Initiating Civil Legal Action
Legally, sexual assault is not only a crime against the state, but also a civil dispute between survivor and assailant. You may win a civil suit in court or you may choose to negotiate a contract, or "settlement," out of court prior to trial even if you lose a criminal case. In exchange for a promise not to sue or withdrawal of a pending suit, or as a result of a successful judgement at trial, you may seek any or all of the following promises from the assailant. That they:
- keep away from you;
- withdraw from the University of Virginia (if a student);
- obtain counseling;
- apologize to you;
- pay your legal fees;
- compensate you for your medical or counseling expenses, lost tuition if you had to take a leave from school, lost wages, and for pain and suffering.
A Few Key Points & First Steps:
- You have two years following the incident you wish to sue for damages for to file a civil suit.
- The first step is to consult a lawyer.
- The decision to begin a civil suit, or stop one in process, is entirely your own. You don't need to contact the police or Commonwealth's Attorney since they are not involved.
- There are several basic steps in every civil case:
- Filing the suit
- Discovery Phase (interviews, fact finding, gathering evidence)
- Judgment & Assignment of Damages
- The defendant may attempt to settle at any point in the process.
For more information about the civil process, there are legal resources listed in the Student Resource Guide who may be able to help.
Additionally, the National Center for Victims of Crime has information on civil justice options.
You may also reference the Crime Victim Bar Association’s Civil Justice for Victims of Crime informational booklet.
This website is for informational purposes only, and should not be used in place of legal advice or counsel.