Nationwide, more than 10 million people experience domestic violence each year. In Florida alone, over 105,600 crimes are reported annually, resulting in over 63,000 arrests. Victims spend a collective 600,000+ nights in emergency shelters, and hotlines receive nearly 123,000 calls from those seeking emergency help, information, and assistance with safety planning.
Even more startling, though, is the realization that many of these domestic violence and assault and battery cases are never reported. People suffer, every day, at the hands of those who are supposed to love, care for, and protect them. They are ashamed, afraid, prevented from seeking help by their abusers, or unable to leave for financial reasons. Sadly, we can be sure that the problem of domestic violence is even more widespread than these statistics show.
We understand that those who suffer – and survive – domestic abuse are much more than statistics. They are much more than numbers. They deserve to live without fear, and they deserve compensation for their injuries and their emotional distress. Civil damages can alleviate the crushing financial burden that many survivors face and help them start on a new, safe path.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Under the law, domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior in which one partner uses physical violence, threats, coercion, intimation, and/or economic, sexual, and emotional abuse against the other. This may take the form of:
- Physical violence (e.g. hitting, punching, kicking)
- Threats of physical violence
- Isolating the victim from their family, friends, and support network
- Threatening to take away the victim’s child(ren)
- Destroying property
- Sending harassing communications (e.g. phone calls, emails, texts)
- Denying access to financial resources (e.g. taking away bank/credit cards)
- Unwanted/non-consensual touching
These are inexcusable offenses, and they can take away the victim’s ability to function optimally at work, in other relationships, and in terms of health and wellness. Fortunately, in Florida, as in many other states, you can take legal action against your abuser.
In years past, it was not possible to sue your spouse. This has changed – as it should. While some states (e.g. Arizona, Hawaii, Texas) prohibit you from using your spouse, even these jurisdictions have exceptions for “intentional torts.” That is, if there are acts of purposeful and specific wrongdoing, you may take action.
If you are not married, you still have the option to pursue a civil case against your abuser. Marital status does not matter. What matters is the offenses that have been committed against you and the physical, psychological, and emotional injuries you have sustained.
Should You Sue for Civil Damages?
Many domestic violence survivors are hesitant to sue their abusers. This is understandable. But, in many cases, there are significant financial issues to consider. Your abuser, for example, may be the primary “breadwinner.” How will you be able to afford housing, transportation, and care for your children? A settlement can help you get the footing you need to start over.
Beyond this, you may also gain a sense of release, control, and even closure. If you incurred hospital bills, you can receive compensation. If you had to miss work, you can make up for lost wages. If you suffered pain and suffering – which you surely have – then you can be compensated. You may also be able to recoup punitive damages. You are entitled to this. No one should be subject to violence in their domestic relationships.
Criminal vs. Civil Charges
If you file criminal charges for domestic violence assault and battery, it does not impact your ability to also go after civil damages. The perpetrator can be tried for the same offense in different courts. The advantage of civil proceedings is that you can recoup medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, punitive damages, pain and suffering – and in the worst-case scenario – wrongful death, as we saw in the infamous Goldman v Simpson case.
But what about family court? Half of child custody cases involve domestic violence. The accused typically loses custody until they meet court-mandated conditions, and they may have to complete a treatment program before they are granted visitation.
Suing a domestic partner/spouse for abuse is often an empowering move for survivors and can help them move on. For example, in typical divorce cases, spouses must have been separated for one year. If you file a case because of domestic abuse, however, it may be sufficient grounds to make the process much shorter. You may also claim a larger share of marital property and assets.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you have options. You can proceed with criminal charges and/or civil charges. The benefit of civil proceedings is that you are not a passive participant. You are in control, and the case is driven by you. This can be a powerful realization: you can seek justice and compensation for your suffering.
Generally, you will have a stronger case if there are multiple incidents of violence and the threat of imminent violence. It also strengthens your position if some of these incidents are recent. We will help you gather the necessary documentation and evidence in order to build a compelling case.
If you feel your specific circumstances may not meet the criteria for a lawsuit, do not give up. Schedule a consultation with an experienced domestic violence lawyer; they can help clarify the situation and determine the best next steps.
No one should feel unsafe in their own home or fearful of their domestic partner. If you are a survivor, do not hesitate to contact the legal team at LaBovick Law Group. With a compassionate and experienced advocate on your side, you can regain control of your life and move on with greater confidence. We are here to fight for your rights.