Lakeland Sexual Abuse Attorneys

Aggressive trial attorneys with a personal touch

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The Law Offices Of Allen & Abaray, P.A.

Lakeland Sexual Abuse Attorneys | Auburndale Personal Injury Lawyer

It is easier to prevail in a civil case than in a criminal matter, because in a civil case, the plaintiff’s attorney need only convince the judge or jury that his or her version of the facts is more “likely than not” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  As a result, many defendants settle out of court, rather than risking a large money judgment and a public trial.  Only an experienced personal injury attorney can assist a victim in assessing whether he or she should accept a proposed settlement offer.

  1. Sexual abuse is often done by a person who has a close relationship with or access to children, such as a priest, rabbi, teacher, or boy scout leader. If the abuse occurred in the course and scope of the abuser’s employment, the employer or organization can be responsible for what occurred. The organization may also be legally responsible if it failed to conduct a proper investigation of the person’s background to uncover prior sexual abuse the person has committed on other victims.  Any organization with such knowledge should not allow access to your child or family member by such a person.  If an organization is aware of an incident involving sexual abuse, they should take immediate steps to prevent that abuser from continuing to have access to other children or members of the public in the future.  If they fail to do so, it is a breach of their duty and they can be held responsible.  This might include a spouse who knows of the husband’s sexually abusive behavior.

The lawyers at Allen & Abaray have the financial and experience to help victims of sexual abuse and assault seek the maximum compensation for their injuries.  From our principal Lakeland office, we represent clients throughout the state.

Sexual abuse can occur in many different settings and to people of all ages:

Sexual abuse can occur in business settings when an employee in a position of authority make improper sexual advances to another employee.

Sexual abuse can occur in private homes.  If a homeowner knows that a person living in their home has a history of sexual abuse, they have a duty to warn anyone who comes into their home.

Sexual abuse can arise in hospital settings, when hospital staff abuse patients who are under medication or in a vulnerable condition.

Psychoanalysts and physicians can take advantage of the vulnerability of a patient and have sex with them.

Children who live away from home can be sexually abused by other children or employees of the school district, camp counselors or church members.

Each case of sexual abuse or assault must be analyzed separately to determine who is responsible for what occurred to you, your friend, or family member.  Our lawyers typically retain expert psychologists to provide credible opinions about the careless or negligent conditions that allowed the sexual abuse to occur.

In some situations, sexual abuse rises to the level of forcible rape.  In these cases, evidence will be collected by the police and rape treatment center.  In other situations, DNA evidence is not easily recovered.  In these cases, the evidence will consist of the testimony of a psychologist, friend or another person who can document the emotional injury that occurred.

Actions Against Sexual Assault Cases

If a victim suffers damages arising out of a sexual assault, he or she may bring several different claims in a civil action against his or her assailant. In addition to claims of sexual assault, an action against the perpetrator may include battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, libel, slander, stalking, negligent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, or wrongful death claims. Although the action is brought in court, the victim may choose to negotiate a settlement out of court. Unlike some criminal charges, the decision to begin a civil suit is the victim’s choice.

Many assailants settle lawsuits against them for damages, but if no settlement is reached at this point, the formal lawsuit begins when the plaintiff’s lawyer files documents at the local courthouse and serves the complaint on the perpetrator. Each side then assesses the other’s position, and the attorneys will question both the victim and the assailant. The victim can have his or her lawyer present at the questioning.

Third Party Actions

Under some circumstances, a victim may file an action against a third party liable for the sexual assault. Such actions are generally based on negligence, and the plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff, that the duty was breached, that the plaintiff suffered damages, and that the defendant’s breach caused the damages.

What Must Be Proved

Under some circumstances, a victim may file an action against a third party liable for the sexual assault. Such actions are generally based on negligence, and the plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff, that the duty was breached, that the plaintiff suffered damages, and that the defendant’s breach caused the damages.

