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In recent weeks, the news has been saturated
with stories of people in positions of power attempting to use their influence
to cover up accusations of sexual harassment and assault levied against them.
This has spurred a national conversation on how we can support victims and help them seek justice.
Victims of sexual harassment or assault may file civil lawsuits against their perpetrators. Any kind of sexual assault incident may also lead to a criminal prosecution, which can come with penalties like fines, jail time and probation. However, civil lawsuits are typically the only means by which the victim can recover financial compensation for the harm they’ve endured.
How to file a lawsuit
Because there is no such thing as a “sexual assault lawsuit,” any victim who wishes to hold a perpetrator liable must choose a legal theory that has specific case types, such as assault and battery or infliction of emotional distress.
Damages the victim may recover in a sexual assault or harassment-related claim arise from the emotional and/or physical toll the incident(s) took on the victim and the harm the victim will continue to suffer in the future due to the harassment or abuse.
When the plaintiff can convince the court of the defendant’s liability, judges and juries often award considerable damages because of the crimes’ egregious nature. However, when the defendant does not have much money of his or her own, it can be difficult to collect that compensation.
In some cases, when collecting compensation from the perpetrator will be especially difficult, the victim may bring a civil suit against another party. If, for example, the harassment or assault occurred at a school, business or other institution, that entity could be liable because of its negligent supervision, negligent hiring or a failure to provide appropriate security. These third parties typically have more assets at their disposal or insurance policies that could pay out damages.
Proving your case
If the defendant was already convicted in a criminal case, a plaintiff likely may have a lower burden of proof in a civil claim. Plaintiffs and their attorneys may present evidence a jury has already used in a criminal case to find the defendant guilty.
If there was not a criminal case or the defendant was found not guilty, plaintiffs still have a reasonable chance of success in their civil actions, as the burden of proof in civil cases is much lower than in criminal cases. One only needs to show it was more likely than not the defendant committed the act, rather than the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard associated with criminal matters.
To learn more about your options for seeking compensation from the perpetrator of abuse or assault, consult a dedicated New York attorney with Robinson & Yablon, P.C.