One option which is available to any victim of violence, whether the perpetrator has been charged with a crime or not, is the civil lawsuit.
What is a Civil Lawsuit?
A civil lawsuit is a claim presented to a court authority that someone or some entity is liable for harm done by that someone or entity. A civil suit can be conducted against
- Government Agencies
- Any other entity which caused harm to a person
In order to win a civil lawsuit, there must have been harm done and it must be proven in court. When a person has become a victim of violence, if they can prove that the perpetrator of that violence cost them monetarily and caused pain and suffering to them, they have a right to seek a monetary (money) award from the liable party.
Does Lubbock Victim Assistance Services Recommend Civil Lawsuits by Victims Against Perpetrators of Violence?
Lubbock Victim Assistance Services, Inc. neither encourages nor discourages the pursuit of a civil lawsuit. Whether a victim chooses to file a lawsuit is entirely up to them. Lubbock Victim Assistance Services, Inc. does not provide legal advice nor is this article to be construed as legal advice.
We do recommend that if you are considering a lawsuit you consult with an attorney.
The law states that anyone has a right to file a lawsuit if they have been harmed by another, but when considering a lawsuit, there are some practical things to think about. Some of these include:
- Whether the person to be sued can pay damages: If a person has no property and will be in prison for a long time, the possibility of recovering damages owed (money) is slim.
- Whether there is a continuing danger/risk to you: If the person against whom you may file a lawsuit is currently free to move about, suing them may inflame them further, putting you at greater risk. Furthermore, when a civil suit is filed, it must include your current address. In situations such as involves domestic violence, you may be keeping hidden, perhaps living in a sanctuary or protected housing location. In fact, most such locations will not permit the filing out of a concern that the violent individual may cause trouble there.
- Whether you can win: In some cases, proving harm may be difficult. A lawyer is always the best person to discuss this with.
- Whether taking the matter to court is worth the emotional toll: For instance, when someone has been raped, there is a large emotional toll on the person from the criminal case. The same emotions will arise if a civil case goes to court and many victims find themselves unwilling or unable to repeat the trauma.
- Whether you even want to: In some cases, family members may attempt to pressure you into filing a civil lawsuit. You may not even want to. Perhaps you believe the person who caused the harm did not intend such and does not deserve to be further punished. Perhaps you simply do not want to bother with taking the added time and energy from your life. Whatever the reason, you are the one who must live with the choice, so never let anyone pressure you into deciding whether to seek compensation in civil court. The choice is yours.
On this final point, we want to emphasize that any decision to pursue a civil lawsuit against the person who brought violence to you or not is yours. No one but you can, nor no one but you should make that decision for you. Aside from the fact that you will have to live with any consequences of your decision, there is one very big reason to not allow another to make this decision for you.
Someone did very real harm to us. Someone, with no regard for us brought violence to us and hurt us. We will be angry. We will be mad. But how we deal with that anger will impact how we cope both now and later.
When a person has become a victim, a kind of trauma occurs. The brain engages a protection mechanism which reverts back to childhood, to a time when others made decisions for us. This is both natural and harmful. It is natural because it is one way that our minds cope with the anger we naturally fell regarding the event.
Victims who remain in this mode of thinking long after the initial trauma of the violent event often fall into a trap of letting others control them. This prevents them from healing the emotional wounds inflicted upon them.
The best way to break out of this is to start making as many decisions for yourself as possible as soon as you can. This will prevent you from becoming conditioned to the effects of the trauma and permit you to start the emotional healing process you need.
To learn more about this, we recommend reading How to Stop Playing the Victim Game. In that article at Psychology Today, Dr. Robert Firestone discusses strategies to break away from the defenselessness that is so common with victims of violent crime.
Lubbock Victim Assistance Services, Inc – Here to Help
Although we may not advise you on whether to pursue a civil lawsuit or not, there are many other ways we can help. Aside from providing you with a compassionate ear, we have access to numerous resources both private and governmental to help you heal.
If you have been the victim of violence, whether a crime was reported or not, get in touch with us today by calling 806-763-3131. We care and we are here to help.