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    The Ultimate Guide to Sexual Assault Claims

    Sexual assault victims frequently face financial, physical and psychological hardships related to the assault. Working with an expert sexual assault lawyer to hold liable parties accountable for the assault is the best way to win you compensation to pay for medical bills, lost income from missed work, and any required long-term care. Discover how you and your family can seek damages from a sexual assault claim today. 

    Victims and the people around them are often left scrambling after a sexual assault. Victims often feel so exposed that they avoid disclosing the assault for many months or years. 

    Indeed, sexual assault is a heinous crime that permanently alters victims’ lives. In addition, there are immediate health concerns following rape and other types of assault, as well as long-term emotional care that requires therapy and other treatments. 

    Healing and recovery are the essential goals following a sexual assault. However, many victims struggle with the weight of what’s happened, combined with the financial pressures of psychological and medical care, much of which may not be covered by insurance.

    Legal recourse is usually the best option for victims and their families to hold liable parties responsible and seek damages to cover costs associated with the incident. This is the best way to prevent future sexual assaults as well.

    An expert sexual assault lawyer at Leighton Law will handle your personal injury claim, building your case, and developing the entire settlement process to win you the compensation you deserve. 

    What Is Sexual Assault?

    Sexual assault is generally any forced or unwanted sexual encounter. When someone coerces another person into sex, it rises to the standard of sexual assault. Here are some of the common types of sexual assault claims lawyers deal with:

    • Unwanted sexual touching
    • Rape
    • Attempted Rape
    • Forced sexual acts
    • Photographing or videotaping of someone who is undressed without their consent

    There are other types of sexual crimes, like sexual harassment, but the above categories comprise most cases of sexual assault. 

    Sexual Assault & Consent

    Sexual assault claims are often very complex because they rarely have eyewitnesses, and proving a case involves specific medical procedures, expert testimony, and other specialized processes. 

    Consent is often at the root of many sexual assault claims because force or coercion isn’t limited to physicality. Relatively speaking, proving a sexual assault claim is more straightforward when there are apparent signs of force like bruising, scratches, torn clothing, etc. But sexual assault happens frequently without force. 

    Unfortunately, there are intense power dynamics at play in sexual assault. People use emotional or financial abuse or leverage they have over someone to push them into unwanted sexual encounters. The same goes for threats of violence to the victim or their loved ones. 

    The principle of consent governs much of how the law treats sexual relationships. As long as the participants are of legal age and consent, what happens between them is their business. However, things become a problem when one or more people don’t consent.

    Absent consent, any sexual conduct may be considered assault. 

    Here are some essential aspects of consent:

    • People can give consent and take it back.
    • Consent can be given with verbal or physical cues. 
    • Most places have minimum legal ages for sexual consent.
    • Offering consent once does not mean it is ongoing.
    • Having any sexual contact with someone who is unconscious, asleep, drugged or intoxicated is unconsented because someone who is suffering from those conditions cannot competently consent.

    Understanding Sexual Assault Claims & Your Legal Recourse

    Getting legal help is a smart move after any unwanted sexual encounter.  Unfortunately victims frequently question whether what happened to them constituted sexual assault. Or they blame themselves for being in the position to be victimized.  Or they are afraid to come forward.

    Typically, you should speak to a sexual assault lawyer who specializes in these cases whenever you have any questions about a sexual encounter. They can ask you questions about the situation and let you know whether your concerns are valid and whether pursuing a claim is right. 

    One of the main challenges in any sexual assault claim is that victims have to relive painful memories and feelings of being victimized. In addition, in some instances sexual assault claims damage family and work relationships. 

    Here are some guidelines around what you should do if you or someone you know is sexually assaulted. 

    1. Call the Police – Report the crime after any unwanted sexual encounter. Reporting is often crucial to the future of your case. Naming your perpetrator is also one of the best ways to prevent them from sexually assaulting you or someone else in the future.  Silence is the perpetrator’s best friend.
    2. Seek Medical and Psychological Care – See a doctor to treat any injuries as well as document any physical signs of sexual assault. If you don’t know where to go, ask someone at the hospital or the police for support. 
    3. Document What Happened – Take pictures, write down what you remember about the incident, and record the names of any people who may provide evidence for your case.
    4. Do Not Communicate With The Perpetrator- Many sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, often someone in a position of power.  Do not communicate with them after the assault unless instructed to do so by law enforcement or your attorney.
    5. Talk to a Sexual Assault Lawyer – Hire an attorney who can handle your case and pursue damages on your behalf. Find a skilled attorney who is trained in working with trauma victims and has handled sexual assault cases.
    6. File a Sexual Assault Claim – Decide whether you want to file a sexual assault claim after speaking with your attorney. A claim can seek compensation from liable parties in your case to cover things like medical bills, lost income, and ongoing therapy. 

    How a Sexual Assault Lawyer Determines Liability in Cases

    When people are victims of sexual assault, the perpetrator understandably looms large in their minds. As a result, there can be an overwhelming feeling of loss of control, and victims are often afraid to talk about their experience or have any future contact with the perpetrator. 

    The U.S. legal system takes sexual assault claims quite seriously, and there are ways that you or someone you know can pursue financial damages from the perpetrator in addition to any criminal charges they will face. 

    An expert lawyer will look beyond the perpetrator to see whether other conditions existed that contributed to your sexual assault. Here are some other potentially liable parties in sexual assault claims:

    Property Owners – Sexual assaults in a store, hotel, or parking garage are terrible crimes. They usually shatter the perception of safety people have when they are out and about. Property owners must care for visitors, customers, and other guests and provide a safe environment. 

