Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Cosby and David Boreanaz all have a couple of things in common with O.J. Simpson: every single one of them was accused of criminal behavior, and not one of them went to jail. However, in every single instance, the accusers opted to bring a civil lawsuit against these entertainers. All of them, except O.J. Simpson, agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of money to settle the case; Simpson went to trial and lost, and was ordered to pay $33.5 million to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
We used these examples because one of the questions we hear the most often is some variation of “How can I seek justice, when the person who hurt me was found ‘not guilty’ of a crime, or wasn’t charged in the first place?” The answer to this is, there are two systems of justice in this country: criminal justice and civil justice. A win or loss in one court does not necessarily guarantee a win or loss in the other. So even if the person who caused you harm was not charged or was found “not guilty” in a criminal case, you can obtain justice through a civil claim or lawsuit.
Fast facts about criminal cases
In California (and throughout the country), the District Attorney (D.A.) is the one who brings a case against a criminal defendant. Most cases are prosecuted by the D.A.’s office on behalf of the state, or on behalf of the federal government. Every four years in Los Angeles, there’s an election for the position of D.A.
In a criminal case, you don’t get to choose your lawyer: the office of the D.A. picks who will represent the state or federal government. If the person who harmed you is found guilty, he or she may have to pay some fines or restitution, but the real punishment is that he or she may go to jail or prison.
Civil attorneys are different
At Taylor & Ring, we handle civil cases; that means we represent personal injury, sexual abuse and sexual harassment victims in lawsuits against those who hurt them. We can also bring a claim or lawsuit against other parties. For example, if a pastor sexually assaults a child in the church, the D.A. puts the pastor alone on trial. In a civil case, however, we might name the pastor, the church board or any other persons or entities who could be held liable (for covering it up, for failing to do a background check, for ignoring concerns that may have been raised, etc. – actions that contributed to the acts committed by the pastor).
If a person is found liable for your injuries, he or she may be ordered to compensate you for:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral costs (in cases of wrongful death)
- Lost wages
- Lost child care expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Property damage (like a totaled car, for example)
There are different deadlines in California for civil and criminal cases as well. For example: this September, Governor Brown signed a bill that ends the statute of limitations for rape cases – in criminal court. For civil claims, you may have as few as six months before the statute of limitations has passed.
If you or your loved one has been the victim of a serious personal injury, sexual abuse, or sexual harassment, you do have rights. The Los Angeles civil trial attorneys of Taylor & Ring advocate for justice on behalf of clients throughout Southern California. Please call 310.776.6390, or fill out this contact form to schedule your free initial consultation.
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