How Compensation Works for Sexual Assault Victims in Nova Scotia
In Canada, countless incidents of sexual assault occur annually, exceeding a staggering 460,000 cases. Shockingly, a mere 33 out of every 1,000 assaults are brought to the attention of the authorities. Even more disheartening is that merely 12 of these reported cases lead to charges against the accused individual. However, the journey towards justice proves to be arduous, as only half of those charged are ultimately prosecuted. Consequently, out of this already diminished number, merely six cases result in convictions.
Canada’s system fails to prosecute 997 out of 1,000 sexual assault cases, leaving a minuscule fraction of offenders held accountable.
Sexual assault victims encounter numerous obstacles while seeking justice for their allegations due to a range of factors. In criminal courts, the burden of proof to convict an assailant is exceptionally high, whereas civil courts determine fault based on the balance of probabilities. Below, we will delve into the implications of this standard and explore further complexities surrounding lawsuits concerning sexual assault.
Types of Damages Claimed in Sexual Assault Lawsuits
In the realm of civil sexual assault lawsuits, a topic we will delve into further below, victims have the opportunity to seek reparation through various forms of damages. These encompass:
- Non-monetary, and
- Punitive penalties.
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Pecuniary damages encompass a wide range of financial setbacks usually associated with monetary losses. They encompass a decrease in one’s ability to earn and various costs related to the well-being and treatment required for the aftermath of the sexual assault, both in the present and future.
Sexual assault lawsuits often result in substantial compensation for non-pecuniary damages. These encompass a wide range of aspects, including psychological distress, physical and emotional pain, the absence of joy in life, and challenges in personal relationships, among others.
Punitive damages do not aim to provide recompense to the victim but rather to castigate the wrongdoer. Their purpose is to exhibit society’s denouncement of the perpetrator’s actions and deter any potential future misconduct. A prerequisite for awarding punitive damages is for the court to ascertain that the defendant’s behaviour was exceptionally malevolent, heartless, or retaliatory.
Contrasting the Standards: Reasonable Doubt versus Probability Balance
The burden lies on the prosecution to establish the guilt of a defendant beyond any reasonable doubt in a criminal trial. This represents the paramount threshold of proof within a legal setting, wherein a jury should possess no reasonable uncertainties regarding the defendant’s alleged commission of the crime as presented by the prosecutor.
Sexual assault cases can pose a complex challenge. Unlike the common portrayal of a lone predator lurking on secluded pathways or hidden alleys, most instances involve two acquainted individuals. The crux lies in one person alleging non-consent, whereas the other person insists that consent was indeed given.
The jury’s critical task is to determine if the prosecution has successfully demonstrated a convincing absence of consent. It is crucial for the jury to understand that they are permitted to find a defendant guilty if they are left with no reasonable doubts.
As a consequence, nearly all sexual assault cases, amounting to 99.7%, fail to lead to convictions, allowing the perpetrators to walk away without consequences.
In civil trials, the burden of proof relies on establishing a balance of probabilities.
Balance of Probabilities
In a tort case, the burden of proof for a plaintiff is to establish their claims with a greater likelihood than not, which is significantly less stringent compared to the standard required in a criminal case. In situations where survivors of sexual assault find the outcome of a criminal trial unsatisfactory, they have the option to present their case before a jury to seek compensation.
Benefits of Filing Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Assault
Nowadays, a growing number of victims of sexual assault are seeking justice through the civil courts. When prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to proceed with criminal charges or when juries acquit due to reasonable doubts, victims have the option to file lawsuits against their perpetrators, claiming that they have endured significant physical and emotional harm. Such cases fall under the umbrella of intentional torts, representing a subset of legal cases involving intentionally inflicted harm.
The plaintiff in this instance asserts that the defendant is guilty of engaging in sexual battery. Just like any other type of battery, there exist two essential elements that need to be established beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. These elements are:
- The unwanted physical touching was intentional; and
- The contact was not wanted.
These two components form a battery at law. When an additional sexual element is introduced into non-consensual physical contact, it becomes a sexual battery. For individuals who have endured such unwelcome sexual contact, seeking justice through civil courts can employer them to make their voice heard and hold their attacked responsible for their illegal act.
In contrast, within a civil lawsuit, the sole resolution lies in monetary compensation. The liable party, along with any others accountable due to negligence, are responsible for paying for the diverse damages caused by their assault. This serves as a preventive measure for future wrongdoers and potentially contributes to a decline in the overall occurrence of sexual assaults.
Compensation for Harm in Sexual Assault Lawsuits
When a plaintiff takes legal action against a peretrator for perpetrating a sexual assault, the jury must determine the extent of compensation the victim deserves and assess the damages incurred. These damages often comprise various elements such as:
- Psychological distress,
- Emotional trauma,
- Interference with personal relationships, and
- Loss of employment.
The aftermath of a sexual assault can manifest in various ways, oftentimes leaving invisible wounds that can be incredibly distressing. This is why legal action taken against the offender in such cases places a strong emphasis on the emotional damage inflicted upon the survivor and the profound repercussions endured in their daily existence.
Intentional Torts and Sexual Assault Lawsuits
In the context of injury or tort disputes, liability is established via two distinct grounds. One pertains to intentional torts such as sexual battery, while the other hinges on negligence claims that strive to demonstrate that a defendant is accountable for their omission or reckless actions. To succeed in a negligence claim, the plaintiff must substantiate that the defendant had a responsibility to exercise care but violated it.
Sexual assault cases involve both types of lawsuits.
The accused party is being accused of perpetrating a sexual assault, involving battery and assault, against the victim. The plaintiff claims that in the instance of the sexual assault, the defendant intentionally applied force in a manner that infringed upon the victim’s sexual integrity. The act was carried out without the victim’s consent. Sexual battery encompasses a wide spectrum of acts, ranging from unwanted groping to the most severe form of violent rape.
