Yesterday, a Kentucky Jury awarded U.S. Senator Rand Paul $580,000.00 in damages that were a result of injuries and mental anguish he suffered when a neighbor tackled the senator. The neighbor was angry at Rand Paul and attacked him. The neighbor’s attack broke six of Rand Paul’s ribs and bruised his lungs lungs. Prior to Rand Paul’s Civil Suit, the attacking neighbor was prosecuted in Criminal Court and entered a plea of guilty. After the attacker had entered a plea of guilty Senator Paul pursued his civil remedies against the attacker, and the Jury sided with Paul in awarding him damages for medical expenses, mental anguish, pain, suffering, and damages to punish the defendant. This case is unusual due to the fact that the victim was a U.S. Senator, but the facts are not unusual. Here in Oregon, Ross Law PDX has represented survivors and victims in Civil Cases involving sexual abuse, domestic violence, violent attacks that occurred at school, assaults by neighbors, assaults by police officers, and assaults at bars. In most of these cases the survivors of abuse were unaware of the power of the civil justice system and what they could achieve. Oregon Crime Victims and Survivors should know the following:
1) The District Attorney is Not Solely The Victim’s Lawyer: The district attorney prosecutes the suspect criminally. Essentially, it is the district attorney’s job to ensure the suspect is held accountable in criminal court and is punished by either being sent to prison, jail, or put on probation. The district attorney represents all Oregonians, and not just the victim. As a result, the focus of the district attorney may not always be in line with the victim’s wishes.
2) The Victim Can Have an Attorney Represent them in the Criminal Case and Civil Case: An attorney acting on the victim’s behalf is only representing the victim. In the Criminal Case the victim’s attorney can ensure that the victim’s rights are honored, even if that means disagreeing with the District Attorney’s position. In the civil case the victim’s attorney can pursue claims for monetary damages and other remedies. The main difference is that a civil attorney can file a lawsuit against not only the criminal suspect but other corporations or organizations that may be responsible for the suspect. For example, if a security guard rapes a person while on duty. The district attorney would prosecute the security guard and would have a difficult time prosecuting the security guard’s employer. However, a civil attorney may hold the security guard and the guard’s employer accountable. Additionally, civil attorneys seek compensation for the victim and are unable to send a person to jail or prison for what they have done.
3) Victim’s Can Typically Only Recover Out of Pocket Losses Through the Criminal Case: In Oregon, criminal restitution is typically limited to only economic losses that the defendant caused as a result of his criminal conduct. What this means is that in most cases the Criminal Court cannot order a criminal defendant to pay for damages for mental anguish, fear, anxiety, frustration, sleeplessness, embarrassment, pain, suffering, or other non-economic losses. In order to collect those damages the Victim or Survivor must file a Civil Case. The Rand Paul case is illustrative of why this is such a powerful remedy. In the Paul case, the Jury awarded $7,834.82 in economic losses and $200,000 for pain and suffering. If Paul did not exercise his right to pursue the case in Civil Court he may have been limited to only collecting $7,834.82 from the criminal defendant.
4) In a Civil Case Crime Victims and Survivors Can be Awarded Punitive Damages: Oregon Law permits persons that are victims of certain crimes to be awarded punitive damages in Civil Cases. In many cases, Oregon Law allows person to collect money from people that recklessly endanger and injure a person. ORS 31.730 These damages are awarded to the injured person to punish the offender, and can make a significant difference in the amount of money the crime victim or survivor receives. For instance, the Jury awarded Senator Rand Paul $375,000 in punitive damages. These damages were to punish the attacking neighbor for assaulting Rand Paul. There is not a fixed amount for punitive damages, and the additional amount will vary depending on the injuries, the reckless conduct, and the “record as a whole.” ORS 31.730
5) A Crime Victim or Survivor Can Use a Pseudonym to Protect Their Identity in Civil Court: Most crime victims and survivors do not want their identity revealed in court filings. Most Courts will permit the victim or survivor to take steps to protect their identity by proceeding under a pseudonym. In these cases the court may permit the survivor to use a pseudonym of initials such as J.D.
If you or someone you know have been injured by a criminal defendant please contact Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658 to discuss your options and remedies. Ross Law PDX has successfully fought for Crime Victims throughout the State of Oregon. Ross Law PDX is also happy to provide a free case consultation to anyone that was intentionally injured by another. Please note that results vary and many settlements in Crime Victims cases, and not all cases can be pursued. Please do not solely rely on this post and contact a crime victim attorney to discuss your rights and options.
It should be noted Senator Paul’s case is unusual due to the fact that Senator Rand Paul supports “tort reform” to limit a person’s access to civil justice and put caps on amounts awarded by a jury. Hopefully, he will learn from this experience and reject any future attempts to limit the amount of damages that can be awarded by a Jury in a civil case.