You Local Sexual Assault Attorney
Most people are aware that sexual offenders can be prosecuted in criminal court, where they will face jail time if convicted. It is also possible, however, for victims of sexual abuse to file a lawsuit against their perpetrator in civil court. Unlike criminal prosecutions, civil lawsuits do not come with penalties like imprisonment and fines, but instead seek to compensate victims with a monetary award. Although collecting damages can never truly compensate a victim of sexual assault for the trauma that he or she was forced to undergo, it can give plaintiffs the means to obtain medical treatment, therapy, and ultimately, begin the process of moving on with their lives. To learn more about filing a civil sexual assault claim in Florida, please contact one of our dedicated Florida sexual assault attorneys for assistance.
Filing a Civil Lawsuit
Unlike the criminal law code, there is no specific cause of action in the world of civil liability for sexual abuse. Instead, plaintiffs must choose one of the following causes of action in order to file a sexual assault claim in civil court:
- Assault or battery;
- Intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress;
- False imprisonment;
- Negligent hiring or supervision;
- Failure to report or investigate claims of sexual assault;
- Premises liability; or
- Inadequate security.
Ultimately, which cause of action is used in a specific case depends on the allegations in question. If, for instance, a person was sexually assaulted by a high school teacher, he or she could file a claim not only against that individual, but also against the school for failing to use reasonable care during the hiring process or for failing to adequately supervise students. If, on the other hand, a person is attacked while in their apartment complex’s parking structure and management knew that similar offenses had occurred there in the past, they could also be held partially liable for failing to make their premises safe or for providing inadequate security. For help determining who could potentially be held liable following your own sexual assault, please contact our legal team today.
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Statute of Limitations
Many victims of sexual assault are abused as children and may struggle with the trauma of the offense for years before they notify law enforcement. This can cause problems when it comes to the statute of limitations, which is a deadline by which plaintiffs must file certain types of lawsuits. Fortunately, Florida lawmakers modified its legislation in an effort to provide justice to individuals who find themselves in this situation. Under the terms of this law plaintiffs have four years to file a claim of sexual abuse based on general negligence, assault or battery, premises liability, or negligent hiring. There are, however, special rules for underage victims, which state that:
- Plaintiffs who were sexually abused as minors have until their 25th birthday to file a lawsuit;
- Plaintiffs who were dependents of their abuser have four years from the date that they ceased to be a dependent to file a claim even if they are older than 25 years old at the time;
- Plaintiffs have four years from the date of the assault and a causal relationship between their injury and abuse is discovered; and
- Plaintiffs who were under the age of 16 years old at the time of the abuse can file a claim at any time.
The issue of whether the statute of limitations has expired can be an important component in civil sexual assault cases, especially those involving child victims, making it particularly important for those who are considering filing a claim, to speak with an attorney before proceeding.
Damages in Florida Sexual Assault Cases
Courts tend to take sexual assault claims seriously and so are willing to award successful plaintiffs with significant compensatory damages reimbursing them for:
- Past and future lost wages;
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Physical pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Unwanted pregnancy;
- The contraction of a sexually transmitted disease; and
- Psychological counseling expenses.
While these damages are intended to help compensate a victim for the trauma that he or she endured as a result of a defendant’s conduct, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future. However, plaintiffs will only be eligible for an award of punitive damages if they can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is guilty and can also demonstrate that the defendant’s actions were intentional. When awarded, punitive damages are capped at $500,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater.
An Experienced Florida Sexual Assault Attorney
If you have questions or concerns about filing a sexual assault claim in civil court, please don’t hesitate to contact the dedicated Florida sexual assault lawyers at Noakes Law Group by calling 561-301-6999 today.
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