A Survivor’s Guide to a Civil Lawsuit in Utah (Part 2)Request Free Consultation
The decision to file a civil lawsuit for victims of sexual assault, rape, or is one that should not be made without considering as much as possible beforehand. For some, a civil suit can be time consuming, stressful, emotionally draining, and negatively affect healthy recovery. However, for others it can be an empowering experience and an important step on your path to recovery. See our previous article here for an introduction to civil suits for victims.
AVAILABILITY OF A CIVIL SUIT
Before making a final decision on whether to file a civil suit, it helps to understand the who, what, where and when that shape how a civil suit proceeds. This section describes the legal issues affecting your suit that should be discussed with your attorney. You may raise as few or as many claims as you deem necessary.
WHOM TO SUE
You are not limited to suing the perpetrator; you can sue any person, institution or organization that you believe are directly or indirectly involved with the sex offense. This is especially true following a criminal proceeding, which may expand the number of liable persons. Examples of defendants in sexual assault civil suits include:
- Family members, including parents, stepparents, grandparents, uncles or aunts, siblings, and spouses.
- Close friends, including dating partners, family friends, and accomplices.
- Organizations, including co-workers, teachers, clergy members, counselors, therapists, coaches, schools, boards of education the State of Utah, counties, daycare providers, doctors, youth clubs, churches and dioceses, scouting organizations, classmates, landlords, hotels or motels, employers, shopping centers, restaurants, railroad companies, bus companies, perpetrator’s estate, neighbors, babysitters, law enforcement, agencies or insurers.
WHAT HARM TO CLAIM
A civil lawsuit may address many types of harms or injuries arising from a sex offense against you. These are very sensitive to you, and the underlying contact may have involved sexual touching or penetration. It may involve other kinds of restraint and violence. It may have happened once or many times. Your attorney will advise you about the types of claims you may raise.
However, the most standard examples of these causes of action include:
- Personal Injury: This is harm done to your body or your personal rights.
- Medical Expenses: This is money paid to reimburse the money you paid out of pocket as a result of the assault. This can include hospital, medical, and psychotherapy bills.
- False Imprisonment: This is for unlawful detainment or confinement.
- Assault: This is for an attempt to physically harm you. This does not require actual touching and is usually combined with battery.
- Battery: this is the intentional harmful or offensive physical contact that occurs without your permission.
- VOCA claims: Victims of Crime Act of 1984, federal statutes that include prohibiting violence against women. This is often used by your attorney to trigger Federal court jurisdiction.
- Hate Crimes: These are crimes based on gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.
- Lost Wages: earnings you lost as a result of the sexual assault.
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Harm: acts done with the intent to cause severe emotional harm.
- Negligent Infliction of Emotional Harm: acts that a reasonable person should know would cause harm.
- Loss of Consortium: loss of relationships with your partner, including companionship, support and sexual relations.
- Sexual Abuse/Childhood Sexual Abuse: sexual acts involving a minor.
- Child Exploitation: conduct which induces children to engage in harmful activities.
- Sexual Exploitation by a Therapist: acts that occur when a therapist sexually abuses a patient or former patient.
- Abduction: kidnapping or otherwise taking a person away through fraud, persuasion or violence.
- Seduction: situations in which a perpetrator entices a survivor to have intercourse.
- Outrage: behavior that is so extreme it is intolerable in a civilized society.
- Injury or Death to a Child: parents’ loss of love and companionship of their child, or destruction of the parent-child relationship.
WHERE TO SUE
The location of your civil suit depends upon the claims you are going to make. Traditionally, the law requires you to file in state court of the county where the perpetrator lives or where the sexual assault happened. A federal court may hear your suit if it contains a federal claim (e.g., one arising under VOCA described above) or if diversity exists (diversity is when the perpetrator is from another state and you sue for at least $75,000). Consult with your attorney regarding where to sue as early as possible so that you can locate an attorney licensed in the appropriate location to sue.
WHEN TO SUE
The statute of limitations laws provides the deadline for filing your suit. This deadline prevents (bars) the court from hearing any case you file after the provided time period expires. The practical reason for having a statute of limitation is to protect evidence and testimony and excluding old evidence or bad memories. However, this is the tool most often used to defeat claims of childhood sexual abuse. What is more, the time period extends past the limitations period in specific situations. Keep in mind that different laws govern criminal statutes.
If you are thinking of filing a civil suit against your perpetrator, it is important that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible. You do not want to be wrong jurisdiction or have the applicable statute of limitations bar you from filing suit. Our offices always gives free initial consultations so that you as a victim are not prejudiced by waiting. In that consultation, you can review these issues and the question of whether any extensions of the statute of limitations may be available in your case.
CHILD VICTIMS IN UTAH CIVIL CASES
If the sexual assault occurred when the victim was a child in Utah or the perpetrator lives in Utah, then the statute of limitations is extended for certain types of cases. In Utah, there is no statute of limitations in a civil suit, for intentional or negligent sexual abuse suffered as a child against the perpetrator. However, for a civil suit against a non-perpatrator the statute of limitations is the latter of 1) within four years after the child-victim attains the age of 18 years, or four years after the child-victim discovers the sexual abuse. See Utah Code 78B-2-308 for the full version of the statute.
As you can see the decision to file a civil lawsuit for victims of sexual assault, rape, or is one that should not be made without considering as much as possible. For more information about what to expect from your attorney throughout the process, check out part III of our Survivor’s guide to sexual assault civil suits. Additionally, we recommend a free consultation with an experienced attorney at We Win Injury Law before filing a civil suit to determine whether it is the best course of action.