What Kind of Attorney Handles Sexual Abuse Cases?
Survivors of sexual assault may wonder what kind of attorney handles sexual abuse cases. This is a specific area of law and one that requires a law firm with experience handling these types of delicate and personal cases. Further, sexual abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church and corporate entities including medical facilities require a law firm with significant financial resources to properly handle such cases. Finally, you need a firm with real trial attorneys with a reputation for taking cases to a jury verdict if and when a corporate defendant fails to properly compensate the victim of such horrific acts.
If you were a survivor of sexual abuse or assault, you’re likely aware that reporting your case to authorities may result in a criminal investigation, which may also be followed up by criminal charges. However, you may not be aware that you may also be eligible to file a sexual abuse lawsuit against your abuser to obtain the compensation you need to make a meaningful recovery. An experienced sexual assault lawyer at the Dolman Law Group can help you to understand all legal options when you schedule a free consultation with our team.
Why Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer for My Sexual Abuse Case?
When it comes to sexual assault cases and finding the right sexual abuse lawyer, you want to find a trial attorney who is experienced in civil tort law. A tort is a civil wrong that caused economic or emotional harm to an individual and for which the at-fault party has legal liability. Serious injury law (physical and emotional injury) covers civil torts of all types that result in injuries and economic harm. Not all personal injury lawyers have experience with sexual abuse cases, however, so it is important to select someone who has a record of successfully representing sexual assault victims.
Examples of the Services Sexual Assault Lawyers Can Offer:
- Explanation of the various requirements involved in filing a case, including the statute of limitations.
- Legal knowledge as to your options for seeking compensation as well as knowledge about other forms of assistance and resources that may be available to you.
- A determination about the liability of all of the people or entities that may be potentially liable in the case. Your sexual abuser may not be the only one with liability—if the abuse occurred within a church, school, or other institutional settings, then others may also be liable for attempting to cover up the crime, for failing to provide adequate security, or for not reporting allegations of abuse to authorities.
- Help in determining the value of your case, which is the amount of economic and non-economic costs that you have incurred due to the abuse. Economic costs include the cost of medical treatment to treat any injuries, pregnancy, or sexually transmitted disease related to the abuse, therapy to deal with the emotional impact of the abuse, lost wages, and other expenses you have incurred. Non-economic costs include emotional distress, anxiety or depression, loss of enjoyment of life, and other impacts you suffered to your quality of life as a result of the abuse.
- Seeking a settlement from insurance companies that provide coverage to the abuser or other potentially liable party. This is particularly relevant in abuse cases involving teachers, clergy, or staff members in a facility where the abuse occurred.
- Filing a personal injury lawsuit in your case in accordance with court requirements.
- Attending all pre-trial conferences and hearings on your behalf.
- Representing you in litigation.
- Helping you to collect your damage award.
- Representing you in any appeals filed by the defendant.
Statistics on Sexual Assault and Abuse Reveal a Disturbing Pattern
Millions of Americans are survivors of sexual abuse or assault. The distinction is that sexual abuse is usually perpetrated against a minor over a period of time, while sexual assault usually refers to an action taken against an adult in an isolated incident.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday. 96 percent of the people who sexually abuse children are male, and nearly 77 percent of these perpetrators are adults at the time that the abuse takes place.
Sexual Assault Victims are Underreported
As many as a quarter of women who attend college are victims of rape or assault during their time in college, along with 15 percent of men. Unfortunately, only 12 percent of sexual abuse cases are ever reported to authorities, and 90 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported.
How Is a Sexual Abuse Civil Lawsuit Different Than a Criminal Case?
There are many distinctions between a civil lawsuit and a criminal case. They have different evidentiary standards, purposes, and consequences. Depending on factors like the statute of limitations, you may choose to pursue one over the other, or both. Descriptions of each are as follows.
Understanding Sexual Abuse Criminal Cases vs. Sexual Abuse Civil Lawsuits
A sexual abuse criminal case begins when a crime has been committed and reported to authorities (law enforcement officers) by a victim of sexual contact or sexual acts that were unwanted and inappropriate. If a law enforcement investigation of the case leads to an arrest, then the suspect is formally charged. To obtain a conviction, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court, that the defendant did, in fact, commit the crime by engaging in unwanted sexual activity.
If the defendant is found guilty of the crime, they will then be punished through incarceration, probation, and/or fines. However, the criminal prosecution of a case does not compensate the victim of the abuse, and victims have very little say in how the case is presented, whether a plea deal is accepted, or other details that fall within the realm of the prosecutor’s authority and control.
