Sexual assault is by far and wide one of the most heinous acts of criminal behavior known to the human race, and the damages you may endure in a sexual assault case reflect this. In this article, our sexual assault attorneys in San Diego will highlight the different types of damages that may be available to you.
Generally speaking, and in regard to civil cases, three primary types of damages can be collected: economic, punitive, and non-economic. Economic damages are easier to quantify and are designed to compensate you for financial losses you’ve suffered due to your injuries.
Punitive and non-economic damages, however, aren’t as easily quantifiable, and their extent generally depends on the nature of the crime committed. Punitive damage are intended to punish the defendant and to deter future conduct. General damages are to account for the victim’s pain and mental suffering.
Read on to learn more about the damages that may be awarded to the plaintiff in a sexual assault case.
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Before we discuss the potential extent of damages awarded to plaintiffs in sexual assault cases, let us clarify the prominent differences between civil and criminal sexual assault cases.
Criminal sexual assault cases are crimes committed against a victim that are then prosecuted by the government. The government is responsible for gathering evidence against the defendant and then convincing a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did in fact commit the crime. The end goal of a criminal prosecution is punishment in the form of prison and jail sentences.
The prosecution’s burden of proof in criminal sexual assault cases is greater as the defendant’s guilt must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A guilty verdict for the defendant also means a criminal record.
In contrast, civil sexual assault cases are brought to court by the plaintiff, and the plaintiff only needs to prove that the defendant committed a sexual assault by a preponderance of evidence. In other words, the plaintiff needs to prove by 50.01% (more likely than not) that the defendant’s intentional actions were the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and harm.
Sexual assault is generally classified as an intentional tort in civil court, meaning the defendant consciously inflicted harm upon the plaintiff. A verdict in favor of the plaintiff in civil court does not result in a criminal conviction for the defendant, but rather civil (monetary) liability.
To collect the most damages, the plaintiff must file their sexual assault case in a civil court under an assault and battery or intentional infliction of emotional distress cause of action. Like other civil cases, the following types of damages may be awarded:
- Economic damages: These are quantifiable financial losses that occurred as a direct result of the plaintiff’s injuries. They may include medical costs, lost wages, and out-of-pocket legal fees.
- Non-economic damages: These are not as easy to quantify but are distinct from punitive damages. These may include but are not limited to damages related to your mental anguish and pain and suffering caused by your injuries.
- Punitive damages: Also known as exemplary damages, punitive damages are any payouts the defendant makes to the plaintiff as punishment for their actions. These damages are meant to deter future conduct by impacting the defendant’s finances. However, these can depend on the defendant’s finances and are not as easy to quantify.
Although not as common in other types of civil cases, punitive damages are especially common in sexual assault cases: The court awards them to the plaintiff to make an example out of the defendant to try and deter any further sexual assault crimes from happening in the area.
If you’re unsure whether you have grounds for a sexual assault case in either civil or criminal court, you should enlist the help of an experienced sexual assault attorney. We will provide guidance and assistance for you every step of the way.