It is a time to focus on the problem of bullying. With so much going on in the world around us, it would be easy to not give attention to this important topic and I wanted to take a moment of my own to reflect upon what I can do personally to impact change.
Bullying can come in many forms. It is always unwanted and involves a real or perceived power imbalance. It can include actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, or physical or verbal attacks against another person. Though I'm not a criminal attorney, certainly conduct which would be defined as bullying could fall under any number of criminal statutes—whether assault in any of its forms, harassment, stalking, kidnapping, cyber bullying, or any number of sex crimes including voyeurism and disclosing intimate images (“revenge porn” as it is sometimes called). This type of conduct is only a small example of bullying behavior that would be criminally punishable.
But I'm a civil trial lawyer. We at Schauermann Thayer represent people who are injured by the conduct of other persons or businesses (or governmental entities) in order to obtain compensation for the victim not punishment for the wrongdoer. What rights does the victim of a bully have? That's not always an easy question to answer and it's usually pretty complicated.
In most cases when we seek compensation from the person or entity that caused our clients harm, we're seeking to collect from an insurance policy. Insurance policies cover negligent conduct and in most instances do not cover intentional acts. That's usually the problem with seeking civil compensation for bullying behavior. Such behavior is usually, by definition, intentional and therefore not covered by a standard liability insurance policy. So, unless the bully has sufficient financial resources to pay, there may not be much of a civil remedy available outside of the criminal legal system.
That isn't always the case however. Occasionally, especially in the context of bullying that occurs at school or other youth organization, the school may be liable to the victim if the bullying is allowed to unreasonably continue when the school knew, or should have known, about the bullying. In such situations, the school may be negligent and in allowing the bullying to occur, may be liable to the victim.
By holding not only the perpetrator liable but also by holding the organization that allowed the bullying to occur liable, we can work to reduce the incidence of bullying and increase the number of victims who receive justice for the wrongs committed against them. If you or a family member has been subjected to bullying or other similar abuse, it is important to evaluate your rights and potential remedies by consulting with a legal professional. We might not take every case that is presented to us, but we promise to listen to your situation and provide our best advice to you in moving forward.