Tacoma Sexual Abuse Lawyer
Sexual abuse is far more common than many people are willing to admit. By some estimates, nearly 1 out of every 2 women–and 1 out of every 2 men–experience sexual violence at some point in their lives. In many cases, sexual abuse begins when the victim is a child or teenager. And even after the abuse ends, the psychological trauma can endure for years and even decades.
The criminal justice system is expected to prosecute crimes like sexual abuse. Yet we have all heard about–or personally experienced–cases where the system failed to protect victims. Indeed, it is often left to sexual abuse survivors to pursue their own civil actions against both their attackers and the people who enabled them. A skilled Tacoma sexual abuse lawyer can advise and represent you in such actions. Emerald Law Group stands up for sexual abuse survivors who want to take some measure of control back by seeking damages against those who have wronged them.
Civil vs. Criminal Liability for Sexual Abuse in Washington
A civil lawsuit for sexual abuse is different than a criminal proceeding in several respects. First, the goal of a civil lawsuit is to obtain damages for the victim in the form of financial compensation. While criminal prosecutions can result in “restitution” for the victim, the primary objective of the state in such cases is to punish the defendant by putting them in prison.
Second, in a criminal sexual abuse prosecution, the state must prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is often difficult in sexual abuse cases, especially when it comes down to the victim’s testimony versus that of the defendant. Many prosecutors are reluctant to even charge a defendant based solely on victim testimony.
But with a civil sexual abuse lawsuit, the plaintiff need only prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This is a much lower standard than the criminal burden of proof. It basically comes down to, “Which side is more likely correct?” That said, a plaintiff in a civil case must not only prove the defendant’s liability–i.e., they committed a wrongful act–but also that the defendant sustained some form of damages as a result.
Damages in any Washington civil lawsuit can be broken down into economic and non-economic damages. In the context of a sexual abuse case, a survivor’s economic damages may include the cost of their ongoing therapy and psychological treatment and lost wages if they have been unable to work due to their trauma. Non-economic damages is a catch-all category that incorporates difficult-to-quantify harms such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Unlike some states, Washington does not impose any cap on non-economic damages, meaning sexual abuse survivors may be able to obtain significant compensation for their psychological injuries.
Contact Emerald Law Group Today
Sexual abuse often does not occur in a vacuum. Organizations such as schools, churches, and employers may have played a key role in covering up or even facilitating the abuse. Such third parties can also be held liable in a civil lawsuit even when criminal liability is not an option.
Our Tacoma sexual abuse lawyer can sit down, listen to your story, and help you in fashioning an appropriate legal response. So if you would like to speak with an attorney, contact Emerald Law Group today to schedule a free confidential consultation.