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Separate from criminal law, California civil law allows a person to seek justice and compensation for the emotional and physical injuries sustained from all types of sexual violence. All victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse have the right to file a claim and sue perpetrators for their damages. If you have been or currently are being sexually assaulted or abused, get to a place of safety and contact law enforcement.
After you are safe, you can contact a civil attorney who can assist you in obtaining compensation for your damages.
Any type of sex crime can be the grounds for a civil lawsuit. The following are common sexual offenses that lead to civil sexual assault lawsuits:. Other types of offenses that can give rise to sexual assault cases can include sex and human trafficking, prostitution, the purchase or sale of for sexual purposes, the possession or distribution of child pornography, and sexual harassment.
Anyone who has been the victim of unwanted touching or an unwanted sexual act of any time can sue for the damages. If you have a question about whether you can seek civil restitution, speak to an attorney.
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In addition to the victim, family members may also be able to sue for damages if they meet one of the following criteria:. A common question is whether or not a victim must file criminal charges before they can file a civil lawsuit. In California, victims are not required to obtain a criminal conviction, or even a police report, before they can sue for damages.
This means that even if the assault or abuse was never reported to the police, a victim can still seek damages. While a police report and criminal charges are not necessary, they can be helpful in a civil damages case. If reported, and followed by an investigation, any evidence located may be helpful in a lawsuit. It is not uncommon for victims to not go to police, however, as victims often fear being believed and mistreated.
If a victim does report to the police and the District Attorney chooses to not pursue criminal prosecution, or accepts a plea bargain, victims may feel discouraged. In this situation, a victim may feel they do not have a strong civil case. This does not mean a victim should not bring a civil case, or that a civil case will not be successful. In a civil case, the victim will actually be a party to the proceedings, meaning they get to decide whether the case is settled outside of court or if it goes to a trial.
Finally, in a civil lawsuit, the burden of proof is lower than in criminal cases. This means that while the District Attorney may not have been able to prosecute a case to prove the extremely high burden of proof, a civil attorney may be able to meet the lower burden of proof for civil liability. There is a difference between the burden of proof required for criminal and civil lawsuits in California.
In California, victims who were adults at the time of the sexual assault and abuse have two years from the date of the assault seek civil damages.
The time period for criminal charges is often shorter. One exception is when the defendant is convicted of criminal charges the victim has one year from the date of the judgment to file suit, even if it has been longer than two years since the abuse.
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Victims of childhood sexual abuse and assault have the opportunity to file a civil lawsuit until the later of the following:. When a plaintiff is over the age of 40, they still may file a claim if they meet the following criteria:. The five-year delayed discovery rule is not suspended during this period, so a potential plaintiff who is close to the age of 40 should contact an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that their claim is brought in time.
The perpetrator of the assault and the abuse can always be held responsible in an assault case. In addition to the perpetrator, there may be other parties who can be held liable. An attorney can help victims determine who, in addition to the perpetrator, may be held liable for their assault or abuse.
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After a claim is filed, the defendant will most likely assert one or many defenses, in an attempt to rid themselves of liability. A few examples of common defenses include:. Unlike cases in the criminal division, which can lead to jail time and other penalties, civil cases can lead to monetary rewards.
This includes compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of future earnings, psychological counseling, loss of enjoyment of life, insomnia, anxiety, emotional distress, and trauma. Additionally, a plaintiff may also recover punitive damages if they can adequately prove that a defendant acted with fraud, oppression, or malice. Punitive damages have the goal of acting as an example by punishing the defendant.
If you have been a victim of assault, first and foremost make sure you receive any medical treatment that you need. Your health and safety are of upmost importance. After you are safe and have gotten any necessary medical treatment, consider your options for reporting your assault. If you were raped, seek a rape kit. There are trained nurses who complete rape kits which preserve evidence and can be helpful in both criminal and civil cases.
The most important things to do are to seek immediate help and do what you can to preserve evidence. Even if you do not think you will pursue a lawsuit, you may change your mind and will be extremely grateful for the evidence you have saved.
If you or a loved one has suffered from sexual abuse or assault, the attorneys at Silva Injury Law would love to discuss your options.
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We will fight for you and seek compensation for your suffering. By Silva Injury Law Staff. Mar 24, for a Consultation Schedule your free consultation. This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged. .