
- Representation in any appeal proceedings filed by defendants
Is an Abuser’s Conviction Necessary for the Victim’s Case to Succeed?
There is no requirement that an abuser must have been criminally charged or convicted for a victim to bring a civil case against the perpetrator. However, if a conviction has been won in a criminal case, this evidence can be powerfully beneficial in the victim’s civil lawsuit. Jail time is not involved in a civil trial.
Sexual Abuse Liability
A skilled attorney will look for specific issues when determining the parties who are liable for sexual abuse. Questions shown below will factor into the lawyer’s research:
- Did the employer of the abuser perform a thorough background check before hiring? Does the past employment history of the defendant indicate a propensity for sexually abusing children?
- Were any individuals connected with the institution, school, or church told by the victim of the abuse that had occurred? Did anyone who knew of the abuse report it to the school, church, or institution?
- Was a policy in place and followed in handling sexual abuse allegations properly?
- Did authorities at the institution, school, or church perform an investigation?
- Did anyone try to conceal from authorities any reports, evidence, or allegations?
- Did anyone affiliated with the institution, school, or church try to intimidate the abuse victim or pressure the victim to remain silent and not report the event?
Sexual Abuse That Occurred Years Ago
Because many survivors suffer a lifetime of lasting effects from the trauma of sexual abuse, many states are reevaluating the time frame imposed for filing such lawsuits. In order to help victims heal and recover deserved compensation for damages they have suffered, some states are considering changing their statutes of limitations.
Contact Our Law Firm
The qualified and skilled personal injury lawyers at The Eichholz Law Firm will be able to discuss all legal options available to someone who has suffered the trauma of sexual abuse.