Why File a Civil Lawsuit Following a Violent Crime?

What is a Civil Lawsuit?

A civil lawsuit is a legal action taken by one party against another in order to resolve a dispute or seek compensation for injuries or damages suffered. Unlike a criminal lawsuit, which is brought by the government and can result in criminal charges, a civil lawsuit is initiated by an individual or entity, known as the plaintiff, who believes they have been wronged by another party, known as the defendant.

Civil lawsuits encompass a wide range of legal matters, including personal injury claims, property disputes, contract breaches, and defamation cases. When it comes to violent crimes, such as assault, battery, or even sexual abuse, victims often have the option to file a civil lawsuit in addition to any criminal charges they may pursue.

Unlike in criminal trials, where the focus is mainly on punishing the defendant through fines or imprisonment, civil actions seek to compensate the victim for their losses and hold the wrongdoer accountable for their actions.

What is a Civil Lawsuit?

Types of Damages Offered in a Civil Suit

Compensatory Damages:

Compensatory damages are the most common type of damages sought in a civil suit. These damages aim to compensate the victim for the actual losses they have experienced. This can include economic damages such as medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and any other financial losses incurred as a direct result of the defendant’s actions. Compensatory damages can also include non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.

Punitive Damages:

Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages and are meant to punish the defendant for their wrongful actions. These damages are typically awarded when the defendant’s behavior is deemed particularly egregious, reckless, or intentional. Punitive damages are intended to deter others from engaging in similar conduct. Punitive damages are not always awarded in every case, and their availability and amount can vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Nominal Damages:

Nominal damages are symbolic in nature and are awarded when a violation of rights or breach of contract has occurred, but the actual harm suffered by the victim is minimal or difficult to quantify. Nominal damages are usually a small monetary amount, such as $1, and are often sought to establish legal rights or as a matter of principle rather than to compensate for specific losses.

General Damages:

These damages are awarded to compensate the victim for non-monetary losses and harms that do not have a specific monetary value but are nonetheless real and significant. General damages can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and other intangible losses resulting from the defendant’s actions.

Control Over the Case

A civil lawsuit allows the victim to take charge and seek compensation for the damages they have suffered.

By filing a civil lawsuit, victims of violent crimes have the opportunity to hold the wrongdoer accountable for their actions and seek monetary damages for the harm they have endured. This control over the case empowers victims to pursue justice in a way that aligns with their personal goals and needs. [1]

Filing a civil lawsuit also gives victims access to additional resources. As part of the civil court process, victims can benefit from the expertise of personal injury lawyers who specialize in handling cases related to violent crimes.

Civil trials provide victims with the opportunity to present witness testimony and other forms of evidence that may not have been considered or allowed in a criminal trial. In a civil trial, the burden of proof is lower, typically “by a preponderance of the evidence,” making it more achievable to establish the defendant’s liability.

Control Over the Case

Crime Prevention

Holding Perpetrators Accountable:

One of the main reasons to file a civil lawsuit following a violent crime is to hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions. Criminal charges typically focus on punishment, while civil lawsuits emphasize compensating the victim for damages caused.

Deterrence and Public Awareness:

Civil lawsuits create public awareness of the consequences of violent crimes and help deter potential perpetrators. High-profile cases often receive extensive media coverage, shining a spotlight on the seriousness of criminal acts and the impact they have on victims and their families. This increased attention can serve as a deterrent, making potential criminals think twice before engaging in violent behavior.

By seeking justice through a civil lawsuit, victims send a strong message that criminal behavior will not be tolerated, discouraging potential offenders from committing similar acts in the future. [2]

Financial Consequences:

In civil lawsuits, perpetrators can be ordered to compensate victims for the physical, emotional, and financial damages they have suffered. These financial consequences not only provide relief to victims but can also act as a deterrent to future criminals.

Knowing that their actions could result in significant financial liability may discourage potential offenders, as they are less likely to have the means to compensate for their wrongdoing.

Systemic Change and Accountability:

Civil lawsuits can uncover systemic issues or failures that may have contributed to the occurrence of the violent crime. By holding individuals or organizations accountable for their negligence or misconduct, these lawsuits can pressure them to implement changes to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

This proactive approach promotes crime prevention by addressing underlying factors that create an environment conducive to criminal activity.

Empowering Victims and Encouraging Reporting:

Filing a civil lawsuit empowers victims by giving them a voice and a chance to seek justice. This empowerment can encourage other victims to come forward and report crimes, leading to increased reporting rates and improved crime prevention efforts.

This also allows victims to demonstrate that they are not just passive recipients of violence but active participants in the fight against crime.

Justice and Accountability

Justice and accountability are fundamental principles that ensure the well-being and safety of its members. These principles serve as a deterrent against criminal behavior and establish a system where individuals are held responsible for their actions. One aspect of justice and accountability is pursuing legal action through civil lawsuits following a violent crime.

When someone becomes a victim of a violent crime, their physical and emotional well-being suffers unimaginable harm. While criminal charges may be filed against the perpetrator in a criminal trial, it is important to understand that the outcome of such a trial focuses primarily on determining guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 

A civil lawsuit can also provide victims with a sense of closure and validation for the harm they have endured. It sends a message that their pain and suffering are acknowledged and that society holds the offender accountable for their actions.

Civil trials offer an opportunity for victims to tell their stories and present evidence, ultimately contributing to the practice of seeking justice. Witness testimony, expert opinions, and other forms of evidence can be presented during civil trials, helping to establish the defendant’s liability.

Justice and Accountability


By pursuing compensation through a civil lawsuit, victims can regain some financial stability in their lives. This financial support can be essential in accessing necessary medical treatments, therapy sessions, or other forms of assistance that can aid in their recovery.

It can also enable victims to rebuild their lives and address the financial burden caused by the violent crime. Intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and the impact on the victim’s quality of life, have an opportunity to be addressed. 

These damages acknowledge the profound emotional and psychological harm caused by the violent crime and provide some form of validation and recognition for the victim’s suffering.

The perpetrator then faces consequences not only in the criminal justice system but also through financial restitution.

By making the offender financially liable, victims can obtain a sense of justice and closure that is often impossible through criminal trials alone.

In 2019, an estimated 1,203,808 violent crimes occurred nationwide. [3]

At Goldberg & Loren, we understand the physical, emotional, and financial toll these crimes can take on you and your loved ones. 

Contact Goldberg & Loren today to schedule a consultation with our experienced personal injury attorneys. We are dedicated to helping victims of violent crimes seek the justice and compensation they deserve. Don’t wait any longer – take the first step towards reclaiming your life by filing a civil lawsuit.


[1] Civil Justice for Victims of Crime. (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2023, from https://www.co.marion.or.us/DA/victimassistance/Documents/crimeviccivilcases.pdf

[2] Criminal and Civil Justice. (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2023, from https://victimsofcrime.org/criminal-and-civil-justice/

[3] Violent Crime. (n.d.). FBI. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/topic-pages/violent-crime

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