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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about Sexual Assault

Q: What is sexual assault?

A: Sexual assault is generally conduct of a sexual nature toward another person that is accompanied by actual or threatened physical force or that causes fear, shame, or mental suffering.

Q: Who can I sue for injuries from a sexual assault?

A: If you are a victim of a sexual assault, you may be entitled to significant compensatory damages and in some cases, punitive damages from the assailant and his or her employer or another third party. Because the standard of proof for civil claims is lower than the reasonable-doubt standard for criminal cases, an assailant might be found liable in a civil court even if his or her criminal case was dismissed.

Q: What is a rape-shield law? Can I use it in a civil action?

A: In criminal cases, rape-shield laws generally provide that evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct may not be admitted as evidence of that person’s character. However, rape-shield laws typically do not apply to civil actions.

Q: How much is my civil case worth?

A: Some victims receive large damage awards and others receive nothing in civil actions arising out of a sexual assault. The amount of money you receive depends on a number of factors, including the type of injuries sustained, whether the injuries are permanent, where the lawsuit is tried, the amount of out-of-pocket expenses incurred, special factors that the court may consider, the strength of your claims, and the strength of your opponent’s defenses.

Q: Can a man sue for damages arising out of a sexual assault?

A: Yes. The FBI estimates that 1 in 10 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. The elements of a personal injury claim based on sexual assault are the same for both sexes.

Q: How do I know if I have a personal injury claim based on my sexual assault?

A: To have a personal injury case arising out of a sexual assault, you must be able to show that you have been injured, either physically or emotionally, and that the defendant caused your injury, either intentionally or negligently. In some cases, you may also have to show that the other party is more at fault for the injury than you are.

Q: Will I have to go to court if I have a personal injury claim?

A: Most personal injury cases are settled out of court by opposing lawyers or by an insurance company. If your case goes to trial, you most likely will have to appear to testify.

Q: How soon must I bring my claim?

A: Each state sets a time period during which a person must bring a personal injury claim. Both the length of that period and the way it is measured in sexual assault cases varies from state to state. Some states have a different limitations period if the victim was a child at the time of the sexual assault or sexual abuse. For example, in many states the claim period does not begin until after the victim reaches the age of majority or no longer has a disability. Other states have a period that relates to the discovery of the claim, providing that the period does not begin to run until the victim realizes that he or she was abused, and that the abuse resulted in an injury. Some states limit damages on claims that are brought after a specified period, even if the claim can be brought later because of the date the victim discovered the injury.

Q: How can I collect my damages if the assailant is in jail?

A: You can levy on the assailant’s personal assess once you obtain an award, even if the assailant is in jail at the time you receive a damage award against him or her.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.