Skip to Content
Mitchell & West, LLC Mitchell & West, LLC
Call Today For Personalized Legal Solutions 305-783-3301

Protecting Your Rights Through a Personalized Approach

Learn More About Mitchell & West

If you or a loved one has been sexually assaulted, you are not alone. You can call RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673 or chat with someone online for confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

While most survivors of sexual assault understand that the perpetrator of the assault can be tried through the criminal justice system, fewer people realize that civil courts also provide an avenue for survivors of sexual assault to seek justice. Through the civil courts, sexual assault survivors can sue not only the person who assaulted them, but also possibly other people and entities that are considered liable under the law.

Any civil court action is not dependent on a criminal conviction or even a criminal charge. If you suffered harm as a result of a non-consensual sexual act, then you can file a civil suit against the person who assaulted you.

Differences Between Criminal and Civil Court

Whereas the criminal courts will impose jail time, fines, or other sanctions on those it finds guilty, civil courts work to provide monetary compensation to those it finds have suffered harm. Furthermore, a criminal case is brought against a person accused of a crime by the state – the victim serves only as a witness. In a civil case, on the other hand, a sexual assault survivor serves as the plaintiff who brings the case against the defendant. The defendant in a civil sexual assault case can be the perpetrator of the assault and/or, in some cases, third parties who may also be legally liable.

The burden of proof in civil cases is also different than in criminal cases. In criminal law, the prosecution must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant who stands accused of a crime did indeed commit that crime. That high burden of proof is difficult to meet. In civil courts, however, the burden of proof is lower. The plaintiff must prove that a “preponderance of evidence” demonstrates that the plaintiff is legally liable for the harm that the plaintiff suffered. In other words, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was more likely than not responsible for the harm at issue in the case.

It is important to keep in mind that although the burden of proof is lower in civil cases than in criminal cases, this does not mean it is easy to win a civil case. It is important that you consult with a knowledgeable sexual assault attorney who can help ensure that you have the best chance of winning your case.

What Compensation Can You Seek?

Survivors of sexual assault can seek both compensatory and punitive damages. If the defendant is found liable, the court can order the defendant to pay compensatory damages that are intended to compensate for damages, injury, or other financial losses. Compensatory damages can include:

  • Medical bills
  • Counseling
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Emotional distress or trauma

Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in addition to compensatory damages and are intended to punish the defendant for acts that are found to be grossly negligent, intentional, or malicious.

It is important to keep in mind that in order for you to successfully collect on any judgement awarded by the court, the perpetrator must have the ability to pay the awarded damages or have assets that can be liquidated in order to pay the awarded damages.

However, in some cases, you can also seek compensation from a third party. If you were sexually assaulted and that assault occurred in connection with an organization, that organization could be held liable. This could include a place of business, a religious organization, or an educational institution.

If you have been sexually assaulted and are considering filing a civil case, the experienced sexual assault attorneys at Mitchell & West LLC can help you seek justice. Contact us online or call us at (305) 783-3301 to schedule a consultation.