Victims of physical assault and sexual assault, including child molestation and child sex abuse, may be able to seek justice in the civil courts by filing lawsuits against the wrongdoer, the criminal defendant. However, they may also be able to file suit against other parties whose negligent actions contributed to the assault. The classic example involves a bar fight which results in injuries. The bar or restaurant may be liable for serving a patron or customer who then caused the fight.
Victims of sexual assault like rape and child molestation often have valid claims against other parties as well. For instance, a student who was sexually assaulted by a teacher may have valid claims against the school. Below are the basic steps involved in seeking justice in an assault or sexual assault case.
Step One – Reporting the Crime
For many victims of assault, especially sexual abuse and child molestation, the real hurdle to obtaining justice is reporting the crime to law enforcement. Guilt, shame, and fear of not being believed often prevent an assault victim from reporting the crime. Despite these fears, victims of assault and sex assault should consider filing a report with law enforcement. The first step to obtaining justice is reporting the perpetrator to the police.
Step Two – The Criminal Investigation
Once an assault is reported to authorities, a criminal investigation will probably occur. However, not all reports will result in prosecution. The statute of limitations, strength of evidence, credibility issues, etc., will determine whether a case is actually prosecuted.
Even if a case is not prosecuted or not investigated, an assault victim can still proceed with a civil case.
Step Three –The Civil Justice System
Filing a civil lawsuit in an assault case involves proving that another person acted in such a way as to cause injury to another. The plaintiff is the injured individual and the defendant(s) is any person or business which contributed to the injury. For example, in a bar fight assault case, the plaintiff is the injured individual. The defendants would be the bar where the fight occurred and the criminal perpetrator.
If the plaintiff is able to prove the case, then the outcome is likely to result in a jury verdict in the plaintiff’s favor. However, in general, the vast majority of civil cases are resolved short of trial. Roughly 9 out of 10 cases will be settled without having to go to trial.
Financial Compensation in a Civil Assault Case
In a nutshell, the purpose of the civil justice system is to right a wrong, and in tort/negligence cases like assault and sexual assault cases, the civil justice system rights wrongs by ordering wrongdoers to pay financial compensation to the injured parties. This is the hallmark of the civil justice system.
Therefore, the reality is that in an assault or sexual assault civil case, the outcome will involve financial compensation. In addition, out of court settlements can result in real, positive changes. For instance, as part of a settlement, a school may be required to provide mandatory sexual abuse training and/or adopt different policies and procedures with respect to sexual abuse of students by school employees.
Laffey, Bucci & Kent is a Philadelphia based law firm with offices throughout the Northeast area. Our lawyers handle civil assault and sexual assault cases across the country. Firm partner, Brian Kent, is a former sex crimes unit prosecutor who is passionate about justice for victims of crime. Please call our firm for a free consultation. Click To Call
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