If you’ve been the victim of sexual violence, you should take the matter to the police. Sexual assault crimes are serious felonies, and you attacker should be imprisoned for their crimes. There is also another form of justice in our legal system, civil justice. It is possible to file a lawsuit against a sexual abuser.
Civil Justice vs. Criminal Justice
Criminal justice is centered around crimes against society. Someone breaks the law, so they must be penalized for their crimes. They could serve probation, pay a fine, perform community service, be incarcerated, and so on.
Civil justice has different intentions and outcomes. It revolves around financial compensation for the damage one person inflicts on another. If someone is physically injured, for example, they could have their medical bills and future treatments compensated. Lost wages and lost potential earnings can be reimbursed, and they can receive financial damages for their pain and suffering.
Often, civil lawsuits involve some form of negligence where one person sues another for their inaction. We often see this in lawsuits over car accidents or premises liability. If a driver fails to pay attention or follow traffic laws, and other is injured, they can be sued. Similarly, if a business owner neglects a spill in their store, and a customer hurts themselves, the owner can be held liable for those injuries.
You can also sue someone for directly, intentionally inflicting harm on you. In this instance, the injurious action is called a “tort.” You do not have to prove negligence in these cases. You need only to prove that the action occurred, and the defendant can be ordered to pay for your damages. Such lawsuits can also result in “punitive damages.” These are damages levied against the defendant strictly to punish them. The court uses these to teach the defendant a lesson and make an example of them.
Another difference between civil and criminal court is the amount of evidence needed against a defendant. In criminal court, prosecution has an obligation to prove that someone is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The jury must be 100% convinced of the defendant’s guilt. In civil court, the plaintiff must present a “preponderance of evidence.” The court must be only 51% certain of a plaintiff’s claims to rule against the defendant. Even if your abuser evades criminal justice, you can win a lawsuit against them.
What if Your Abuser Was Already Convicted and Sentenced?
You may file a lawsuit against anyone, regardless of their criminal status. Whether they were sentenced, are awaiting trial, or roaming free, you can still sue them. There are, however, some unique challenges to suing someone serving a criminal sentence.
It may be difficult to get the defendant to appear in court. If incarcerated, they cannot simply appear on a scheduled date. They must be granted temporary release from their correctional facility. This can be a lengthy process, and it can be denied. Moreover, criminals are often transported from one place to another. If your legal team was in the process of requesting a release for trial, and the prisoner is moved, your team will have to start over. Such transfers can make the defendant difficult to locate.
Another problem is what you may or may not gain from the lawsuit. Unless your abuser was rich when they were sentenced, they might not have the funds to pay your damages. Prisoners make very little money for doing jobs while incarcerated, and some make no money at all. It could be more expensive for you to file the lawsuit than it is for them to lose. Attorneys often refer to this as being “litigation proof.” Before considering a lawsuit against your abuser, have your lawyer investigate their current circumstances. You need to make certain that filing the lawsuit is worth the trouble.
If you wish to file a lawsuit against your attacker, reach out to our office. We can help you determine the efficacy of your claim. If a lawsuit is unfeasible, we may have other options to help you find justice. Contact us online today, or call us at (843) 968-0886.