Any physical or emotional abuse can have lasting repercussions, from the bodily harm to the emotional scars that linger long after your wounds heal. When the perpetrator of the attack or abuse is your spouse, the emotional toll is often more significant. Many victims of domestic abuse turn to restraining orders, police intervention, or government agencies that provide support. However, few consider filing a civil lawsuit against their abuser for compensation and justice. As a victim of abuse, you are entitled to sue your attacker in civil court, even if that person is your spouse. Our experienced Ventura attorney for domestic abuse victims discusses domestic abuse situations and the means to legally address them below.
Defining Domestic Abuse Situations in California
Victims of domestic violence and abuse have three ways to address the harm they have sustained. First and foremost, domestic violence is a crime. Under California Penal Code section 273.5, it is a felony for any person to inflict physical harm or injury on their spouse or former spouse, someone they live with or have lived with, or the other parent of their child.
Additionally, domestic violence is a family law offense under California Family Code section 6200 and subsequent statutes, including the California Domestic Violence Prevention Act. These provisions are designed to give victims of domestic abuse a streamlined and straightforward avenue to obtain a restraining order.
Domestic Abuse as a Civil Tort in California
While most people in California are aware of the previous methods of treating domestic abuse, a third alternative exists. In California, domestic violence is a civil tort, so a victim is entitled to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser. The civil tort is governed by California Civil Code section 1708.6, which details the requirements to establish a claim of domestic abuse.
- The victim must have suffered an injury as a result of the abuse
- The abuse must have been intentionally inflicted
- The abuse was the proximate, or legal, cause of the injury
- The statute of limitations has not expired for the domestic abuse claim
The code provisions further define the specific types of relationships required to pursue a civil claim against an abuser. This is not limited to merely a spouse, and includes the following:
- A spouse, or former spouse
- A cohabitant, or former cohabitant
- Individuals who share a child or children
- Parties with whom you have or had a dating or sexual relationship
Defining Abuse Under California Tort Law
Under California statutes, abuse is broadly defined and not limited to intentional or reckless physical harm. It also includes creating an atmosphere of apprehension or fear of immediate bodily injury. Other conduct that constitutes abuse under California law includes the acts listed below.
- Sexual assault
- Physical assault
- Destruction of personal property
- Unwanted contact through use of the telephone, Internet, or mail
- Disturbing the peace of the victim or other family or household persons
Remedies for Injuries Caused in a Domestic Abuse Situation in California
There are several remedies available to victims of domestic abuse through the California court system. Victims might not be aware of the full scope of relief available to them. Firstly, there is monetary compensation for the harm incurred. This includes actual quantifiable financial losses, such as medical expenses, the cost of physical or psychological therapy, or a loss of income. Additionally, a victim of domestic violence may obtain compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, anxiety, insomnia, emotional distress, humiliation, or a loss of enjoyment of life. However, unlike quantifiable financial losses, non-economic damages are more challenging to calculate. Our attorneys can work to show a jury the physical and emotional harm you suffered through medical reports and expert testimony.
In certain situations, a victim of domestic abuse could also be awarded additional punitive damages. When an abuser acts in such a manner that their conduct reaches a level of despicable willfulness and conscious disregard for the safety and rights of others, the court could impose additional damages to punish the defendant. It is important to understand that punitive damages are not awarded in every situation. Also, at the discretion of the court, some victims can recover attorney fees and court costs.
In addition to monetary relief, a victim of domestic abuse is entitled to injunctive remedies. Injunctive relief can vary from case to case, but it generally permits victims to obtain court orders that provide protection. For example, a court could order an injunction to prohibit stalking at the workplace. Our attorneys will thoroughly review your situation to determine the proper injunctive relief to request.
Other Options for Injured Victims of Domestic Abuse Situations in California
Victims of domestic abuse in California have several options available, and it is crucial to understand that choosing one does not preclude the other: You are entitled to protect yourself through the criminal court system and also seek compensation for your injuries through a lawsuit. While it is essential to protect yourself from any further harm, there are additional benefits of a civil lawsuit beyond monetary compensation. Many victims gain a sense of relief and control by being an active participant in the legal process.
Call Our California Attorney for Victims of Domestic Abuse by a Spouse for a Free Consultation
Our attorneys are aware of the emotional and physical scars associated with domestic abuse. We have dedicated ourselves to providing victims of violence with a voice. While monetary compensation will not erase the suffering you have endured, it might provide the means to move forward with your life and provide for yourself and your family. Our Ventura family law attorneys are available to provide you with professional and compassionate guidance when pursuing your rights. Call the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC, at (805) 643-5555 for a free, confidential appointment to discuss your rights and options.