If you contract a STD from a sexual partner who knew he was infected (you did not), can you sue him?

People may sue and potentially collect compensation (“damages,” in legal terminology) when they are injured owing to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of others. This is what has allowed people to sue for being infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) when they receive the disease from a partner who knew that he or she was him-or herself infected. In those situations, having sex with another when one knows that one has a transmittable disease can be, depending on the exact circumstances, negligent (careless), reckless, or even an intentionally wrongful action.

If on the other hand, the infected partner did not know that he or she had a sexually transmitted disease, there would be no liability—in that case, the person would not have acted negligently, recklessly, or intentionally, since he or she had no reason to know there was any problem.

Another significant issue is the knowledge of the (previously) uninfected partner. If he or she know of the sexually transmitted disease and nonetheless chose to have sex, that might constitute acceptance of the risk. Essentially, if you do something risky knowing its risky, it’s much harder to sue. But if the person did not know, they may well have grounds to sue.

If a person who contracted a STD like this did sue, the sort of damages he or she could collect would be:

  • Medical costs, both to-date and future—and for certain diseases, like AIDS, this can be very significant
  • Pain and suffering, which represents not just literally “pain” per se, but also any negative impacts on or reduction of the quality of life—such as limitations on future sexual activities. (And, any pain would itself be compensable.)
  • A reduction in life expectancy
  • Any current or future loss wages, from not being able to work as long or as hard

If you have contracted a sexually transmitted disease from a partner who knew but did not tell you, you should consult with a personal injury attorney so you can understand the strength of your case and likelihood of success, what it might be worth, and the costs—both economic and in terms of time and effort—to pursue it.