Are you a victim of physical teen dating violence? Has your teen sustained injuries because of physical violence in their relationship? If so, it is important for you to understand your legal rights and options. One option may be to file a personal injury lawsuit against the abuser. State law provides victims of abuse with the right to seek damages from their abuser. While money will not undo the fact that physical abuse has occurred, it can help you cope with the injuries and trauma you’ve experienced.
Teen Dating Violence and Personal Injury Lawsuits
Physical violence in teen dating relationships is not uncommon. In fact, more than 1.5 million teens report being the victim of physical abuse in a relationship every year. Teen girls are more likely to experience physical abuse than teen boys. However, any victim of abuse has the right to hold their abuser accountable.
In most situations, physical abuse will likely be classified as battery. Battery can be both a criminal and civil offense. This means that an abuser can:
- Face criminal charges for physical abuse, and
- Be required to pay his or her victim for the harm they suffer.
Civil and criminal cases are independent of one another. This means that the outcome of a criminal case will not necessarily impact a separate, but related, civil matter. However, a guilty plea in a criminal case could potentially be used to support your civil action for damages.
Damages Available to Victims of Physical Teen Dating Abuse
There are two primary types of damages victims of physical abuse can try to recover with a personal injury lawsuit. Special (or economic) damages and general (or non-economic) damages.
Special damages, which are also sometimes known as economic damages, are intended to help victims with the financial costs of their abuse. An award of special damages should put the victim back in the financial situation they would have been in if the abuse had never occurred. Victims can request special damages to compensate for actual costs they experience today as well as costs they are likely to anticipate in the future.
Medical Bills: Physical abuse can cause a victim to suffer a wide range of painful injuries. Injuries can require hospitalization, extensive medical treatment, expensive medications, corrective and/or plastic surgery, and consultations with specialists. Debilitating injuries may also require lifelong medical care and attention. The costs of medical care can add up quickly. You can demand that your abuser cover all of your injury and abuse-related medical expenses.
Rehabilitation: If your injury is particularly severe you may need help getting back on your feet. You may need to relearn how to use part of your body or simply recover from a painful injury. Rehabilitation can take a long time. It can also be expensive. If rehabilitation is necessary, you can demand compensation to cover the costs.
Medical Devices: Has physical abuse limited your ability to care for yourself? Do you have difficulties walking or moving without help? You may need the assistance of certain medical aides to get by. Wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches can all be necessary as you recover and move on from your injury. If you have suffered a disability because of the abuse, you may also find that you need to modify your home to accommodate your new limitations. These home modifications can be expensive. You wouldn’t have to take on these expensive projects if you were not the victim of abuse. You can ask for damages to cover the costs associated with these changes.
Lost Wages: Many teens hold jobs to save money for college or help out with family expenses. If abuse has prevented you from working, you can demand compensation for lost wages. Your abuser can be required to essentially reimburse you for the income you were forced to lose because of your injury.
Reduced Earning Capacity: Sometimes abuse can be so severe that it results in a permanent physical disability. This disability can affect your ability to get a job and earn a living as an adult. You can seek to recover damages to compensate for your reduced earning capacity. It can be difficult to prove that your future income has been damaged because of your abuse. It’s important to hire an attorney who knows how to frame these delicate arguments.
Special damages are capped in most states. As a result, you can generally only recover as much as you have lost. This can include actual costs today as well as reasonably calculable future costs.
General damages, which are sometimes known as non-economic damages, are awarded to help victims cope with aspects of abuse that may not have a direct financial cost. Physical abuse can have consequences that go beyond physical injury. These additional consequences tend to be very personal and intimate. As a result, they can be very difficult to value in terms of money. General damages can vary significantly in each individual case.
Pain and Suffering: Pain and suffering can be defined to mean a lot of different things. At its core, however, pain and suffering refers to physical and emotional stress. This stress can be the result of the abuse itself. It can also be the result of the physical injuries that resulted from the abuse.
Anxiety and Depression: Physical abuse can be devastating for a victim’s mental health. If you suffer anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, you can demand compensation.
Embarrassment: You may be embarrassed if you are the victim of physical abuse in your teenage relationship. This embarrassment may cause injuries to your reputation and prevent you from socializing as you normally would.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Has physical abuse left you devastated? Do you no longer enjoy the things in life that you once did? Money won’t take your pain away, but it can help you cope with your new struggles.
Disfigurement and Scarring: Physical abuse can leave you battered and broken. Some scars may never fade. As a result, you’ll be left with a reminder of the abuse forever. Damages can be available to make up for the trauma you’ll be forced to endure for the rest of your life.
General damages can be difficult to calculate. Since there is no standard value for these types of injuries, awards can vary significantly from one case to another. It will be important for you to have the help of an attorney who knows how to make sure that your case is valued properly. Your attorney should thoroughly investigate your case and work with experts to assess the full extent of your injuries. This will help to ensure that you are able to maximize the compensation you recover from your abuser.
Are you a teenager who has been the victim of physical abuse in your dating relationship? Do you know a teen who has experienced abuse at the hands of a dating partner? If so, it is important to contact an attorney for help. You need to understand all of your legal rights and options.
About the Author: Attorney Sherwin Arzani has over 15 years experience handling complex civil litigation and personal injury claims. He has won numerous awards throughout his career and attended top-ranked University of Michigan School of Law. He is the co-founder of Citywide Law Group, a personal injury law firm in Los Angeles, CA. Get more information at www.citywidelaw.com.