    Were there any factors at play that increased a victim’s risk of sexual assault? For example, inappropriate lighting, poor security, and other lax measures can embolden criminals, whereas the opposite may have prevented sexual assault in the first place. 

    Businesses – Sometimes businesses fail in their responsibility when hiring workers. A good example of this is if a company employs a known sexual offender or reacts slowly to any safety concerns over unwanted advances or threats of violence. Or the perpetrator may have used the business to access the victim and act in furtherance of their crime.

    Medical Providers – Medical providers are integral in treating sexual assault victims and documenting the crimes. If they fail in their duty, brush off sexual assault allegations, or inappropriately handle evidence, they could be liable.

    These are just some of the places an experienced sexual assault lawyer will look to determine whether other people or organizations failed in their duty to protect sexual assault victims. 

    Filing a Claim with a Sexual Assault Lawyer – What to Expect

    Sexual assault is a crime across the country. However, certain states vary in penalties and victims’ ability to seek damages, so you must work with a seasoned lawyer with good legal resources. 

    Some places have specific laws around sexual assault that govern how certain organizations must act after a reported assault and measures they should take to lower risks for other people.  

    Working with an established sexual assault lawyer is the best way to navigate complex legal issues around your claim. While every sexual assault claim varies, a good lawyer will help victims and their families navigate criminal cases and seek compensation through civil legal action

    One concern clients often have is whether they will be publicly identified by bringing a case (criminal or civil).  Most states, including Florida, have laws to shield the name of the victim of a sexual assault when criminal cases are brought. The media generally cannot publish the names of sexual assault or abuse victims.  Likewise it is usually the case that a civil case can be brought in a pseudonym name (like a “Jane Doe”) to protect the privacy of the victim.

    Establishing Negligence in Sexual Assault Settlements

    Seeking damages via personal injury or premises liability claims can help sexual assault victims overcome financial hardships related to their cases. Your lawyer will examine the circumstances of the case and see whether negligence existed and, if so, pursue compensation in line with the impact of the negligence. 

    To prove negligence, you must show that:

    • A duty of care existed – Whether it’s a hotel with poor security or a company that neglected threats from a coworker, a good lawyer will show that a liable party had a duty of care toward the victim. 
    • There was a breach of the duty of care – Once the duty of care is established, your lawyer will work to show that the party breached their duty of care. A good example of this is when a company doesn’t escalate a threat of violence or unwanted sexual advances from someone in their employ. 
    • The breach led to sexual assault – You and your legal team will then work to prove that the sexual assault was directly tied to their violation of the duty of care. For instance, negligent security may have allowed a criminal to access a college campus or shopping mall. Or the business never performed an adequate background check that would have revealed the employee was a risk to the public.
    • The victim suffered damages – Lawyers must demonstrate that victims sustained damages due to the breach. 

    Establishing negligence is essential to any settlement process. After proving negligence, your lawyer and their team will begin negotiating with property owners, businesses, medical providers, and other liable parties in your sexual assault claim. 

    Factors to Consider in the Settlement Process

    Dealing with a lengthy personal injury claim related to sexual assault can take time. However, lawyers will do their best to secure maximum compensation in proportion to the crimes and negligence committed. It’s usually the best way to cover all of the costs victims must bear now and in the future. 

    Damages should cover things like the following:

    • Medical and Psychological Care bills – Sexual assault victims often have injuries related to the assault. In severe cases, they need months or years of medical care. 
    • Lost income – It’s normal for sexual assault victims to miss work or feel they are incapable of working for a good time after an attack. Settlements should cover all of the missed income. In addition, an experienced sexual assault lawyer will seek damages based on possible missed financial opportunities due to trauma related to the assault. 
    • Therapy – Sexual assault victims typically need intensive therapy and other types of non-medical care. 
    • Medication costs – If prescription medicines are required, the sexual assault claim should cover current and future medication costs. 

    These are examples of economic damages that are relatively easy to quantify. However, there are also non-economic damages that should be part of a successful sexual assault claim. They can include:

    • Pain and suffering
    • Emotional trauma
    • Mental anguish
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)

    While it’s more challenging to calculate the value of non-economic damages in any claim, they are a significant part of your case. People often suffer greater impacts from non-economic damage than economic damage. For example, while a sexual assault victim may recover from their physical injuries in weeks or months, treating something like anxiety tied to the crime may take a lifetime. 

    Choosing the Right Sexual Assault Lawyer

    Most sexual assault victims have little to no legal experience, which makes it harder to know which lawyer will best serve them. 

    By far, experience is the biggest factor in hiring a lawyer to handle a sexual assault claim due to the intricacies of sexual assaults and laws governing liability. Therefore, whenever possible, work with a lawyer specializing in sexual assault claims with a proven track record of winning sizeable settlements for their clients. 

    Experienced lawyers will take on the majority of correspondence between legal teams, insurance providers, property owners, the police, and other stakeholders. In addition, they’ll keep you updated on progress and let you know what to expect regarding timelines. 

    The team at Leighton Law helps sexual assault victims in Florida bring claims and pursue damages to cover their costs and put their lives back together. We have been representing survivors of sexual assault and abuse for over 35 years and have successfully won millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements. Our managing partner, John Leighton, is the immediate Past President of the National Crime Victim Bar Association and author of the most extensive two-volume textbook in handling these cases.  We pride ourselves in providing trauma informed representation to those most in need of help.

    If you or someone you know is the victim of a sexual assault, contact us for a free consultation. We’ll discuss what happened confidentially and let you know how to best proceed in a way that protects you and your family. 

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