Published: 17 August 2016
Author: Sharon Barnes

How can I sue an individual for abuse or injury? Is it worth it?

Many people are aware that institutions such as government departments, businesses and religious bodies can be sued for damages for personal injury. What’s less known is that individuals may also be sued, and while it’s more rare, our firm has in just the past year won four settlements for damages of more than $50,000 each.

In the most recent case we launched an action for pain and suffering under the Sentencing Act, we won a court order for well in excess of $100,000 for a string of sexual offences committed by an individual.

So what is an action for damages under the Sentencing Act?

The Sentencing Act explained

First, they cover the types of personal injury cases you might expect to bring against an organisation and involve all types of physical or mental abuse, including sexual abuse.

Typically, a person will have won a smaller amount of assistance under the Victorian Government funded Victims of Crime scheme, which is designed to offer financial assistance for victims of crime. The amounts available under this scheme however are severely restricted to a maximum of $10,000.00 for special financial assistance.

Whereas, under the Sentencing Act, there is no cap on the amount of compensation which may be awarded, or more commonly negotiated. Under this Act, compensation is payable by the perpetrator of the act, drawing on any assets they may have, which can include a house or funds secured in bank accounts. This maybe also suggests why such actions can be tricky to win, because compensation can only be paid where the perpetrator has the money, or capital, to honour it.

In order to issue a Sentencing Act Application it is critical that the perpetrator of the injury be convicted of the offence against the Applicant. It is preferable that Victoria police have issued a restraining order on any property or bank accounts held by the perpetrator but searches can be done to see if any property is owned.

What are the steps?

The ideal order for a Sentencing Act application is:

  1. Charges by Victoria Police for an act of violence against the Applicant
  2. Restraining order on assets issued by police
  3. Conviction of the act of violence against the Applicant
  4. Victim of Crime Application
  5. Sentencing Act Application.

I said earlier that most cases are settled out of court. However, the most recent case in which damages of more than $100,000 were won was decided in court.

If you have suffered physically or mentally as a result of an act of violence at the hands of another individual, even a family member, it is worth considering taking action under the Sentencing Act.

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