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How Does a Lawyer Collect Evidence in a Sexual Abuse Case?

If you have been sexually abused or assaulted in California, you have the right to come forward with a civil lawsuit in pursuit of justice and financial compensation. You may be able to hold the perpetrator responsible, as well as the institution where the crime was committed.

If you have been sexually abused or assaulted in California, you have the right to come forward with a civil lawsuit in pursuit of justice and financial compensation. You may be able to hold the perpetrator responsible, as well as the institution where the crime was committed. Hiring an experienced sexual abuse attorney in Los Angeles can make it easier to find the evidence you need to prove your case. A law firm has special tools, resources and capabilities to put toward winning your case.

What Is the Burden of Proof in a Sexual Abuse Civil Lawsuit?

To win a civil sexual abuse case, the plaintiff’s counsel must prove that the defendant’s negligent or malicious actions caused the victim harm with at least a 51 percent certainty. Meeting this burden of proof requires clear and convincing evidence. The strength of the evidence is everything in a civil lawsuit. The plaintiff or plaintiff’s attorney must find and preserve enough evidence to prove the elements of the sexual abuse case as more likely to be true than not true.

What Counts as Evidence in a Sexual Assault Case?

Working with an attorney to build your sexual abuse case in California comes with invaluable benefits. Your lawyer will have access to resources and professionals that you would not have otherwise, such as connections to private investigators and subject-matter experts. This can make it easier to investigate your case and preserve evidence in your favor. The evidence that may be used to support a sexual abuse lawsuit could include:

  • Biological or DNA evidence (e.g., semen or saliva)
  • Fingerprints
  • Shoeprints or impression evidence
  • Hairs or fibers
  • Photographic or video evidence
  • Pictures of injuries
  • Testimonial evidence
  • Signed eyewitness statements
  • Medical bills and records
  • Sexual abuse complaints filed
  • School, employment or other administrative records
  • Tapes of phone calls made to 911
  • Police reports
  • Certified copies of criminal convictions against the abuser
  • Weapons used by the abuser
  • Victim’s personal diary or journal of events

Evidence comes in two main forms: people (testimony) and things (exhibits). A lawyer can submit any relevant information or documentation that is allowed under California’s rules of evidence as proof to support a sexual abuse claim. Then, at a civil trial, an attorney can present the evidence to a jury using compelling storytelling abilities. The methods the lawyer uses to tell the victim’s story and prove the case can make all the difference to the jury’s final decision.

The Stages of Formal Discovery

A sexual abuse lawyer in Los Angeles will know exactly how to navigate the discovery phase of a lawsuit on behalf of his or her clients. The discovery phase – also known as formal discovery – is an investigative process in civil law that allows both parties the opportunity to find facts, documents and evidence that were previously unknown to that party. The discovery process often involves the following stages: 

  • Visiting the scene of the incident. Returning to the place where the sexual abuse happened can turn up new evidence, such as evidence against a property owner that proves he or she failed to keep a premises safe and secure from criminals.
  • Obtaining copies of relevant documents and records. If your sexual abuse case involves any written records regarding the crime, your lawyer can request copies. A lawyer can also submit requests for the production of evidence to force the defense to turn in any relevant documents.
  • Interviewing and deposing witnesses. Witness testimony can be an important source of evidence in a sexual abuse case. A lawyer will have the tools for deposing witnesses, bringing them on the stand for testimonies and cross-examining the witnesses who speak for the defense.
  • Hiring experts to support a sexual abuse case. A lawyer can use connections to qualified sexual abuse experts to obtain testimony from a specialist. An expert can help a jury understand complicated issues or evidence connected to the sexual abuse case.
  • Filing motions and subpoenas. Your lawyer can make oral or written requests to the court to have evidence admitted or ruled as inadmissible during discovery. Your lawyer can also file subpoenas to require witnesses to come to court and testify.

Overall, a lawyer can take the legal steps that are required to preserve and obtain important evidence during an investigation and formal discovery. As a plaintiff, hiring a lawyer allows you to focus on healing while a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer handles discovery for you.

Can You Do Anything to Help Your Lawyer?

If you wish to file a civil lawsuit against one or multiple parties for your sexual abuse in Los Angeles, there are steps you can take early on to build a stronger case against the defendant(s) on your own. While giving your case to an attorney prevents you from having to investigate and collect evidence yourself, if you can, take the following actions to lay the groundwork:

  • Report the crime. Reporting sexual abuse or assault to the police in Los Angeles can create a paper trail supporting your claim. Telling someone – especially an authority figure – can document the attack and help you prove that it happened.
  • Seek immediate medical attention. Do not delay in getting medical care for your injuries after being sexually assaulted. If you see a doctor within 120 hours of the assault, you can receive a forensic exam to gather any biological evidence.
  • Preserve evidence. If you have access to any evidence, preserve it carefully. This may include the clothes you were wearing at the time of the sexual assault, a copy of a sexual abuse complaint that you filed or photographs of your injuries.
  • Document everything. Keep an injury journal, take pictures, obtain copies of your medical and psychiatric health records, and document your experience as much as possible. A first-person account and records from the victim can help prove a sexual abuse case.

Together with an attorney, you can build the strongest possible claim against the person and institution that wronged you as a sexual abuse survivor in Los Angeles. With Manly, Stewart & Finaldi as your legal representatives, you can focus on healing and moving forward after sexual violence or trauma while one of our skilled attorneys collects evidence for you. To learn more about the collection of evidence in a sexual abuse case, contact us to request a free consultation.

Manly, Stewart & Finaldi is regarded as America's leading law firm for sexual abuse cases. As a firm that exclusively handles sexual abuse cases, our California law firm offers experienced representation to obtain justice for sexual abuse survivors, harassment, and discrimination.

Learn more about Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.