Damages

A lawsuit against the perpetrator or other responsible persons may be able to compensate for these expenses, as well as for personal, nonfinancial damages to the victim. Compensatory damages for economic losses, such as lost wages, impaired earning capacity, medical expenses, and miscellaneous expenses such as transportation and babysitting, can be significant. Non-economic damages might include physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, fright, denial of social enjoyments, or humiliation. A victim may also be compensated for disability, disfigurement, or aggravation of a pre-existing ailment or condition. In some cases, compensation may also be obtained for claims by the victim’s spouse for loss of consortium. An experienced attorney can help a sexual assault survivor decide how to seek compensation for these expenses and assist him or her in taking the required steps.

Restitution

In many jurisdictions, a restitution order entered in a criminal case does not bar a damages recovery in a civil action arising out of the same incident. However, any compensatory damage award in a civil suit is generally reduced by the amount of restitution already received by the victim.

 

 

Means of Compensation

Many states have a victim’s compensation fund to compensate certain victims who have filed a police report for specified expenses incurred because of a sexual assault. These state funds typically give the victim a fairly short period within which he or she must apply for aid. Therefore, a sexual assault victim should not delay in investigating whether state fund opportunities are available. A victim may also be able to receive restitution as part of a civil protective order, and, of course may recover damages from the perpetrator or a liable third party as a result of bringing a civil claim. Although not everyone will secure compensation, it is important for you to contact an expert law firm to analyze your rights and to determine whether you should pursue your claims.

  1. Civil vs. Criminal Sexual Assault Proceedings in Florida

When you think of a legal case following a sexual assault, you likely first think of a criminal case.  If you seek help from a hospital, doctor, or law enforcement agency following a sexual assault, they will gather evidence of the assault for a criminal case.  If your assailant is found, hopefully he will be arrested, taken off the streets so he cannot harm anyone else, and face criminal charges for sexual assault.

In a criminal case, a prosecutor must prove that the defendant committed the sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt.  If a prosecutor succeeds- or if the defendant agrees to plead guilty—the defendant will be convicted of the crime and will be sentenced to certain penalties.  Such penalties can include imprisonment, probation, fines, and registering as a Florida sex offender.  However, while you may have to testify in the criminal case and relive this painful memory, a criminal conviction does little to provide any compensation for the harm you suffered.  Instead, criminal cases are more focused on punishing the offender and protecting others.

While nothing can erase a traumatic event like a sexual assault, financial compensation can help survivors cover their expenses and find a sense of justice.  Such compensation is available through the civil court system.  Unfortunately, in addition to participating in the criminal case, survivors must also file a case in civil court to seek compensation for their many losses.

Civil cases may be easier to prove than criminal charges, because the burden of proof is lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  In addition, you can use a defendant’s conviction as important evidence in your civil case.  To lighten the burden on sexual assault survivors, our experienced attorneys will handle every step of the civil personal injury process so that you can focus on your own well-being.

  1. Statistics

Statistics indicate a sad truth in the United States—about 321,500 people are sexually assaulted on an annual basis, which comes out to an average of 880 people per day.  Whether an assault involved a rape of unwanted sexual touching, survivors can be left with feelings of shame and guilt- even though they were blameless.  Serious sexual assaults can also cause physical injuries to victims, some of which may affect them for the rest of their lives.

Those who struggle with physical and psychological injuries after sexual assaults should discuss their legal rights with injury attorneys as soon as possible.  At Allen & Abaray, we know how sensitive and personal this type of incident can be, and we provide compassionate assistance that you can trust for all assault survivors.  If you want to learn more about a free and completely confidential consultation.  Please contact a member of our dedicated team today.

