While an assault may entail criminal charges, which are prosecuted by the local district attorney's office, you may be able to file civil charges if you are the victim of assault. Civil charges differ from criminal charges in many ways, and may be more appropriate in your particular case.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Rules of Civil Procedure copy
Hire a lawyer. If you think you have a good case, an attorney can help you file charges and follow up on the suit.
Ask your lawyer how strong your case is and what kind of settlement you can reasonably expect. Have him give you a realistic assessment of how the case might proceed, and whether filing civil assault charges is in your best interests.
Read the particular laws in your district. Specific laws vary from place to place, and you'll need to know how they apply in your case.
Determine the facts of your case. Civil assault charges are often easier to prove than criminal assault charges, but you should have a very clear idea of what took place and why you have grounds to file suit.
Consult the police for the facts of the case, or have your lawyer do the same. If your assailant was convicted of criminal charges, you will likely be able to use that in a civil assault case.
Consult the Rules of Civil Procedure for your area. They will explain the steps for filing suit and the forms you must fill out in order to proceed. You can see an example of the federal rules at the official U.S. Courts website (see Resources below).
File the proper paperwork with the court. Specific procedures vary from location to location, but you must usually file a formal claim before anyone will consider your case. Your lawyer should be able to help with this, and in some cases, she will file the paperwork for you.
Follow up on the suit. Keep in close contact with your lawyer and have her appraise you of any new developments.
Prepare to present your case in court. Not every civil charge goes to trial, but if yours does, you will want to be ready to testify on the stand and provide other forms of evidence if appropriate.
Defend yourself against countercharges from your assailant. In order to win the case, he may need to paint you in a negative or harmful light. Ready yourself for that, both in terms of your case and in terms of the emotional impact it may have on you.
Tips and warnings
- Always file promptly. Most regions have a statute of limitations for a civil case, and your claim must be filed before it expires. Find out when that is and make sure you have everything ready before then.
- Civil law differs from criminal law in that it is intended to benefit the victim rather than punish the perpetrator. To do so, it requires a preponderance of evidence, instead of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This may make it easier to file civil charges, even if your attacker was not charged with criminal assault.
- Civil assault charges usually use the same criteria as criminal assault charges, with one big exception: criminal intent need not be present in order to prove a civil assault case. Your lawyer can tell you whether or not this distinction applies here.
- Never approach someone you have filed charges against without your lawyer present, especially in assault cases. Be safe, and take steps to make sure your assailant does not present a continued threat to you.
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