When a person is the victim of a crime, including a violent crime like a sexual assault, the focus of justice typically is on the criminal justice system. In the grand scheme of things, even if the perpetrator of a crime is convicted in the criminal justice system, the victim is not necessarily likely to feel as if a full measure of justice has occurred. In reality, there certainly are some crimes in which justice seems elusive. Crimes involving sexual assault tend to fall into that category. Understanding these limitations, a victim’s ability to pursue civil remedies may bring a more complete sense of justice in the aftermath of a crime.
Pursuing Civil Remedies Following a Crime
A victim of a crime has the lawful ability to pursue a lawsuit against the perpetrator. In some instances, the perpetrator of a crime will have assets that can be used to satisfy a judgment in a lawsuit.
The process of pursuing civil remedies – of filing a lawsuit – gains the perpetrator of a crime begins by sending a demand letter to the offender. The demand letter is document that sets forth the losses sustained by the victim of a crime and demands the payment of a specific amount of money within a set period of time. If the payment is not made, the victim can then proceed to filing a lawsuit.
Pursuing a lawsuit against the perpetrator of a crime is a complicated legal matter. Technically speaking, such a lawsuit is a type of personal injury case. Due to the complexity of this type of legal matter, the victim of a crime who desires to pursue a civil remedy or lawsuit is strongly advises to seek the professional assistance of a skilled, experienced personal injury attorney.
Types of Injuries, Damages, and Losses for Which Compensation Can Be Sought
A victim of crime can pursue an array of different types of injuries, damages, and losses arising from the underlying incident. The types and extent of injuries, damages, and losses varies from one case to another. With that said, the most commonplace types of compensation sought in a case brought by a crime victim include:
- Physical injury
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Lost income
- Medical bills and expenses
In some cases, the victim of crime may also be able to seek what are known as punitive damages or exemplary damages. Punitive or exemplary damages represent additional compensation awarded in a personal injury case because of particularly egregious conduct of the defendant in the case.
Other Parties Against Whom a Claim for Compensation Can Be Pursued
In some instances, the victim of a violent crime may be in a position to pursue civil remedies, including a lawsuit, against parties beyond the perpetrator of the crime his or her self. For example, if a crime occurs in some sort of public venue, the victim may be able to pursue a lawsuit against the owner of the establishment.
By way of illustration, consider a situation in which an individual is sexually assaulted in the parking garage maintained by a business. In this scenario, assume that the crime occurred at night and the garage lacked proper lighting. The lack of proper lighting created a security risk to patrons who utilized the garage.
In this type of situation, the victim of a crime would be in a position to bring a lawsuit not only against the actual perpetrator of the crime, but the owner of the business that oversaw the parking garage as well. Indeed, in this scenario, the victim might be able to pursue punitive damages or exemplary damages against the business for failing to maintain appropriate lighting in the parking garage.
Understanding the Statute of Limitations
Every state in the United States has a law known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations sets forth the timeframe in which a personal injury lawsuit must be filed. As mentioned previously, a lawsuit brought by the victim of a crime against the perpetrator is a type of personal injury claim. In California, a personal injury lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the occurrence or crime. If the victim of a crime fails to bring a lawsuit for injuries, damages, and losses within the two-year period of time, the crime victim is precluded from pursuing a lawsuit.
Example of California Lawsuits Brought by Crime Victims
Perhaps the best-known lawsuits brought by California crime victims against a perpetrator were the lawsuits brought by the family of Nicole Brown Simpson and the family of Ron Goldman against OJ Simpson. (Families of deceased murder victims are themselves recognized victims of crime.) The Brown and Goldman families both prevailed in their lawsuits against OJ Simpson even though Simpson himself was found not guilty of killing Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman following a trial.