 

  1. Injuries and Losses Caused by Sexual Assault

Sexual assaults are traumatic under any circumstances.  In some situations, survivors are left dealing physical injuries in addition to emotional trauma.  Injuries that can result from such assaults include:

  • Abrasions or lacerations
  • Sexually- transmitted diseases
  • Unwanted pregnancies
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Injuries from force used to perpetrate the assault
  • Injuries from restraints used
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

These injuries can result in numerous losses- both tangible and intangible.  You can seek compensation in a civil injury claim for:

  • Medical bills for emergency treatment and ongoing treatment
  • Costs for terminating a pregnancy if needed
  • Costs for pregnancy, childbirth, and adoption, if applicable
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Expenses for psychological or psychiatric treatment
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

In addition, many sexual assault survivors can obtain punitive damages.  This type of compensation is reserved for victims of highly egregious acts- and intentional sexual assault can certainly qualify.  It is important to have an attorney handling your claim who can identify all possible damages to which the law entitles you.

  1. What is molestation?

    Molestation is the sexual assault or abuse of another person. Most commonly, molestation refers specifically to the sexual assault of a child.  

    Children:

    According to RAINN, Child Protective Services find evidence for child molestation claims every 8 minutes. In total, reports from Child Protective Services show evidence that over 63,000 children per year are victims of molestation.

    Children are some of the most vulnerable among us, unable to understand why someone they believe to be a trusted adult would harm them. RAINN reported that 34% of perpetrators are family members of the victim. 93% of all assailants personally know the child. Sometimes, this includes adults in children’s lives such as a teacher, coach, religious leader, counselor, and at a number of other facilities that fail to protect children from harm.

    Adults/Elderly:

    Most people hear the word “molestation” and assume it refers only to children, but they are only some of the victims of such sexual abuse. Molestation of susceptible adults often occurs when patients are sexually abused by their doctors or therapists, or when residential nursing home patients are abused by their caretakers and other staff, and even sometimes by other residents.

Why Compensate for a Crime?

The long-term effects of children and adults alike who have fallen victim to molestation can be devastating, and many find it difficult to cope with the reality of what happened to them. Sadly, sexual abuse victims account for a great number of sufferers of mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and addictive behaviors such as substance abuse. Some act out and some instead remove themselves entirely from society.

There is an obvious emotional cost to the victim, but there is almost always a financial cost as well. Mental disorders and coping problems stemming from sexual abuse can have a severe impact on a person’s quality of life. Years of therapy sessions and treatment for lasting mental disorders can come with a very high price tag. Unsurprisingly, victims who have the most trouble coping may even struggle to sustain a steady job and earn a living.

Whether you are dropping your child off at school or you entrust a nursing home to care for your ailing parent, you do so expecting that your loved one will be taken care of and safe. Organizations have a duty to protect those on their premise from harm.

We believe that when an organization fails to protect people, they must be held liable for their conduct. The physical pain of the assault may have been short lived, but the emotional impact of a sexual assault remains, and may even last a lifetime.

What Types Of Molestation Claims Do You Handle?

Over the years, we’ve represented many, many victims of child molestation in civil claims. Some examples include:

Church Of God – We represented several victims in various incidents where children were allegedly molested while under the care of Church of God local chapters. Two underage victims were allegedly molested by a youth pastor who was nearly twice their age. In cases like this, the question in a civil claim is whether the incidents were foreseeable and preventable. The church typically abides by a two-adult rule requiring at least two adults present around the children. Unfortunately, the youth pastor was alone with the children.

Apartment Complex / Neighbor Molestation – We represented children over the years who were molested in apartment complexes or gated communities. Through investigation, in one case we found that a neighbor had been accused of molesting his daughter and a background check would have revealed his prior arrests. The complex failed to do a background check and was found responsible for contributing to the molestation.

Mall Molestation – After a child was molested in a mall bathroom, our Florida molestation victim attorneys investigated and pursued a civil claim against the mall on behalf of the child. We found that the alleged molester was loitering around the mall bathroom for hours a day prior to the incident.

Patient Molestation – We’ve represented patients against hospitals and medical facilities who were molested or sexually assaulted while coming out of anesthesia or while a patient in the facility.

Day Care Molestation – Our Florida molestation victim attorneys have represented children who were molested at day care by day care workers.

