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Can I Sue My Attacker If They Aren’t Convicted?

Written by: Hagelgans and Veronis

A Civil Lawsuit Can Help you Recover Damages

If you are a victim of assault and battery, you may wonder if you have recourse to prosecuting your attacker if they are not convicted in a criminal trial. Many victims also file a civil lawsuit when they have sustained injuries in an attack in addition to any criminal charges that law enforcement may have filed concerning the incident. The success of an injury lawsuit does not depend on what happens in a criminal trial.

At  Hagelgans & Veronis, LLP, we represent victims throughout Pennsylvania that have suffered injuries during incidents involving assault and battery. Our experienced attorneys can help you understand our rights in a civil case and walk you through the process. If you want to hold your attacker accountable for your injuries, contact our office at (717) 295-7009 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.

What is Assault and Battery?

Assault occurs when a perpetrator has the intent and the ability to cause serious bodily injury. The two categories of assault are simple assault, where a person has a reasonable fear of imminent harm, and aggravated assault, with an intent to cause severe injury, usually occurring with a weapon like a gun, knife, or other object that can cause harm or death. Battery doesn’t always result in physical injury but can be offensive, such as spitting or touching someone inappropriately.

Examples of assault include:

  • Threatening to hit or kill someone
  • Pointing a weapon and threatening
  • Swinging and missing

Examples of battery include:

  • Attempted rape
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Grabbing someone with the intent to harm them

The Difference Between Criminal and Civil Lawsuits

In criminal lawsuits, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the attacker committed assault because if found guilty, the defendant will face punishment for a crime. In a civil lawsuit, a jury must only determine that there is a preponderance of the evidence, meaning it’s more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for injuries resulting from the attack. The court will hold your attacker accountable for payment of damages in a civil lawsuit. You can file a civil lawsuit if no criminal charges are brought against your attacker or if that individual is found not guilty.

Consider Filing a Police Report

Even if the incident never progresses to a criminal trial, filing a police report is recommended for several reasons. Witnesses are more likely to cooperate. The defendant will not be able to use your failure to go to the police as a defense. If the defendant is eventually convicted, the plaintiff can use the report to establish legal liability in the civil suit.

Pay Attention to Pennsylvania’s Statute of Limitations

Filing a civil lawsuit for assault and battery cases is similar to other injury cases in Pennsylvania. The state’s statute of limitation applies, meaning that you must file your claim within two years from the date of the incident. An exception occurs if the victim is a minor, as the state of limitation may be tolled, meaning the clock doesn’t start to run until the child becomes a legal adult. In other words, if a 15-year-old is a victim of assault, they can file a lawsuit up to two years after their 18th birthday.

What Kind of Damages Can You Recover in a Civil Assault Cases?

Serious and permanent injuries can require long hospitalizations and extensive recovery. Some assault victims require dental work or surgery.

 Damages are similar to other types of injury cases and may include:

  • Medical and mental health treatment costs
  • Out-of-pocket expenses related to treatment
  • Lost past and future wages
  • Pain and emotional distress

Some plaintiffs may be able to recover punitive damages when an attorney can prove that the defendant acted with fraud, malice, or aggression. Punitive damages usually require a bigger burden of proof, as they are meant to punish the perpetrator.

Proving Your Losses

When filing a civil lawsuit to recover damages for medical costs, you will need to prove your losses. Gather copies of medical records and bills, receipts for medications, bandages, and assistive devices, proof of related transportation costs, receipts from other services related to the assault and a state of lost income from your employer.

Can My Family Sue the Attacker?

The family of an assault victim can sue the attacker for damages resulting from assault and battery to a family member under the following conditions:

  • They witnessed the assault and suffered emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium if the assault resulted in a loss of companionship, moral support and/or intimacy
  • Wrongful death if the incident resulted in death

Holding Your Attacker Accountable

Filing a civil lawsuit against your attacker can be emotionally difficult, especially if the incident was sexual in nature. However, it can provide victims with closure. Our experienced attorneys will work diligently to get the maximum possible compensation for your case. Contact us today at (717) 295-7009 to get started on your case.

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