Accountability for sexual assault is most often thought of in the context of criminal law. An attack occurs, followed by a police investigation and possibly arrest, prosecution and incarceration. However, victims have other avenues of accountability through civil courts. Specifically, we’re talking about a type of premises liability claim known as negligent security.
Those who own and manage property such as nightclubs, hotels, resorts, amusement parks, dormitories, shopping centers and apartment buildings have a legal duty to provide a safe, secure place for their patrons and guests. That means protecting them from foreseeable risks, which includes criminal attacks such as sexual assault.
It is not that Florida property owners are expected to anticipate every random crime. However, failure to initiate reasonable security measures that in turn makes it easier for a criminal act like rape to occur opens the door to a negligent security lawsuit. So even though the attacker is directly responsible for the assault, property owners, property managers and security firms can also be held liable.
Here, our South Florida sexual abuse lawyers explain 4 things to know about Florida sexual assault lawsuits.
- Survivors of sexual assault can pursue a negligent security lawsuit against a property owner even if the person who committed the crime is never caught or prosecuted. The criminal case against a perpetrator and the civil lawsuit against a property owner for negligent security are two totally separate processes in different courts and with different proof burdens. Sexual assault and battery are prosecuted in a criminal court and require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Negligent security claims stemming from a sexual assault are litigated in civil court and require proof by a preponderance of the evidence (more credible and convincing than what’s been presented by the other side). This is important because, as noted by the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, while more than 10,700 sexual offenses were reported in the state in a single recent year, only 4,700 of those resulted in arrests. Fewer ended in prosecution and conviction.
- There are several ways security can be inadequate. The type of security that’s reasonable for an office complex will not be the same as what is deemed reasonable for a hotel, nightclub, concert venue or college dorm. The reasonableness of existing measures will also depend on the history of violent crime at the site or in the neighborhood. Some examples of negligent security in Florida sexual assault lawsuits might include negligent hiring (not conducting thorough background checks), lack of fencing, broken locks or entry systems, not enough security guards/bouncers, poorly-trained staff or dim lighting. An experienced West Palm Beach sexual abuse lawyer can offer specific insight relative to the facts of your case.
- You can receive monetary damages compensation for things like medical bills, lost wages, physical pain and emotional suffering. Some of these are easier to prove than others. Establishing medical bills, for instance, may be straightforward. However, proving the extent of your emotional damages as a result of the attack requires the help of a civil trial lawyer with experience.
- You have four years to file your sexual assault lawsuit. Per F.S. 95.11, you have four years to file any civil action founded in negligence. This is the general rule as it applies to claims for negligent security resulting in sexual assault. It should be noted, however, that in civil claims for sexual abuse or incest where the survivor was underage at the time of abuse, there may be extended timelines.
Our injury attorneys can explain more of the specifics if you contact us for a free consultation. This is the type of case in which hiring a lawyer you trust is an imperative. We are committed to excellence, professionalism, compassion and results.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Sexual Violence in Florida, Florida Council Against Sexual Violence