More than ever, survivors of sexual abuse are considering civil litigation as a way to address the harm they experienced. At Klein Lawyers, we pride ourselves on being compassionate advocates committed to seeking accountability and compensation for our clients. We want survivors of sexual abuse to know their legal options and help them understand the civil litigation process. We are passionate about our work and strive to empower our clients with information and guidance through this process.
If you have experienced sexual abuse, we can help you decide if the civil litigation process is right for you. If you are interested in pursuing a civil action, call us for a free consultation.
Call us at 604-706-1359 or fill out our form.
What Are My Legal Options in a Sexual Assault Claim?
Generally, a survivor of sexual abuse has two avenues of legal action available to them: criminal and civil. A survivor of sexual abuse can choose either or both avenues. In other words, you can pursue both a criminal and a civil action, one of these options, or none of them.
The Criminal Code of Canada protects members of society against illegal conduct by others. A person who breaks these laws is said to have committed a criminal offence. The state can seek punishment against that individual for harms against another member of society. It is important to note that the criminal court process seeks to punish offenders not compensate the survivor.
If a survivor is interested in starting a criminal proceeding, the first step is to provide the police with a statement. They will investigate the matter and, if they think there is enough evidence for a charge, send the information to Crown Counsel (the government lawyer who decides which cases to prosecute). In British Columbia, Crown Counsel decides whether there is a substantial likelihood of conviction and whether prosecution is in the public interest. If this standard is met, they will usually proceed with charges.
Crown Counsel represents the public interest, which may or may not be in line with the interests of the survivor. Generally, the survivor does not have separate legal counsel. If the case goes to court, you may be required to testify and be cross-examined by the lawyer for the accused. The accused can choose not to testify.
In criminal court, there is a high burden of proof. Crown Counsel must satisfy the standard of guilt ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. If the judge has a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime, they must acquit.
The civil court process seeks to compensate the survivor for the harm and loss experienced as a result of the sexual abuse. The survivor has more control over the process in civil court and is typically represented by their own lawyer.
Unlike criminal court, in civil court the defendant must disclose information and testify. There is no right to remain silent. The survivor is also required to disclose information and testify.
The standard of proof is lower in civil court: you must prove your case on a ‘balance of probabilities’. For example, in a sexual abuse claim, the judge must conclude it is more likely than not that the sexual abuse occurred and that the defendant is liable (legally responsible for the harm).
It is important to note that an institution may also be held responsible for the sexual assault of its members.
What Are The Steps in The Civil Court Process?
For many people, the civil court process is unknown or confusing. They don’t know what to do or how to start a case. Klein Lawyers can help. We are experienced in this area of law and we can walk you through the civil court process.
Here is an overview of the process and how a lawyer at Klein Lawyers will assist you with no upfront cost:
- Complete an intake assessment
- Answer questions you have about the civil litigation process
- Conduct an interview
- Determine if your case is suited for civil litigation
- Gather documents
- Research your claim
- Start an action
- Speak with witnesses
- Obtain expert reports
- Prepare you for questions from the defendant’s lawyer
- Prepare questions for the defendant
- Prepare for trial
- Present your case at trial
How Long Will My Sexual Assault Claim Take?
It’s difficult to say how long this process will take. It could take anywhere from a year to a few years. If you decide to move forward with a civil claim, you must be prepared for the reality that this is often a lengthy process.
Cases can take many different directions and, at any stage, there may be opportunities to settle or engage in mediation, negotiation or other alternative dispute resolution options. Your lawyer will discuss these options with you and guide you through the process.
The Assault Occurred Years Ago. Is it Too Late to File a Claim?
The short answer is – No, it’s not too late. Often, it takes survivors years to come forward and consider starting a civil action. These historical sexual abuse cases are not barred from moving forward.
The British Columbia Limitation Act imposes time frames within which someone must file a civil claim. The British Columbia Limitation Act provides that there are no time restrictions on the filing of sexual abuse claims in British Columbia.
I Can’t Afford a Lawyer. How Does Klein Lawyers Get Paid?
At Klein Lawyers, we have a No Fee Guarantee. If we don’t win, you pay no fee.
While most lawyers charge by the hour, Klein Lawyers offers contingency fee billing. This means that if we take your case, you are not required to pay any money up front. Our office will prepare your case and it is only after you receive compensation that you will be required to pay our fee and costs for pursuing your claim. If we are not successful with your case, you pay us nothing.
Contingency fees are based on a percentage of the settlement or award and are not collected until your claim is resolved. Contingency fees help people access the legal process, which they may not otherwise be able to afford.
How Are Sexual Abuse Survivors Compensated?
Compensation is broken down into two categories of damages which are referred to as “non-pecuniary damages” and “pecuniary damages”.
Non-pecuniary damages are the pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life caused by the abuse. The range of awards for pain and suffering has been quite broad, from $1,500 to as much as $350,000. No amount of money can make up for what happened to you, but the hope is that it can provide some solace and financial support for your recovery.
Pecuniary damages are the amounts that can be documented and quantified. Some examples of pecuniary damages include past wage loss, future loss of earning capacity, future cost of care, and special damages (examples include the cost of medication and counselling expenses).
There are many factors which impact compensation. These include the circumstances of the abuse, the victim’s age and vulnerability, whether the defendant was in a position of trust, and the victim’s physical and psychological injuries.
What Are My Next Steps?
Call us or fill out the form.
We have a team of professionals who would be happy to discuss your case and options with you. The information you provide to us is confidential. We can help you determine if your case is suited for civil litigation.
In many cases, we will ask you to write out what you experienced. This allows you to organize your thoughts, create a timeline, and provide us with important details. We need a thorough understanding of what you went through in order to determine who may be liable and how to best approach your case.