Nationwide Sexual Abuse Lawyers
Sexual abuse is a horrifying crime that causes unseen damage to its victims. It is easy to see the pain of a motorcycle accident victim in traction. The pain of a sexual abuse victim, by contrast, can linger on for a lifetime of silent suffering. Sexual abuse is more than just a crime, however — it is an offense against your emotional health and, above all, your human dignity.
If you have been victimized by a sexual assault, seeing the offender brought to justice in a criminal court is not enough. You deserve compensation for your suffering, and for all of the life-changing consequences of that suffering. At Edwards Pottinger, our job it to see to it that you receive every penny in compensation that you deserve. And your claim could be more than you think it is.
Some of Our Recent Case Results
Our personal injury attorneys have been showered with awards for outstanding advocacy on behalf of our clients. At the end of the day, however, it is results that matter — and that means dollars and cents. Our attorneys have secured so many verdictsand settlements for our clients that space prevents us from listing all of them here. Following, however, is an abbreviated list of recent trial results from the state of Florida:
- Baca v. Island Girl, Ltd.: $70,560,050.00
- Demella v. Kim and Riverside Hotel: $24,000,000
- Beasley v. Highwoods and Schindler: $13,188,000
- Bellamy v. Festival Fun Parks, LLC d/b/a Boomers!: $4,255,280
- Conner v. Clyde Enterprises d/b/a All Stars Sports Bar and Grill: $2,000,000
As attorneys, we are prohibited by law from guaranteeing specific results. What we can guarantee, however, is the most effective representation available anywhere.
Criminal Offenses Versus Civil Offenses
The very same act of sexual abuse can be defined as a either a civil offense (justifying a lawsuit), a criminal offense (justifying a prosecution), or both at the same time. A lawsuit and a civil trial are two separate proceedings based on two different sets of laws and two different court systems. You can sue an offender for sexual assault, for example, and also petition the prosecutor to prosecute the offender for rape.
You do not necessarily have to prove that someone committed a criminal offense to win a lawsuit against them, however — in other words, a bad act that does not rise to the level of a criminal offense can still justify a lawsuit for damages in many instances. You can even win a lawsuit against someone for an offense even after a criminal court acquits the offender of the same offense (the O.J. Simpson in the 1990s is a good example of this).
In some states, if the offender pleads not guilty and is convicted in criminal court for the same incident that triggered your sexual abuse lawsuit, he cannot argue otherwise in your civil lawsuit. If that happens, the only matter left for you to prove will be the amount of damages and, if you are suing a third party defendant (such as the offender’s employer), the relationship between the third-party defendant and the offender that justifies assessing liability against the third party.
The Statute of Limitations Deadline for Filing a Lawsuit
The statute of limitations sets the time period by which you must either file a sexual assault lawsuit or abandon your claim (five years after the date that the offense is committed, for example). If you wait until the statute of limitations deadline passes without either filing a lawsuit or settling the case out of court, the value of your claim will drop to zero.
Statutes of limitations vary widely from state to state. In some states, for example, the statute of limitations period doesn’t start to run until the victim turns 18. Other states allow you to file a lawsuit for an offense that would be a felony in criminal court, no matter how long you wait to file. Still other states will waive the statute of limitations deadline if DNA evidence is available.
Consensual Sexual Abuse
Consensual sexual activity can be treated as sexual assault under certain circumstances, such as:
- If the victim is mentally handicapped;
- If the offender is a mental health professional and the victim is being treated by the offender;
- If the victim is under the state’s legal age of consent; or
- Under certain other circumstances, defined by state law, in which the victim is considered unable to give meaningful consent.
Age of Consent Laws
The age of consent is the age at which the law considers a person old enough to legally consent to sexual activity. In most states the age of consent is 16; in a few states (such as New York) it is 17, and in a few others (such as Florida) it is 18. Some states have added a “Romeo and Juliet” provision that allows sex with an underage partner as long as the age difference between the two partners is less than a certain number of years (four years age difference, for example).
The “Deep Pockets” Challenge
One of the major obstacles facing sexual assault victims is that although their damages might be immense (hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions of dollars in some cases), the offender lacks the financial resources to pay the judgment. And there is no point in filing a lawsuit against someone who can’t afford to pay a judgment.
In other sorts of personal injury cases, the victim might collect from an insurance company (auto insurance for a car accident, for example). In sexual abuse cases it’s different, because sexual assault is an intentional act, and insurance policies seldom cover intentional acts.The challenge, then, is finding a defendant with deep enough pockets to pay a judgment.
Nevertheless, in many cases a defendant is available. There are two popular legal theories that can be used to hold a third party liable for a sexual assault:
- Respondeat superior: An employer is liable for a personal injury committed by one of its employees, even if the employer itself was not at fault, as long as the employee was acting within the scope of his duties at the time of the offense. If you were molested by a Catholic priest during confession, for example, you would likely be able to sue the local diocese for the offense.
