Survivors of sexual abuse and assault have endured more pain and mental anguish than many others experience in a lifetime. Legal accountability for those responsible can be an important part of the healing process. It’s important that if you’re considering pursuing a civil sexual assault case in Florida that you hire an injury attorney who is experienced in handling these types of complex claims. It is a specific area of law that should only be considered in careful consultation with a compassionate injury lawyer who is prepared to offer legal guidance and support throughout the process.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sexual violence is not only prevalent, it’s preventable. Approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys suffer sexual abuse before they turn 18.
Many survivors of sexual abuse and assault know that by reporting what happened to law enforcement, they are opening the doors to a criminal case and possible criminal charges. What many don’t know is that they may also have grounds to pursue a personal injury lawsuit in the civil justice system.
It is incumbent on schools, sports organizations, religious groups, nursing homes, property owners, workplaces and other entities to create protective environments that are safe and routinely monitored. Proactive sexual harassment and violence prevention plans are essential. When these entities fail to exercise reasonable care and risks the safety of vulnerable guests, students, residents, or members, they can be held legally responsible in civil court.
Our dedicated South Florida injury lawyers have years of experience successfully pursuing justice and meaningful recovery on behalf of sexual assault survivors.
Civil Lawsuit vs. Criminal Case
There are a number of key differences between filing a civil sexual abuse lawsuit and the criminal case being handled by police and prosecutors. Among them:
- Control. In a criminal case, it is the law enforcement and prosecutors who are responsible for investigation and filing of the case. Survivors can play a key role in criminal cases, providing pivotal evidence and serving as a key witness. But in a civil case, it is the victim who is in control of choosing whether to pursue the claim.
- Accountability. In criminal cases, prosecutors are going after those who violated the criminal laws of the State of Florida (or, in federal cases, the laws of the United States). The defendant is going to be anyone who was directly involved in the assault or abuse or those who knowingly helped to facilitate it. Civil claims may also name the defendant directly. But more commonly, the defendants in civil sexual assault claims are third parties that failed in their duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the victim from the risk of danger. These defendants aren’t individuals or entities that necessarily intended for the crime to occur or knew it was going to happen. Instead, it was by their negligence (failure to adequately secure a premises, vet their employees, supervise those in their care, etc.) that the assault or abuse was allowed to occur. It’s not even necessary that someone was arrested or convicted for abuse in order for you to successfully pursue a civil claim; the two run entirely independent of each other.
- Outcome. The purpose of a criminal case is accountability on behalf of the people whose laws were violated by the defendant. The outcome is usually jail or prison time, community service, community monitoring, sex offender registration, etc. In some cases, restitution to victims may be ordered, but it isn’t precisely the goal. In a civil sexual abuse lawsuit, the goal is to “make whole” the victim to whatever extent possible through monetary compensation. It isn’t a question of guilt or innocence, but legal liability. Punishing the defendants isn’t the goal, except where punitive damages are sought. Plaintiffs may also seek policy and procedure changes to the defendant organizations, as part of ensuring others aren’t victimized by the same failures.
Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Florida Sexual Abuse Case
It’s important in sexual abuse cases that you hire the right attorney. That means finding an attorney experienced in something called civil tort law. As our Palm Beach injury lawyers can explain, a tort is a type of civil wrong that results in economic harm to a person and for which the defendant is legally liable.
Often when people hear the term “personal injury lawyer,” they think car accidents. And it’s true, we can handle those sorts of claims as well. But personal injury is an area of law that covers civil torts of all kinds that result in injury and economic harm.
It’s important to be cautious, though, because not all Florida personal injury attorneys have experience specifically in handling sexual abuse cases. It’s imperative that the attorney you hire to represent you is not only empathetic, but also has a track record of success specifically with claims of sexual abuse.
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 is Preventable, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
More Blog Entries:
Should I Sue for Florida Sexual Assault? Civil Injury Lawyers Can Advise. March 3, 2021, Palm Beach Sexual Assault Lawyer Blog