The short answer is no - a lawsuit will not always be your best option after experiencing assault or abuse. A lawsuit is about recovering financial compensation from a defendant for your losses - if you are seeking something other than financial compensation, a civil lawsuit is probably not the way to go.
In addition, if the perpetrator of an assault has no money or other assets with which to pay you the compensation to which you are entitled, a lawsuit may be futile. You might succeed in getting a judgment from a court or negotiating a settlement agreement, but neither of these does you much good if the defendant simply does not have the resources to pay you what he or she is required to pay.
In many civil cases involving negligence, a defendant will have insurance coverage that will pay out any claims. But when dealing with intentional wrongdoing like an assault, insurance policies generally will not pay out. It’s therefore not usually possible to get compensation from an assailant’s insurance policy in assault or sexual assault cases.
In some cases, there may be other defendants who are in part responsible for the damages you sustained in an assault, and they may have insurance coverage or other assets that make it possible to obtain compensation for your damages, even if the defendant him or herself has limited assets and no insurance coverage.
These other defendants can be institutions such as schools, boards of education, hospitals, churches or children’s aid societies that allowed assaults to occur which they should have been able to prevent. They can also be private employers & businesses or private individuals who negligently allowed an assault to occur. If such third parties were negligent or can be found vicariously liable for your damages, it is more likely that you will be able to successfully recover damages from a civil claim.
If third party coverage is not available, the last resort for most civil claims is trying to enforce a judgment against a defendant by seizing and selling some of his or her assets (such as a house), or by garnishing his or her wages. But these methods are complex, expensive and not always practical, particularly when a defendant has no significant assets and no income stream to go after.
The unfortunate reality is that it is often simply not practical to bring a civil lawsuit in abuse and assault cases. In many such cases, rather than expending emotional and financial resources on a futile lawsuit, survivors may be better served by looking elsewhere for the compensation, validation and justice they are seeking.
Other avenues might include pursuing criminal charges with the police, seeking compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, pursuing a regulatory complaint against a professional, or accessing other local community support services.
At the initial consultation and throughout the case, we explore all the options available to our clients, and help them decide which route will provide the best result to help them access the resources and compensation they need.