- Inadequate supervision/security: Suppose your loved one was a nursing home resident and was sexually assaulted by another resident. You might sue the nursing home by alleging that it failed to provide adequate supervision to guard against such an assault. In this case you would have to prove that the nursing home was negligent in order to win.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Am I eligible for psychological damages?
Probably. A defendant in a sexual assault case can’t very well claim that he shouldn’t be required to pay damages because the victim was not physically injured. After all, the victim is likely to have suffered psychological scarring that may last a lifetime.
Naturally, the victim may incur heavy expenses for the cost of psychological counseling and therapy. Nevertheless, compensation should not be limited to these expenses — the victim should also receive compensation for the psychological pain itself. This compensation may add up to far more than the costs of therapy.
Am I eligible for punitive damages?
Most states, including Florida and New York, allow punitive damages to be assessed in addition to compensatory damages if the defendant’s conduct was so outrageous as to shock the conscience. Although punitive damages are not often awarded for most personal injury claims (car accidents, for example), sexual assault cases are prime candidates for punitive damages awards.
If you are suing an employer for a sexual assault committed by its employee, however, only some states will hold the employer liable for punitive damages (although all states will hold the employer liable for compensatory damages). Some states, such as Florida, place a legal limit on the total amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in any case.
Can a sexually abused child file a lawsuit for damages?
No. Nevertheless, a parent can file a lawsuit on behalf of the child. Damages typically go into a trust fund for the benefit of the child. In some cases a parent will not be eligible to file a lawsuit on behalf of the child — if the parent is the defendant in the lawsuit, for example. In such cases, the court will typically appoint a legal guardian to file a lawsuit on behalf of the child. It might also appoint a guardian if the parent is unwilling to file a lawsuit for some other reason.
What is the difference between sexual assault/abuse and sexual harassment?
Sexual assault or abuse typically involves some type of physical contact, while sexual harassment typically involves speech or other non-physical interaction. Sexual harassment is a particularly acute problem in the workplace, and it can result in a lawsuit not only against the offender but also against the company itself. There are two major forms of workplace sexual harassment:
- Quid pro quosexual harassment; and
- Hostile work environment sexual harassment.
Quid pro quosexual harassment occurs when, for example, a supervisor threatens to fire a subordinate in retaliation for refusing sexual advances. Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when, for example, the victim experiences a hostile environment at the workplace due to a pervasive pattern of sexual references, sexually demeaning comments, sexual propositions, off-color jokes, etc., such that the victim’s job becomes unpleasant or even unbearable to perform.
How can a sexual assault lawyer help me?
At Edward Pottinger, we will guide you through every stage of your case from beginning to end, including:
- Helping you locate the social resources that you will need to begin the healing process — counseling, medical treatment, psychological treatment, insurance coverage problems, etc.
- Helping you refer your claim for criminal prosecution, if the offender has not already been arrested.
- Investigating your claim: Time permitting, we will conduct a thorough investigation of your claim before we file the lawsuit, so as to gather enough evidence to maximize both your chances of victory and the amount of compensation you receive.
- Drafting and filing a civil complaint on your behalf, thereby initiating a lawsuit. Drafting a lawsuit complaint is tricky — every word matters and every sentence has consequences. You will need an experienced sexual abuse attorney to draft a proper complaint.
- Managing the discovery phase. The discovery phase of a sexual assault lawsuit is the phase in which each party seeks evidence from the other and from third parties. We will be able to question witnesses under oath (but outside of court), demand documentary and physical evidence, and appeal to the court for an order if the other side refuses to cooperate.
- Preparing for trial: In the trial preparation stage, we will organize the evidence in a manner that will be persuasive to a judge or jury.
- Negotiating a settlement: The trial judge will certainly encourage the parties to settle the dispute out of court. Negotiating a settlement is tricky, however, especially if the defendant is a company who sends experienced in-house lawyers to negotiate on their behalf. We know all of the negotiating tricks, and we won’t fall for a single one of them.
- Winning in court: If the defendant won’t agree to pay fair compensation voluntarily, we will be more than happy to battle it out in court. To be honest, however, because of our stellar track record not all that many defendants dare to take us on in court.
The Time to Act is Now
The best time to begin preparing your sexual abuse claim is as soon as possible after the abuse occurs. Even if you have been reluctant to come forward, however, we still have many weapons in our legal arsenal that we can use to help you prevail. We can guarantee complete confidentiality — we will not divulge anything you discuss with us unless you give us permission to do so.
At Edward Pottinger, we specialize in fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. If you or your loved one has been victimized by sexual abuse, call our toll-free number from anywhere in the United States at (800) 400-1098 ; otherwise simply fill out our online contact form. And remember — if we don’t win your case, you don’t pay us any legal fees.