Survivors of rape and sexual assault in Florida may have grounds to pursue a civil lawsuit to compensate them for damages and losses. There are a wide range of tort causes of action from which plaintiffs can seek redress.
The sexual assault injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm are committed to working with survivors of sexual violence to hold accountable not only the perpetrator, but also the church, school, sports club, nightclub, university, apartment complex or any organization or business that failed in its duty to protect.
These cases are extremely complex and they are often contested vigorously by the defendant organization. Physical and mental health issues are important to consider. Also, a challenging issue in these cases is determination of damages? How can you put a price on trauma and a lifetime of horrible memories? Your case will require an experienced, knowledgeable attorney working for a firm with the financial resources necessary to bring such a claim to justice. Child psychology and sex abuse experts are typically necessary to outline the full scope of compensatory damages. Fighting opposing lawyers and insurers in these cases can easily cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars – and that’s just getting them to the table for settlement negotiations. Preparation for a trial takes even more.
Although the criminal prosecution of a sexual assault case can be agonizing, survivors must understand that the process is intended to punish the offender. Certainly, that can help with the healing, but it doesn’t pay for the:
- Medical Bills
- Therapy Expenses
- Lost Wages
- Mental and Emotional Distress
In some cases, criminal prosecutors will ask the court to compel a defendant to pay restitution. But usually, defendants don’t have the resources to personally cover all of victim’s losses. Even if they had insurance, most insurance policies typically won’t cover claims for intentional wrongs.
There is also the Florida Crime Victim Compensation fund. This is available to anyone who suffered a violent crime and helps to cover certain immediate expenses, such as wage loss, disability, relocation and mental health counseling. But it’s not likely to fully your all your losses.
This is where our skilled injury attorneys can help. The law recognizes the broad responsibility of hotels, apartment complexes, theme parks, churches and others to use reasonable care to prevent foreseeable sexual assaults. We help you take action against the individual but also against the organizations and businesses who should have protected you and did not.Benefits of Civil Litigation After Sexual Assault
One of the primary benefits to sexual assault survivors in civil litigation is that you – the plaintiff – have considerable control over the process. Unlike in the criminal justice system, it’s the victim (or victim’s representative) who chooses whether to file, whether to proceed with it, whether to settle or whether to take the case to trial. Your attorney can help you make the most informed decisions at every turn.
Another thing to consider is that one of the downsides with the Florida Crime Victim Compensation Fund is that it comes with certain strings attached. For example, there is the requirement to have reported the incident within three days of occurrence. Victims also must fully cooperate with law enforcement and they file a claim for benefits within one year – or two years maximum (with some exceptions for minors). Florida statute of limitations laws – F.S. 95.11 in particular - give victims four years in which to file a civil lawsuit.
Plus, the amount you will receive in a successful civil lawsuit is likely to be much higher than what you might expect from the state-sponsored victim’s crime fund.
Finally, know that while a perpetrator may not have the means to cover your losses personally, third-party entities that owed a duty of care to protect and breached that duty will be covered by insurance. And unlike claims for assault and battery or intentional wrongdoing (which would be the claim filed against the perpetrator), claims of negligent security, negligent supervision and vicarious liability for the negligence of an employee (which would be asserted against the third party business or organization) ARE generally covered by insurance.
The American Bar Association reports that while insurance companies have long argued the standard general liability policy wasn’t intended to cover intentional acts – including sexual abuse – that has been changing. Policyholders (those businesses and organizations) are arguing that even when the sexual offender’s acts were “expected or intended,” claims against the sexual offender’s employer or supervisor or other third party for negligent supervision, negligent security, negligent hiring or negligent retention can still be covered because the supervisor/ employer/ third party didn’t expect or intend the injury.Standard of Care
Whether a survivor of sexual assault has a shot at a successful third-party lawsuit will often depend heavily on the underlying circumstances of the case. This will dictate the standard of care.
For example, the duty of care owed by an apartment complex to provide adequate security to residents is going to be different than the duty of care owed by a school district to properly vet and supervise employees that manage after-school activities and sports.
Generally, property owners have a duty to ensure their lawful guests are reasonably protected from foreseeable risks.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault in Florida and want to learn more about your options for civil litigation and compensation, call us today.
Call the injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm at (877) 277-3780 or locally in Broward at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.