Can I Sue For Domestic Violence?

First things first: if you were the victim of domestic violence, then you’ll want to remove yourself from that living situation as soon as possible, seek both medical and emotional support, and then address any legal issues. Call the police, ask to file charges, and obtain legal counsel to smooth the process. In general, we suggest that an abused spouse divorce the abuses immediately. Divorce isn’t always a rapid or smooth process, but in these cases a judge is likely to help you out and streamline the process as much as possible.

Keep in mind that criminal and civil proceedings are separate: they don’t mutually exclude one another from occurring.

A spokesperson for Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. said, “We do see divorce cases that involve ongoing domestic violence proceedings. Those criminal proceedings are generally separate from our civil cases, and we try to keep it that way. The best case scenario is that the violent partner is not involved in the process. And that’s the most usual scenario, too, because a judge will almost always rule in favor of a spouse who has had to deal with a violent home through no fault of their own. It’s a tough scenario.”

A common example is made using the criminal murder case against O.J. Simpson. He was acquitted, but the family of the deceased still successfully sued Simpson for millions. Things might be slightly different depending on the case, however. For example, the victim of domestic violence might be allowed to sue for restitution in a criminal case, which makes a civil lawsuit redundant and more easily dismissed.

A common question made by a victim of domestic violence is whether or not they can “drop the charges” later. The short answer is no, absolutely not. It’s always up to the D.A.’s office whether or not to drop the charges or continue with prosecution. The office will absolutely hear you out if you believe the situation was misconstrued or blown out of proportion, but in general you have no real say in the matter. 

There’s a good reason for that: when the police are called, there is generally a reason why. Just because tempers have cooled and the situation doesn’t seem as momentous as it once did doesn’t mean that a crime was not committed. 

Unfortunately, not all states allow family members to sue one another. These include: Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. You also can’t sue a family member in civil court in Washington D.C. These ridiculous laws were built on the notion that allowing one family member to sue another could “break” the family unit. Sometimes, these laws are bypassed in domestic violence cases or disputes.

You have a number of options when suing for domestic violence damages, just as in any other personal injury case. These include: medical expenses, lost wages or income, future lost wages, disability, and pain and suffering. You may also sue for punitive damages in some states.

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