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Can You Sue Someone for Assault?

The short answer is yes, but there are certain considerations that can complicate the situation. First, the general rule is that one person is liable for injuries to another if the injuries are a direct result of careless, reckless, or deliberate behavior. An assailant acts deliberately to injure another person and can be found guilty in criminal court (and subject to sanctions including jail time) as well as liable in civil court (and therefore obligated to pay compensation to the victim). Here are some important points to consider if you have been assaulted.

A criminal conviction for assault makes a civil court judgment certain because of the different standards of proof. When the criminal court declares the assailant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for civil court, liability by a preponderance of the evidence, is already satisfied.

On the other hand, if the criminal court finds the defendant not guilty, you can still sue in civil court and win. For example, if the defendant was found not guilty because there was no evidence he intended to assault you, there might still be sufficient evidence he was reckless or negligent in causing you harm.

But even if you win the civil lawsuit, it may be difficult to collect on your judgment. In most personal injury cases, the injured plaintiff actually collects from the defendant’s insurance company, not the defendant. But no one can insure himself against his own deliberate lawless behavior, so if someone deliberately assaulted you, you would have to collect the judgment from his personal assets. Those assets may be nonexistent or depleted after the assailant has paid for a defense in criminal court and again in civil court. If your injuries are serious and the assailant doesn’t have enough assets to satisfy a civil judgment, you may have to use collection tactics such as wage garnishment. However, that tactic won’t work if the assailant is going to jail.

Sometimes the criminal court can order restitution to the victim of an assault in addition to, or in lieu of, jail time. This solution could satisfy your need for compensation. However, it really depends on the character of the assailant. If the judge feels the assailant is a threat to society, incarceration is warranted. If the cause of justice can be served with mandated counseling on anger management, a resolution that avoids jail time is more feasible.

If you have been assaulted, the sooner you contact a personal injury attorney, the better. Your attorney can act as your advocate during the criminal proceedings as well as any civil action you pursue. For complete personal injury representation, call Crane Flores, LLP anytime, day or night, at (805) 628-4967 or contact our offices online to schedule a free consultation.

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