How We Can Help in the Civil Case

In our experience, too many survivors never talk to a lawyer about bringing a civil claim. When we hear from survivors who elected not to explore civil claims, we hear the following three objections over and over again.

First, well-meaning friends, colleagues and even criminal justice professionals tell them “you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.” That advice is just plain wrong.

Before you can determine whether you have a valid cause of action against the perpetrator or someone who may be held legally liable for his or her criminal conduct, a complicated analysis must be performed by a specialist in this area. At the very least, a qualified person must analyze the following:

  • Does the perpetrator have sufficient assets to pay a judgment?
  • Does any insurance policy cover your claim?
    • Does the perpetrator have insurance coverage?
    • If not, do you have insurance coverage through a policy maintained by you or someone else?
    • Does a third-party’s insurance coverage extend to your injuries?
    • Determining whether insurance applies requires factual investigation and expert analysis, which we perform at no cost to you
      • Insurance policies over cover claims that defy common sense. For example, a homeowner’s policy has been held to cover claims for defamation brought against the homeowner that have nothing to do with the home.
      • Only a lawyer experienced in dealing with insurance coverage can evaluate whether coverage exists.
      • We have a team of highly-trained lawyers who specialize in insurance coverage analysis who leave no stone unturned in looking for potential insurance coverage for our victim clients.
  • Can a third-party be held liable for some or all of your injuries?
    • Many times third parties, such as employers, business owners, hotels, landlords, etc. can be held financially liable for a perpetrator’s criminal acts. Common situations of third-party liability include:
      • Negligent security claims against owners of businesses where criminal acts occur (e.g., action against bank for ATM robbery);
      • Negligent hiring and supervision claims against employers of criminal perpetrators (e.g., claim against school for sexual assault by teacher);
      • Premises liability claims against owners of properties where a criminal act occurs (e.g., claim against landlord for sexual assault of tenant);
      • Claims against parents of minors who commit criminal acts;
      • Claims against accomplices and criminal conspirators;
      • Claims against professional liability insurance carriers for criminal acts of professionals (e.g., claim against medical malpractice insurance carrier for sexual abuse by physician).

Second, survivors claim they just don’t have the money to consult with a lawyer on a potential claim.

  • You do not need to pay a penny to bring a civil claim. All of our consultations with victims are absolutely free. In addition, in the event you decide to move forward with a civil claim, we are paid on a contingency fee basis. That means we collect a percentage of any verdict or settlement, but collect no fees or expenses from victim survivors unless or until a verdict or settlement is reached.

Finally, survivors fear that the civil litigation process will prove too stressful.

  • The process of civil litigation is not easy or stress free for anyone, especially for survivors. We work closely with survivors, their therapists and their families to evaluate whether bringing a civil claim is in their best interest to being with. However, we urge survivors to talk with experienced attorneys so they can make an informed judgment on whether to move forward on a civil claim. We also ask survivors to keep in mind:
    • Most civil cases settle out of court. Moreover, how far you take a claim is entirely up to you. You decide whether to bring suit and you decide whether to go to trial.
    • Experienced crime victim attorneys can help make the civil litigation process less scary for survivors.
      • We have been successful in limiting discovery of victim’s personal information (including medical records, counseling records, etc.) to keep defendants from using the civil litigation process to abuse and/or harass victims.
      • We have successfully shielded our client’s identity in civil lawsuits involving child sex abuse and child sexual assault. Rules permitting the use of pseudonyms (e.g., John Doe), filing cases under seal and civil protective orders have enabled us to bring lawsuits without publicly identifying clients for whom privacy is important.
      • We have obtained accommodations to help make the litigation process less frightening for survivors. For example, we have convinced courts to permit child-victims to testify in chambers and via closed-circuit television; obtained agreements to permit a young child to be deposed while sitting on mother’s lap; obtained stipulation requiring opposing counsel to notify all parties in advance of graphic exhibits to shield survivors from same.
      • We coordinate closely with treating therapists and family support networks to ensure survivors remain connected and engaged with their support communities throughout the litigation process.
      • We work with our survivor clients to plan for when the case ends to ensure the survivor’s financial and emotional needs are met even after the legal case concludes.