Contrarily, assault possesses an entirely distinct connotation that does not necessitate any form of physical harm or contact. Rather, it revolves around instilling fear within the victim through provocative threats or obscene gestures. Consequently, assault and battery charges are frequently both charged by police at the same time.
If a person who is in a position of authority, such as a coach, priest, teacher, or parent, is responsible for committing a sexual assault, they can be legally sued for violating their fiduciary duty towards the victim. Moreover, the institution that failed to prevent the assault from occurring can also be held accountable for their negligence. More details on this matter will be elaborated below.
Negligence Claims in Sexual Assault Torts
An organization is expected to prioritize the protection of the health and well-being of its staff and the wider community, which entails avoiding endangering others and conforming to certain standards. This responsibility becomes even more crucial when the vulnerable community includes children.
The Catholic Church serves as an exemplary illustration of this phenomenon. With numerous cases of negligence, the Church has seen billions of dollars paid out as settlements. Rather than reporting sexually abusive priests to the authorities, the Church chose to relocate them, endangering even more children. Consequently, not only can the priests be held liable for sexual assault, but the institution that facilitated these victimizations can also face legal actions.
Their knowledge of the danger led them to complete inaction.
Another prevalent form of legal action related to sexual assault or battery is the lawsuit concerning workplace sexual harassment. Should an employer disregard an employee’s grievances regarding sexual harassment, the company may face legal repercussions and become a subject of litigation.
There are no restrictions on identifying defendants in a civil lawsuit for sexual assault victims. Both the entity that enabled the sexual misconduct and the person responsible for committing it can be held accountable through legal action.
What Happens After A Sexual Assault Victim Files Criminal Charges and a Civil Action?
The legal recourse available to a victim of sexual assault includes the option to pursue criminal charges and civil action against the perpetrator. However, the criminal case takes precedence over the civil case and is resolved first. If the perpetrator is convicted in the criminal trial, this conviction can serve as compelling evidence against them in the subsequent civil trial.
From a logistical standpoint, it is common for prosecutors to dissuade victims from pursuing civil charges when a criminal case is in progress. The underlying rationale is straightforward: such a move could give the impression that the victim’s sole motivation is financial gain. Defense lawyers often exploit this fact to undermine the victim’s credibility in the criminal trial. Essentially, initiating a civil motion at the same time as the criminal proceedings might jeopardize the integrity of the criminal action.
Understanding Sexual Assault Lawsuits Work
When embarking on the path of litigation, one of the first steps is to enlist the services of an lawyer who will advocate for your rights and concerns. At this stage, your legal representative will craft a letter of demand that delineates the accusations against the wrongdoer while proposing a specific monetary compensation to resolve the issue. Generally, the wrongdoer is apprehensive about safeguarding their image and reputation.
When faced with such situations, the option of refraining from talking about the issue (by signing a non-disclosure agreement) can be a valuable bargaining tool in negotiations. While this may result in victims receiving a higher financial compensation, a significant number of them do not view it as an adequate solution, and instead, they would rather present the matter in front of a jury.
In the progression of a legal dispute, court proceedings emerge as the subsequent phase. In cases where mutual consent cannot be achieved between the plaintiff and the defendant, the plaintiff will initiate legal action by lodging a formal Statement of Claim with the court. Next, the discovery process commences, wherein both parties are asked questions under oath. Provided that no settlement is reached even after this stage, the lawsuit will then advance to trial.
During the discovery process, both the plaintiff and defendant are required to provide sworn testimony, while also presenting relevant evidence relating to the accusations. Experts are often asked to evaluate the extent of damage suffered by the victim and measure any detrimental consequences, such as work-related challenges, caused by the act of aggression.
Once these tasks have been finalized, the case will proceed to trial where the court will be tasked with making a decision.
- In the event that the purported sexual abuse took place;
- The level of damage inflicted upon the complainant as a result of the abuse; and
- Whether these damages led to any negative consequences for the complainant.
The incident of sexual assault frequently leaves victims burdened with deep shame and guilt. Consequently, in an attempt to shield their identities during legal proceedings, their lawyers frequently present motions to court, requesting the use of pseudonyms or an outright ban on the publication of the case details. This way, the victim’s accusations would not become part of the public record.
When Does It Make Sense to Settle An Assault Claim?
A substantial number of sexual assault cases are typically resolved outside of court, without reaching a jury. This approach spares the victim from having to recount the traumatic experience, while enabling the defendant to avoid any public acknowledgment of guilt. Furthermore, it is essential to consider the significant expenses associated with a trial when taking into account the plaintiff’s perspective.
Confidentiality agreements are commonly incorporated in settlements of this nature, frequently enabling victims to engage in conversations regarding the issue with healthcare professionals and loved ones. Nevertheless, they typically restrict victims from publicly sharing specific details of the matter, including the defendant’s identity, on social media or other public platforms.
When contemplating the settlement of your lawsuit, it becomes vital to examine the underlying motives driving your decision to initiate legal action. Preszler Law Firm is prepared to guide you in evaluating the advantages and disadvantages associated with every option you opt for.
Talk to a Nova Scotia Sexual Assault Lawyer Today About Your Case
NOVA Injury Law helps those who have suffered from sexual assaults committed by either individuals or institutions that allowed such atrocities to occur. Our team of sexual assault lawyers is dedicated to ensuring that you receive the justice you deserve, especially when the criminal courts have failed to deliver it. We understand that sexual assault is an egregious crime that inflicts permanent wounds, and it is disheartening that the perpetrators often evade punishment within the criminal justice system.
Give us a call at 1-800-262-8104 to get help today to learn how we can help you.