It is hard to imagine a worse crime to live through than rape. Unfortunately, too many people go through it every year. At Justice 4 Crime Victims we cannot take away what happened to you but we can work to hold the at-fault party accountable. Keep reading to learn more about your rights to sue, or contact a victims rights attorney now at 949-585-9055.
Who Can Sue for Rape in the State of California?
The victim of the rape can sue for damages. Their family may be able to sue as well if they were witness to the assault, the victim died in the assault, or the assault changed the victim in such a way that they are no longer able to provide moral support, intimacy, and other issues that involve a loss of companionship.
Do I Have to File Criminal Charges to File a Civil Lawsuit?
No, you are not required to press criminal charges to file a civil lawsuit. In fact, you are not even required to file a police report. There are many reasons you may not want to work with the police or may be afraid to do so. That said, if you are able to go to the police then helpful evidence can be collected and is likely to improve your credibility in a civil case.
If you do go to the police and the prosecution decides not to file charges, this does not mean that you cannot win a civil lawsuit. Likewise, if the prosecution accepts a plea bargain with lesser chargers, this does not affect your civil lawsuit. They are different cases with different levels of burdens of proof.
Is the Burden of Proof the Same on a Civil and Criminal Lawsuit?
No. This is one of the reasons that it is worth talking to an attorney even if criminal charges were not brought. In a criminal case, the prosecution is tasked with proving guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This can be very difficult when there is no physical evidence and consent is difficult to prove. However, in a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff need only establish a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that the jury must believe that it is more likely than not that the assault took place.
Is There a Statute of Limitations?
Yes. If you were an adult when the rape took place then you have two years from the date of the rape to sue for damages. However, if felony criminal charges are brought and the rapist is convicted, then you have one year from the date of the conviction to file a lawsuit – even if you would otherwise be out of time. If you were a child at the time of the assault, you have until your 26th birthday or three years from the time you discovered that you had damages from the assault.