Only the survivor of sexual assault can decide whether bringing a lawsuit will be worthwhile, weighing the likelihood of a successful outcome against the difficulties of going through the court process.
The advice of a lawyer experienced in these cases will help the survivor make the decision, especially if there is a strong case (such as prior criminal conviction), damages are significant, and a potential defendant has financial means. The lawyer can advise the client of his or her legal rights and remedies and explain how lawsuits work. The lawyer will also assess the likelihood of success and the range of any potential damages to be awarded. The lawyer can represent the client in litigation, arbitration or mediation, and conduct settlement negotiations on the client’s behalf.
Facts about sexual assault lawsuits
- The number of large damages awards is rising, especially in cases of incest occurring over several years.
- In assessing general damages for pain and suffering, the courts consider: the nature of the acts, the duration of the assaults, the resulting harm, the survivor’s age, and the impact on the survivor's life, including his or her education and career.
- General damages can range from a few thousand dollars for a single offence by a stranger to $250,000 or more for the most serious incest cases.
- Survivors can be awarded damages to cover the cost of past and future therapy, as well as damages for past and future income losses in some cases.
- The courts may also award substantial ‘punitive damages’ to punish the offender. They are less likely to do this if the abuser has been criminally convicted and punished.
- Other individuals may have claims against the abuser or responsible parties. For example, under the Family Law Act, the survivor's parents or other family members may have claims for loss of care, companionship and guidance due to the assault. Family members may be awarded some damages for the extra support they need to give the survivor.