Courts may order convicted criminals to pay financial restitution to crime victims and receive compensation under the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program. But victims of crime should consider the possible advantages of filing their own civil lawsuit.
Victims and their family members may file civil lawsuits as plaintiffs. Defendants usually include the perpetrator of the crime or anyone who assisted the perpetrator.
Other defendants may be anyone whose negligence contributed to the crime. Defendants have included schools or hotels which provided inadequate security, bars that served a drunk driver, colleges that provided inadequate dormitory or library security, universities that did not give notice of campus assaults, and child-care centers and schools which did not perform adequate background checks of teachers and other employees.
Victims and their families can file lawsuits for several liability offenses or torts. These include assault, battery, wrongful death, and false imprisonment.
Criminal convictions require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. These private lawsuits, however, are governed by the lower preponderance of evidence standard. This requires that the plaintiff be more persuasive than the defendant and prove there is at least a 51 percent chance that the defendant committed the alleged wrong.
By filing a civil lawsuit, victims may have greater control of the case because they are a party, cannot be excluded from the trial and have final approval over a settlement.
Private litigants can independently obtain evidence for their suit. A suit may hold offenders solely responsible to victims even if they are acquitted in the criminal trial.
A private lawsuit may provide more compensation for the damages suffered by the crime victim. These often include medical costs and lost income. Plaintiffs can also seek compensation for the emotional harm they experienced.
Private lawsuits also help prevent other crimes by holding third parties responsible, Property owners make improvements to help prevent the greater cost of a trial, judgment, or settlement. Lawsuits have increased security in public places and improved oversight and supervision of daycare facilities and encouraged bar owners to be more responsible in serving patrons, among other things.
An attorney can provide reasonable options to crime victims and their ability to file a lawsuit. They can help pursue their rights.