If I was victim of an assault, do I need to file criminal charges in order to file a civil suit?

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If I was victim of an assault, do I need to file criminal charges in order to file a civil suit?

I was injured last night in a bar when a girl threw a glass and hit me in the face. She was attempting to hit another girl but she missed an hit me. I had required 18 stitches to my face. I did not press criminal charges against her yet because I felt bad because the girl has a newborn baby and I did not want to take her away from her baby, however I feel that I am entitled to damages. Do I need to file criminal charges in order to pursue civil charges? I have video and witnesses of the whole event, and the girl already admitted guilt.

Asked on October 3, 2010 under Personal Injury, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, you do not need to file criminal charges against her to sue her civilly. The civil system--e.g. lawsuits for assault--is separate from the criminal system, and you can sue someone without them being charged with a crime (or they can be charged even though no one sues them). If insurance is involved, sometimes the insurance contract or policy requires charges be filed; e.g. if you're trying to collect for your car being stolen, you have to file a police report and press charges if the thief is identified. However, apart from that--apart from when there are requirements under some kind of insurance--there is no obligation to press charges as well as sue. Of course, not pressing charges could make your case look weaker, if it goes to trial--the judge or jury wondering why, if she attacked you, you did not file charges--but that's a matter of perception and strategy, not the requirements to sue.


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