At Kherkher Garcia, LLP, we know how important it is for victims to have a voice. Our team helps clients recover from injuries including auto accidents, workplace injuries, defective product injuries, and sexual assault. We are powerful advocates for the rights of our clients, and victims at large.
In the article below, we delve into the importance of a victim’s right to sue, examining the benefits, processes, and how you can get help if you are injured due to negligence or a crime.
Understanding a Victim’s Right to Sue
Under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), victims of crime have the right to sue the perpetrator in a civil court for damages. This is regardless of whether the perpetrator has been found guilty in a criminal prosecution.
This right extends across various areas of law, such as civil, criminal, and administrative law, and serves as a crucial mechanism to protect the rights of victims. Whether the harm stems from a personal injury, professional malpractice, discrimination, or other violations, the right to sue empowers victims to seek accountability and compensation.
Here are some important things to keep in mind about a victim’s right to sue:
- Statute of Limitations: The lawsuit must be filed within a certain period of time, which is usually two years from the date of the crime or injury.
- Burden of Proof: The victim must prove that they suffered damages as a result of the crime. Damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
- Punitive Damages: Victims may also be able to recover punitive damages, which are intended to punish the perpetrator and deter future negligence.
- Recover Attorney Fees: Victims are often able to recover attorneys’ fees if they win the lawsuit.
Ensuring Accountability and Deterrence
One of the primary functions of a victim’s right to sue is to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions. When individuals know that they can face legal consequences and financial liabilities for causing harm, they are more likely to think twice before engaging in negligent or harmful behavior. This deterrence effect plays a vital role in promoting safety and reducing the occurrence of harmful incidents within society.
Restoring Financial and Emotional Balance
Victims often suffer significant financial losses due to medical bills, lost wages, and property damage resulting from the harm they endure. The right to sue enables victims to seek compensation for these losses, helping them regain a sense of financial stability and easing the burden caused by the incident.
Here are some examples of compensation that may be awarded in a civil lawsuit:
- Medical Expenses: This includes the cost of past and future medical care, such as doctor’s visits, hospital stays, surgery, and prescription medications.
- Lost Wages: This includes the wages that have been lost as a result of the injury.
- Pain and Suffering: This is compensation for the physical and emotional pain experienced as a result of the injury.
- Emotional Distress: This is compensation for the mental and emotional anguish that victims suffer as a result of injuries.
- Property Damage: This is compensation for damage to property, such as a car or home, that was caused by the defendant’s negligence.
The amount of damages that a victim can recover will vary depending on the specific facts of the case. In general, the more serious the injury, the higher the damages will be.
The act of pursuing a lawsuit can be empowering for victims, providing them with a sense of agency and control over their situation, which can aid in the healing process.
Addressing Systemic Issues and Promoting Change
In cases of widespread harm or discrimination, the right to sue can serve as a catalyst for systemic change. By bringing such issues to light through legal proceedings, victims can draw attention to the larger problem and demand reforms to prevent similar incidents from recurring in the future. High-profile cases have, in the past, sparked societal conversations that led to the enactment of new laws and policies designed to protect vulnerable individuals and communities.
The Civil Lawsuit Process
In a criminal proceeding, victims often have little involvement in how the case progresses. With civil lawsuits, however, the victim is involved every step of the way. It is important for the victim of any crime or negligent act to understand their rights and how the legal process works when filing a civil lawsuit.
Here are the general steps taken when filing a lawsuit:
- To sue for damages, the victim (plaintiff) must first file a civil complaint with the court. The complaint will allege the facts of the crime and the damages that the victim has suffered. The victim will then be required to serve the complaint on the perpetrator (defendant).
- Once the defendant has been served with the complaint, they will have an opportunity to file an answer. In their answer, they can deny the allegations of the complaint or offer a different version of the facts.
- After the parties have filed their pleadings, the case will proceed to discovery. Discovery is the process by which the parties exchange information about the case. This can include documents, witness statements, and other evidence.
- As the case progresses, the plaintiff and defendant can agree to settle the matter. Often, the parties negotiate on a monetary amount that is agreeable to both parties. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the case will proceed to trial.
- At trial, the plaintiff will have the opportunity to present evidence of their damages and the defendant will have the opportunity to present evidence in their defense.
- If the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff, they will award damages. The amount of damages will be based on the evidence presented at trial.
The CVRA gives victims the right to be represented by an attorney in a civil lawsuit. If the victim cannot afford an attorney, they may be able to obtain free legal assistance from a government program or a nonprofit organization. Depending on the type of case, many law firms also offer contingency fee agreements. These agreements provide representation with no fees upfront, contingent on the firm getting a percentage of any settlement or award obtained.
Get Legal Help to Protect Your Rights
The right to sue is a powerful tool that empowers victims to seek redress, accountability, and compensation for the harm they endure. By holding wrongdoers accountable, victims can not only find financial and emotional balance but also spark positive changes within society.
If you have been injured by negligence – be it a crime, defective product, drunk driver, Uber driver, or unsafe workplace – the attorneys at Kherkher Garcia want to help you. We have a team of attorneys who specialize in protecting the rights of victims and helping them obtain the justice and compensation they deserve.
Find out how our team can help you by calling us at 713-333-1030, or by completing our online form. Suffering an injury or crime is devastating and can feel overwhelming, but you are not alone!
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