Most of the work of a personal injury attorney involves accidents. However, not every personal injury was the result of negligence or recklessness. Some of the worst cases involve criminal assaults.
If you're thinking about filing a claim based on a criminal assault, it's wise to think about how a personal injury attorney might handle it. Here are some things you should know about possibly seeking compensation after a criminal assault.
Civil vs. Criminal Cases
The criminal case is considered entirely separate from the personal injury claim. A prosecutor will pursue the criminal case, and whatever happens there doesn't have a bearing on the civil case. It might bolster the civil claim if the attacker is convicted, but someone doesn't need to be convicted of a crime for a victim to seek civil damages.
Notably, there are two different standards of proof between criminal and civil proceedings. With the criminal case, a prosecutor has to prove what happened beyond a shadow of a doubt. Conversely, your personal injury attorney will only have to prove that your version of the incident is more likely than not the true one.
Picking a Defendant
As tempting as it may be to assume you should go after the attacker, there are several reasons why that might not be ideal. First, the doctrine of negligence might put someone else on the hook for civil liability.
For example, the owner of an apartment complex where several assaults have happened might be liable for not doing more to secure the premises. Similar concerns can occur at businesses, bars, and other locations where violence often happens. Also, some cases involve attackers who were serving as employees at the time. For example, a bouncer or security guard might harm someone in their employment capacity.
Second, there are many realistic scenarios where the defendant just won't be able to pay. They may be functionally judgment-proof because they're broke and have no assets. Likewise, it's unlikely any form of insurance is going to cover the damages caused by a deliberate act of violence.
However, there are also scenarios where the attacker will be the defendant. Sometimes, they're just the only possible defendant. Also, someone with sufficient assets may be worth naming in a claim.
It's worth noting that a lawyer will sometimes level a case against a government. For example, police brutality claims usually are targeted at cities, counties, or states.