Sexual Assault & Abuse Civil Lawsuits: Victims' Rights

Victims of sexual assault or abuse face tremendous repercussions that impact their emotional and physical well-being. Because victims can suffer profoundly, our civil justice system recognizes the importance of providing them with the opportunity to make their voices heard, and to secure the justice and compensation they deserve.

At Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP, our award-winning Cleveland trial lawyers are passionate about providing the bold and unwavering advocacy sexual assault and abuse victims need to navigate difficult times in their lives, as well as challenging legal endeavors. While we encourage victims to seek a confidential consultation with our compassionate team, we also want to provide important information to help victims better understand their rights and ability to pursue legal action.

  • Civil lawsuits vs criminal cases – Sexual assault and abuse lawsuits are handled in our civil justice system, which is distinct and separate from criminal courts. Although sexual assault and abuse can result in criminal charges against wrongdoers, these criminal cases are not a viable source of compensation for victims, even if defendants are found guilty. In some cases, due to the higher burden of proof required in criminal cases (beyond a reasonable doubt), some wrongdoers may also not be criminally charged or held criminally accountable for their actions if prosecutors are not able to build strong cases. As such, these civil lawsuits provide victims with further opportunities to hold wrongdoers accountable for their misconduct, and civilly liable for the damages they caused.
  • Who can be held accountable? – Depending on the circumstances involved, victims may be able to hold various parties accountable for their conduct or failures in relation to sexual assault or abuse. This includes the perpetrator, who can be held accountable under a number of intentional torts which allege a wrongful act caused harm, including assault and battery, false imprisonment, and intention infliction of emotional distress. There may also be cases where third parties can be held accountable for their actions, misconduct, and failures. This can occur when employers (such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, government entities, etc.) negligently hired or retained employees who committed assaults or abuse.
  • Damages – Civil lawsuits allow victims to recover financial compensation for their economic and non-economic damages. In cases involving sexual assault and abuse, these damages can be profound, though often intangible. However, illustrating the impact of assault and abuse on a victim – including what can be life-altering mental anguish and lasting emotional injuries – is important to a full and fair recovery. While securing damages is an important aspect of a civil case, victims often choose to pursue these actions as a means for furthering their sense of justice, making their voices heard, and compelling important changes that can protect other victims from suffering harm and tragedy in the future.
  • Proving a case – As mentioned above, civil and criminal cases are separate legal proceedings that involve their own set of rules and procedures. Even if a wrongdoer was not criminally prosecuted or convicted of a crime, victims may still have an opportunity to hold them, as well as any other responsible parties, accountable in civil court. This is largely due to a lower burden of proof used in civil court (a preponderance of the evidence), which requires victims to prove a defendant more likely than not caused them harm, and / or a third party’s negligent actions more likely than not led to their preventable assault or abuse. Any lack of criminal charge or conviction should not deter victims from seeking to prove their case in civil court.

Taking the steps to make your voice heard as a victim of sexual assault or abuse is a powerful action that can not only provide the justice and compensation you deserve, but also make a true and commendable difference in protecting others. At Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP, we value the trust victims place in our team during difficult times, and are motivated to protect their rights and seek justice through every possible application of our experience, resources, and commitment. O

If you wish to discuss a potential civil sexual assault or abuse case with a member of our legal team, please call (216) 600-0114 for a free and confidential consultation.

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