Church Molestation – Our FL molestation victim lawyers have handled many cases against churches where a child was molested by a pastor or other employee.

  1. What are the Florida Statutes of Limitations for Sexual Abuse?

Just like most states, Florida has both criminal and civil sexual abuse statutes of limitations. A statute of limitation is a law that outlines the amount of time someone has to file a civil complaint, or that a prosecutor has to bring criminal charges against someone. If the complaint is not filed within the statutory time limit, the person or state will lose their right to sue or to file criminal charges.

There are several statutes of limitations for each state, relating to different areas of law and types of crimes. Additionally, the time limit stated in a statute of limitation for a specific crime or civil violation can vary between the states. For instance, a certain civil sexual abuse statute of limitations could be 10 years in one state and 5 years in another state.

In regards to Florida’s criminal and civil sexual abuse statutes of limitations, the two are quite different. Florida’s civil statute of limitations, for example, has a unique provision that greatly extends the window of time a victim of sexual assault has to file a civil lawsuit. In comparison, its criminal counterpart lacks any type of comparable section.

  1. In Florida, the filing of a civil claim dealing with sexual abuse (such as rape or incest) must be commenced at any time within the following limitations:

7 years after the victim reaches the age of majority, which is 18 years old in the state of Florida;

4 years after the victim leaves the dependency of the abuser or 4 years from the time of the discovery of both the injury and the causal relationship between the injury and the abuse (whichever date is later between these two options); and

With sexual battery involving a minor under 16 years old, there is no statute of limitation.

The second point illustrates Florida’s “delayed discovery rule.” Florida is one of several states to have a delayed discovery rule, which effectively indefinitely extends the statute of limitations. The legislature took into account the nature of this abuse when it occurs at such a young age and the possibility of repressed memories of the events.

Thus, when the person discovers that they were sexually abused in the past, the statute of limitation will only then begin to run and that person will have 4 years from that date to file their lawsuit.

  1. What is Florida’s Statute of Limitation for Criminal Cases?

Some states have gotten rid of statutes of limitations for all felony sex crimes. Currently, Florida is not one of those states. Depending on the type of sex crime and circumstances involved, different statute of limitations will apply in the state of Florida.

For example, here are some important ones to be familiar with:

For criminal felony cases, if the sex crime resulted in death or the offender can face life in prison, there will be no statute of limitation. For example, some aggravated sexual batteries fit this category. This is unique to criminal law, as murder is typically one of the only offenses that does not offer a time limitation. Not all states offer this same option for certain violent sexual crimes. Aggravated rape generally involves a weapon, more than one person, or seriously physically injures the victim.

Sexual battery committed against a minor under 16 years old has no statute of limitations when the victim reports the crime within 72 hours.

When a sex crime has a statute of limitation, there is an exception made for DNA analysis for crimes occurring after 2006. If DNA evidence shows that a certain offender committed the crime, the state can prosecute without a statute of limitation if the DNA testing evidence was collected during the original investigation. This is true even if it is discovered after the ordinary statute of limitations period ran out.

Because there are so many different scenarios and factors for sex crimes, victims reporting right away (if possible) and working with the prosecution can help avoid any statute of limitation issues.

However, sometimes this is unfortunately not possible due to situations involving things such as victim intimidation, embarrassment and repressed memories. This would change if Florida ends up abolishing statute of limitations for all felony sex crimes in the future.

Florida Sexual Abuse Law Firm

For over twenty years, the law firm of Allen & Abaray, P.A. has provided exceptional statewide representation for injury victims, and the families of those who are injured or killed by the conduct of others. While our personal injury lawyers are based in Lakeland, we represent clients throughout the State of Florida.

Free Consultation

Allen & Abaray, P.A. offers a free consultation in all personal injury cases. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in any type of accident, call (863) 669-9999 or toll-free at (877) 669-6899 today to speak with a Lakeland personal injury attorney about your case. We won’t charge an attorney’s fee unless we recover money for your injuries.*

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