By David L. Duff of Duff & Kronfeld, P.C. posted in About the Law on Friday, November 17, 2017.
It seems as though new instances of sexual harassment, or outright sexual assault, monopolize the news headlines virtually every day. The perpetrators of such conduct are not limited to individuals who inhabit back alleys and darkened shadows of the inner city; but more often include corporate CEOs, politicians, entertainment moguls and television personalities.
The victims of such physical abuse can be men or women. Regardless of gender, the victims have one thing in common, namely, the fact that they often feel powerless to take any action against the abuser, beyond merely reporting the crime to the police.
However, Virginia law DOES offer another option. In addition to involving law enforcement to criminal prosecute the perpetrators of these assaults, a victim is also entitled to pursue a civil action against the abuser for damages caused by the conduct. Such damages can include compensation for any bodily injuries, and medical bills associated with treatment for those injuries; as well as, mental anguish and emotional distress resulting from the conduct.
Furthermore, since abusive conduct of this nature is always intentional, as opposed to accidental, the victim will also be allowed to seek “punitive” damages of up to $350,000, the legal maximum. This is an award of money that is intended to punish the wrongdoer for his actions, and is in addition to the monies awarded to the victim in an effort to compensate for his or her bodily injuries and mental distress.
A civil suit for assault is most often presented to a jury of seven (7) individuals, randomly selected from the surrounding area. These people will listen to the victim’s description of the assault, and of the resulting consequences to her of that assault; and, will arrive at a verdict for money damages intended to compensate the victim for those consequences. As stated previously, the jury could also award the victim additional, “punitive” damages, depending upon the surrounding circumstances and offensiveness of the conduct.
It is of utmost importance to be aware of the period of time in which a victim of assault is required by law to file a civil suit for damages – or forever lose the right to do so! For a physical assault, a suit must be filed within two (2) calendar years (24 months) after the assault occurred (Virginia Code § 8.01-243). Sexual assaults upon a minor (younger than 18 years old) could, potentially, be pursued more than two (2) years following the sexual abuse, provided certain criteria are met (see Virginia Code § 8.01-249(G)).
Thus, as explained above, victims of assault, whether sexual or otherwise, have a potentially powerful weapon at their disposal for use against the wrongdoer, namely, a civil suit for money damages.
If you have been the victim of an assault, contact one of the attorneys at Duff Kronfeld & Marquardt P.C. for a complimentary, 30-minute telephone consultation to determine if you may be entitled to seek damages through a civil action.