If you have been the victim of criminal sexual conduct, can you also file a civil suit, seeking damages for physical or emotional injury? The answer is clearly yes—many, if not most, victims of sex crimes also seek compensation in a civil suit.
What Type of Claim Can You File?
Most personal injury claims are filed under a theory of negligence. Furthermore, certain types of personal injury actions have developed over hundreds of years of common law—medical malpractice, product liability, premises liability, just to name a few. There is no recognized specific claim for personal injury caused by sexual assault. That doesn’t mean, though, that you don’t have a claim.
Personal injury claims arising out of criminal sexual acts typically fall under one of two different “torts.” ( A tort is a legal term for a case filed in civil court where damages are sought, other than a breach of contract action.) The courts have long recognized a tort for assault and/or battery, one that frequently becomes the basis for a lawsuit alleging injury from sexual assault. The other common basis for such a lawsuit is “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
It’s important to note that both of these legal theories require a showing of intent, rather than a showing of mere negligence. Negligence generally involves a failure to abide by a commonly accepted standard of behavior. Intent requires knowledge, planning, and purpose. The importance of this? Most liability insurance policies exclude coverage for intentional acts, so the typical avenue of compensation—a liability insurance policy—may not be available.
To recover financial compensation for sexual assault, you must show that you actually suffered some type of physical and/or emotional injury. You can also argue that you will continue to suffer as a result of the attack.
An advantage in a civil action involves the burden of proof. To obtain a conviction in a criminal case, the prosecutor must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt, a pretty high standard. In most civil actions, the burden is simple what is known as “a mere preponderance of the evidence,” i.e., more likely than not likely.