March 2015 | Video

Sexual Assault: Is It Worth It To Sue? with Loretta Merritt - Torkin Manes LegalPoint Video

Loretta Merritt discusses whether it is worth it to sue or not in a sexual assault case as part of the Torkin Manes LegalPoint Video Series.

The decision of whether it is worthwhile to sue can only be made on a case by case basis by the abuse survivor in consultation with their lawyer. There are time limits for suing, but most jurisdictions in Canada, including Ontario, have lots of special rules and exceptions for abuse cases.  Rarely do I turn down a case because of the time it has taken for the survivor to come forward. Coming forward can be very difficult and the courts understand this.  Similarly there are protections for survivors who don't want to go public or see their names in the newspaper.  Sometimes we uses pseudonyms like Jane Doe, so the survivor's identity stays confidential.  There are many special rules the courts apply in sexual assault cases.  Of course, there are no guarantees that a civil lawsuit will be won, but with the help of a lawyer, a survivor can weigh the likelihood of a successful outcome and assess the strength of the case against the difficulty of going through the legal process.

One of the things to consider is what damages might be awarded.  The trend in the courts  seems to be a rise in the number of large damages awarded, especially in cases of ongoing abuse occurring over a period of years.  Generally, the factors that courts look at in awarding general damages for pain and suffering are the nature of the acts, the duration of the abuse, the relationship between the perpetrator and the plaintiff, including any breach of trust, the age and vulnerability of the plaintiff and the  impact on the survivor's life, including education and career.  General damages can range from a few thousand dollars for a single offence by a stranger to $250,000.00 or more for the most serious abuse cases. Survivors can also be awarded damages to cover the cost of past or future therapy and in some cases economic losses as well.

It's important to remember that most cases don't end up in a trial. Rather they are settled out of court.  However the amount of the settlement depends on the strength of the case. 

In my experience, for most survivors, civil lawsuits are not just about the money.  Rather, survivors bring lawsuits in order to achieve goals which have nothing to do with money.  Goals such as standing up for themselves, being heard, holding people to account, healing, justice, making sure others do not get assaulted, and closure.

The Sexual Assault team at Torkin Manes understands these goals and will work with you to achieve them.

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