Can you sue someone in the military who has assaulted you? 33 Answers as of February 21, 2012

My son (23 years old) was attacked at a party. His jaw was broken and we have incurred $42,000 in medical bills thus far. The attacker (20 years old) is a marine. I have heard that you cannot sue someone in the military in civil court is that true? The attacker was arrested. Is it likely that we could recoup the expenses criminally?

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Jones, Boykin, & Associates, P.C.
Jones, Boykin, & Associates, P.C. | Noble L. Boykin, Jr.
You can sue a person in the military who has assaulted you. What I believe you are referring to as an impediment to suit is the Soldier and Sailors Relief Act which provides that you cannot take a case to trial while the Soldier or Sailor is away on active duty. That is, the proceedings are put on hold during that period of time but that does not equate, by any stretch, to a bar on filing a suit. In sum, yes you can sue someone in the military for an assault. The only question would be collectability. A 23 year old in the service probably will not have a lot of assets or income to pay a large judgment especially if he is being prosecuted criminally. You may ask the District Attorney, where the criminal charge is pending, to seek restitution as part of the criminal sentence although that is usually a slow process. Finally, some states such as Georgia where I am located have a Crime Victim's Compensation statute which provides a fund, set aside by the State to compensate, up to certain limits, medical expenses and loss of income if the crime victim is not otherwise able to collect compensation as a result of the crime.
Answer Applies to: Georgia
Replied: 6/20/2011
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
Absolutely you can sue him! You should contact an attorney immediately because this young man may be hard to find, and you will want to start getting witness statements as soon as possible. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 6/15/2011
Beaver Holt Sternlicht and Courie, P.A.
Beaver Holt Sternlicht and Courie, P.A. | Mark A. Sternlicht
A person in the military can be sued, but he or she has certain rights to delay the suit during a deployment pursuant to orders. Assuming that the military member can be found liable for the assault, the biggest factor in recovering any money, whether through a civil suit or in the criminal case, is likely to be his or her financial resources and ability to pay money.
Answer Applies to: North Carolina
Replied: 6/13/2011
The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq.
The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. | Bradley Kramer
That is not true. You cannot sue the officer if he is working in the "course and scope" of his duties as a marine, but once he steps outside of that "boundary", you can absolutely sue him for damages.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/13/2011
Law Offices of Tom Patton
Law Offices of Tom Patton | Thomas C. Patton
No, that is not true. Members of the military are protected in some judicial proceedings by the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). For example, you cannot obtain a default judgment against a service member if they are unable to appear at a proceeding due to their military service. But that does not make them immune from civil - or criminal - judicial proceedings. The answer to your second question is probably yes. You can often obtain what is called restitution as part of a criminal case. The defendant must pay the victim restitution as part of his sentence or a condition of his post prison supervision or probation. The prosecutor should be able to help you with restitution.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 6/13/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    I would recommend that you retain a personal injury lawyer to discuss all your rights and remedies. As to the criminal case, you should clearly contact the prosecutor's office and work with them to seek restitution. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    The Law Office of Josh Lamborn, P.C.
    The Law Office of Josh Lamborn, P.C. | Josh Lamborn
    Generally you cannot sue the US military. Under the Feres doctrine the military is immune from most lawsuits. However, you should be able to sue an individual who happens to be in the military for his unrelated assaultive behavior. The question is then whether you really want to sue that person. It would not be worth your time, money and effort to sue a 20 year old person who likely has no money to pay a judgment. You are better off letting the criminal case go forward and submitting your bills to the Deputy District Attorney so he or she can present them to the court so you can get restitution. Additionally, In Oregon the victims of violent crime can apply for compensation from the State Department of Justice (crime victim compensation division). They will then pay the medical bills usually before the case is even resolved.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Office of Sam Levine, LLC
    Law Office of Sam Levine, LLC | Sam L. Levine
    The answer is that it depends. Please contact an attorney to provide greater detail so that you can get the best possible advice. Thanks so much.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC
    Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC | Travis Prestwich
    You certainly can bring a claim against the man that assaulted your son. If he is an active-duty marine and deployed, the case would be put on hold until he returns. The expenses could be recovered via the criminal case as ordered restitution. However, that does not preclude a civil suit against the attacker or, possibly, against the owner of the place where it happened.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Offices of Earl K. Straight
    Law Offices of Earl K. Straight | Earl K. Straight
    There is no absolute bar against suing someone in the military. However, under the Servicemans Civil Relief Act, suits against active duty military personnel can be delayed or stayed until they are finished with active duty. It would be impossible for someone serving in Iraq to appear for a court hearing, deposition or trial, thus the purpose of the Act. There is also the larger problem of collecting a judgment from someone who may not have the resources to pay. In criminal cases, victim restitution is often a condition of a sentence or plea bargain, you would need to discuss that with the prosecutors.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Wilson & Hajek,LLC, a personal injury law firm
    Wilson & Hajek,LLC, a personal injury law firm | Francis Hajek
    Assault and battery damage cases are challenging on a number of fronts. But, the fact that the assailant was in the military is not one of those difficult issues. Since the assault was at a party, the marine is treated just like any other citizen who assaults another citizen. The biggest issue is how will the marine pay a judgment? There may not be any insurance and so the marine's ability to pay comes into play. An experienced injury lawyer can help you explore coverage issues. Perhaps the party host has insurance that may apply. Given the significant amount of medical bills, don't wait to determine your rights. Call a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Ferguson & Ferguson
    Ferguson & Ferguson | Randy W. Ferguson
    Yes you can. There are some issues if they are deployed. Talk to a local injury lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Wilson & Hajek, LLC
    Wilson & Hajek, LLC | Eddie W. Wilson
    A person in the service is not immune from an action of negligence outside his performance of duties.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    I know that GIs who are overseas have some measure of protection from civil suits. But if he is arrested. Or in jail and is scheduled to appear in criminal court there is a good chance the judge, if he finds him guilty, will order him to pay your medical bills as a condition of probation. Your obvious problem is that he may have nothing worth suing him for. See a personal injury lawyer and serve the civil papers while he is in criminal court next time.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Ramunno & Ramunno, P.A.
