There are places in Seattle and its surrounding communities where we expect to be reasonably safe, such as when we are out shopping, visiting a doctor's office, and checking in to a hotel.
We carry this expectation because businesses that cater to the public are obligated to prevent violent crime on their property by taking measures to protect people. These include precautions like maintaining adequate lighting, hiring security guards, and addressing known safety concerns.
Unfortunately, some businesses, individuals, and government entities fail to take reasonable precautions and as a result, innocent people become victims of violent crimes and sexual assault.
When a business, property owner, government entity or private organization fails in their duty to promote safety, crime victims can potentially have an opportunity hold them accountable for the damages that they have suffered. Monetary damages can never fully compensate for the trauma of a crime victim's experience, but they can be a meaningful resource to help crime victims rebuild their lives and move forward.
Additionally, accountability creates an incentive for business and property owners to take their obligations to promote safety seriously and help prevent future victimizations.
What if there was no criminal prosecution?
Crime victims have the right to pursue civil lawsuits against offenders and responsible parties regardless of the status of the criminal prosecution. This right is not dependent on a criminal conviction. You can often pursue a civil lawsuit against an offender or other responsible parties even if there was no criminal prosecution.
Unlike criminal prosecution, a civil lawsuit does not attempt to determine guilt or innocence. A civil lawsuit is about determining whether the offender or a third party is civilly liable for the injuries victims sustained as a result of their alleged crime. If so, then the court may award the victim monetary damages to help compensate them for their injuries and suffering.
It should be kept in mind that there is much different burden of proof for a plaintiff to prove a civil claim compared to a criminal case. In a criminal case, the government must prove the elements of a crime against a defendant with the beyond a reasonable doubt burden of proof standard. This is a very high burden of proof.
Generally, if a plaintiff can prove the elements of their civil claim by a mere preponderance of the evidence, also known as the more probable-than-not burden of proof standard, a plaintiff can prevail in a crime victim case. There are certain cases where a defendant can be found not guilty in the criminal case trial but found liable in a civil lawsuit arising out of the same facts. The 1990s O.J. Simpson murder case is a prominent example of how this can happen. Simpson was of course found not guilty in the criminal case; however, he was found liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in the civil lawsuit that that was filed by the Brown and Goldman families. If a defendant is not convicted of a harmful act in a criminal case, Paul Schneiderman will still look at a potential civil action for a person who has been harmed.
Choosing the right attorney for crime victim representation
Crime victims deserve to be represented by someone who is understanding, respectful and responsive. The attorney client relationship is always dependent upon trust and the ability of both sides to feel comfortable communicating with one another. This is especially important for a crime victim, who may need to relate sensitive and potentially painful details of their experience.
As a crime victim representation attorney and advocate, I will want to learn more about your case at the consultation. I will certainly need to learn about the date and time of the criminal occurrence. I will also need to learn more about the perpetrator, the possible witnesses involved, and other evidence.
Another important aspect of a crime victim's case is the crime victim's damages. Is there lost income? Are there medical billings? What is the nature and extent of the crime victim's injuries? All these questions and others are important as to the subject of a victim's damages.
I will also want to learn if there is a criminal case. Often testimony and information that is utilized in the criminal case can also be obtained in the crime victim's civil case.
Various insurance and medical payment issues can be important to a crime victim's case. For example, many crime victims are not aware that they can potentially get their medical billings paid through the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries-Crime Victim's Compensation program. Part of my job as a crime victim's attorney is to work on the insurance angles.
Each case is unique and there are various issues that are important based on the individual's client's case.
Paul L. Schneiderman, Crime Victim Representation Attorney
Attorney Paul L. Schneiderman provides the respectful, honest, and responsive counsel that clients who have been victims of violent crime deserve in their representation. He takes the time that is needed to answer client questions clearly and thoroughly, and to meet his clients' needs and requests. Mr. Schneiderman looks for creative solutions to helping his clients and can handle insurance details and other complexities that can come up in crime victim cases.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a violent crime or sexual assault and believe that a business, property owner, government entity, or private organization may have failed in their duty to promote safety, contact Paul L. Schneiderman for a consultation by calling 206-464-1952.