Every 98 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted. Rape and sexual abuse is a problem that unfortunately is not going away. Sexual assault or rape is one of the worst events one can go through. The emotional trauma and scars can have lasting effects.
After someone is sexually abused, police and law enforcement should immediately be called. Of course, some victims are hesitant to report these issues due to shame, embarrassment, or fear of retaliation. While the police can investigate, and the District Attorney can file criminal charges, the criminal prosecution can do little in terms of fairly compensating the victim or providing proper financial restitution.
Can a Victim of Sexual Assault File a Civil Personal Injury Claim?
After a rape or sexual assault, law enforcement will seek to bring the individual perpetrator to justice. The assailant may be arrested and criminal charges can follow suit. While the criminal justice system is pending, the victim may be able to bring civil claims against third parties that bear legal responsibility for what happened. What types of third parties could be responsible for someone getting raped? For example, legal liability could be established against entities such as schools, places of business, apartment complexes, Churches, hospitals, medical facilities, and government entities.
Theories of Liability
Typically, negligence or recklessness must be established against a third party before once can recover compensation. The legal definition of negligence is failing to adhere to the applicable standard of care based on the circumstances and breaching a legal duty owed to someone else. Reckless conduct goes beyond negligence, and it is often defined as when a person consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk which constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would have exhibited.
One theory of civil liability for rape is negligent security. Under the law, business and property owners owe certain legal duties to those on the premises. Businesses owe duties to their patrons and customers, and apartment complex owners owe duties to their residents. Consider the following an example – a man breaks into the apartment of a tenant of a local apartment complex. Whether the property owner or manager can be held legally responsible will depend on the facts. Was the complex located in a high crime area? Had similar attacks occurred there recently? Was management on notice of criminal activity? Were measures taken to secure the premises in place, including security gates and guards? All of these factors play into the equation of whether reasonable steps could have been taken to keep the tenant out of harm’s way.
A second theory of liability is negligent hiring. Generally speaking, the law states entities, which can include hospitals, religious institutions, private companies, schools, and hospitals, must act reasonably under the circumstances, and it is always prudent to conduct background checks on prospective employees. As an example, consider an inpatient medical facility. When meeting with an employee/counselor, a resident is locked in the room where the employee proceeds to sexually assault her. When assessing whether the facility can be held liable for this act, it will be important to look into the employee’s background. Was there a history of criminal activity? Was the perpetrator on a sex offender registry? Had the perpetrator assaulted patients prior to this happening? Did the organization know about previous assaults before hiring that person, or was a background check conducted? As you can see, each civil claim involving rape will be different.
Damages for Claims Involving Rape or Sexual Assault
In a lawsuit for sexual assault or abuse, damages will be highly specific to the individual plaintiff. Here are some examples of compensation that can be recovered under claims like negligent hiring or supervision:
- Medical bills – a victim can recover the cost of medical treatment, including hospitalization, primary care physician, psychiatric treatment, and more.
- Lost wages
- Non-economic damages – while the above damages are known as economic damages because they can be assigned a specific monetary number, non-economic damages cannot be quantified so easily. These damages are typically significant following sexual assault, and they include pain and suffering, emotional distress, depression, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, and in severe cases, medical diagnoses such as PTSD. Other common side effects are feelings of fear, guilt, loss of control, or even numbness.
If you or a loved one was sexually abused, alert the proper authorities but do not think that is your only recourse. A full investigation of the facts could reveal negligence on the part of a third party that could have taken steps to protect you. To speak with an attorney today about your rights, call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz at 800-529-4004 or complete our online form. All consultations with our personal injury attorneys are 100% free and confidential.