    Ramunno & Ramunno, P.A. | Lawrence A. Ramunno
    You can sue but if he is on active duty in the military, then there are certain laws that will delay the process, until his return from active duty.
    Answer Applies to: Delaware
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    You can seek restitution in a criminal proceeding and also sue civilly. Contact the victim's advocate office in the court that has the criminal case. While someone is in the military a judgment can be delayed but I do not believe that means the person cannot be sued.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law
    Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law | Howard W. Collins
    Assume Oregon law applies: Being in the military is not a defense or a grant of immunity for damages caused by that person. Whether he has any money to pay you with is a practical question that any PI lawyer will have to assess. The right to sue may be altered due to his active service but I would have to research that in order to give you a definitive answer.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    LT Pepper Law
    LT Pepper Law | Luke T. Pepper
    Sure but whether or not you can collect a judgment will be the key. It is likely that the marine has no real assets. If you can connect the injury to the conduct on the host of the party then there might be insurance available to pay an judgment. That is a long shot however.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
    You can get restitution for the medical bills through the criminal proceeding, but there would be no compensation for pain and suffering, nor permanent disfigurement unless you file a civil action for assault and battery, which has a two year statute of limitations, generally. It could be longer, but why push it? As long as the defendant has assets or coverage, you may be able to secure counsel to handle it on a contingency. With the damages you stated, even if you couldn't get counsel to work on a contingency contract, it may be worth pursuing to a judgment even if you had to pay a lawyer hourly. If you get a judgment record it in the probate court, and record it again after ten years unless you collect before then. There is generally an exclusion in policies of insurance for intentional acts, but settlements do occur where the defendant explains he did not intend the damage that actually occurred. Stay well.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC | Vincent J. Bernabei
    Yes, you can sue and recover reasonable compensation for your son's injuries. There may also be other persons liable for your son's injuries, such as the host of the party. If the attacker is on active duty in the military, your son's claim may be deferred. You should call for a free initial telephone consultation.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A.
    Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A. | Christopher J. Roberts
    I hope your son is doing better. You can sue the attacker even though he is/was in the military. An individual on active duty is afforded certain procedural protections - for example you cannot obtain a default judgment against an active military serviceman who is overseas and therefore unable to defend himself in court - but I doubt any of those protections would apply to the assailant in your case. Even if they did, it would only mean some minor delays may be incurred. You can still pursue a civil judgment against him. The judge in the criminal case could conceivably order the defendant to pay for your son's medical expenses as part of a plea deal, but I would not count on it. And it would not include other damages such as "intangible" pain and suffering damages anyway. A civil suit is necessary if you want to seek full compensation. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 2/21/2012
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    You can sue someone in the military, just not while away on active duty. It sounds like a great case, especially if the attacker is convicted of an assault crime. Call me or visit my website to get started.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Kirshner & Groff
    Kirshner & Groff | Richard M. Kirshner
    If he has that kind of money.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    David F. Stoddard
    David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
    You can sue. There is a law called the Soldiers and Sailor's Relief Act that prevents you from suing members of the military while they are deployed overseas. The problem may not be that he is in the military. The problem is that in most assault cases, a lawsuit is worthless because the Defendant has no assets from which to collect a judgment. In some states you can garnish wages to collect a suit. Not in South Carolina. In criminal court, often part of the sentence is payment of restitution. However, this would start after he serves any jail time that the court might give him.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Offices of Steven A. Fink
    Law Offices of Steven A. Fink | Steven Alan Fink
    You can definitely sue someone in the military for the attack. There are protections for the soldiers if they cannot defend the suit because they are on active duty. Those protections may delay the litigation, but will not prevent it. Criminal charges will not help with the medical bills, the pain and suffering, and the lost wages. You should consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your son's case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Allen Murphy Law
    Allen Murphy Law | W. Riley Allen
    Yes, you can sue him. But, he has some protection from the Soldiers & Sailors ReLief Act that allows service members involved in civil litigation to request a delay in proceedings if they can show their military responsibilities preclude their proper representation in court. He still can be sued though.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Rothstein Law PLLC
    Rothstein Law PLLC | Eric Rothstein
    You can sue but the case could get stayed depending if the marine I'd deployed. You may get restitution in the criminal case (speak to the DA and the DA's victims' services unit) and you can make a claim from the Crime Victim's Fund.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    David Hoines Law
    David Hoines Law | David Hoines
    Maybe often restitution is part of the criminal proceeding with medical bills like this you should talk to an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    The Kelly Law Firm, P.C.
    The Kelly Law Firm, P.C. | L. Todd Kelly
    Not exactly true. The Soldier's and Sailor's Civil Relief Act may require you to wait to file suit, but it does not provide complete immunity. You should see an attorney. We would be glad to speak with you.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 6/10/2011
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