A sexual abuse civil lawsuit (civil case) is filed on behalf of the survivor in civil court and the result is determined based on a preponderance of the evidence. What this means is that the jury or Judge decides whether the unwanted sexual contact or sexual abuse was more likely to have occurred than not. If the Judge or jury determines that the abuse occurred, the court then looks at the damages sought by the plaintiff and determines whether the award is fair. A civil lawsuit does not attempt to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence, but rather whether the defendant is legally liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Civil claims simply have a lower threshold of proof (preponderance of evidence as opposed to proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
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Sexual Abuse Cases our Firm has Handled
Here are a few examples:
- Represented a young person that was sexually abused at a summer camp for special needs children. The particular camp was understaffed and counselors lacked the proper training or protocols to ensure the safety of all campers
- We served as counsel for over 200 individuals who brought claims against the Boy Scouts of America
- Successfully represented a Florida rape victim who was sexually assaulted at a hospital. We added a claim for negligent retention and hiring against the hospital after our investigation determined the employee-assailant had a prior criminal record that would have been discovered if the employer had exhibited the requisite amount of due diligence.
- We have represented a number of victims of sexual abuse against the Catholic Church and have handled claims against several different archdioceses.
- Successfully pursued a claim against a professional athlete who transmitted a permanent sexual disease to our client. The athlete was aware of their STD and failed to use due care to avoid transmitting such and never told my client of their condition. This resulted in a large confidential settlement.
- We represented an adolescent who was engaged in sexual contact (oral sex) with their adult teacher. Numerous students were aware of the sexual conduct of the faculty member (he requested sexual favors from multiple students) and this apparently was not his first time. A previous sexual act was not investigated by the school district.
- We represented two individuals who brought similar claims of sexual assault and sexual battery against a Massage Therapist. The person responsible for hiring this individual failed to conduct a thorough criminal background check. Following his conviction, we pursued a civil case against the Massage Therapist and his employer which resulted in a seven-figure confidential settlement.
- We are presently investigating claims against two other Massage Therapists.
Sexual Abuse Cases in the News
What does a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse look like? While each case is unique and subject to the laws of the state in which the abuse occurred, here are some news stories that may shed some light.
A sexual abuse lawsuit was filed against the Boy Scouts and the Montana Boy Scout Council by two men who say they were abused by scout leaders. The sexual abuse lawsuit alleges that the Boy Scouts organization failed to implement and enforce child protection policies. Additionally, it claims they failed to properly vet troop leaders in spite of previous allegations of abuse made against them.
While the organization issued a statement saying that it believes victims who come forward and pays for their counseling when abuse occurs, the men initially reported the abuse in 1968 and 1980, and no action was taken. The lawsuit states that the organization was aware of the abuse but concealed it from potential members and their families. Montana lawmakers recently extended the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases, allowing a one-year window in which older cases could be filed. Other recent news stories also emphasize the impact a state’s statute of limitations can have on a sexual abuse lawsuit.
Suspension or Elimination of Statute of Limitations Allows Survivors to Seek Damages
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law allowing the victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits against their abusers until the age of 40. Previously, the statute of limitations had been when the victim turned 26 years old or three years after the abuse was discovered. California and other states that have chosen to modify their statutes of limitations did so over the protests of school districts, which argued that the changes to the law would break them financially. The law also suspends the statute of limitations for three years beginning on January 1, 2020, to provide child sexual abuse survivors over the age of 40 time to file civil lawsuits if they wish. A Seattle-based sexual abuse attorney stated that his firm is currently representing 100 child abuse victims from across California who have been waiting for the law to change.
- New York and New Jersey both increased their statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse cases, allowing victims to file a sexual abuse lawsuit until they reach the age of 55. Additionally, New York suspended the statute of limitations for one year, resulting in scores of suits filed against hospitals, schools, and churches.
- In Minnesota, a children’s theater company agreed to settle with 16 former students who were abused by former staff members in the 1970s and 1980s and is planning to settle nine remaining sexual abuse lawsuits soon. The civil lawsuits were filed after Minnesota suspended its statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases in 2013. Earlier this year, one of the cases went to court and the court found the theatre company generally negligent but not liable for the rape of a former student by a company actor when she was 15 years old.
Religious Institutions May Face Civil Lawsuits for Perpetrating and Concealing Sexual Abuse
Following a long-awaited release of a report detailing sexual abuse within the Colorado Catholic dioceses, which named 40 priests accused of abuse, survivors of that abuse urged lawmakers to suspend the statute of limitations so that they could file civil lawsuits against their abusers. The victims stated that these sexual abuse lawsuits would uncover information that the report left out.
Survivors also noted that the report did not result in a criminal investigation, but rather was categorized as an out-of-court mediation as a result of a deal between the state attorney general’s office and the three Roman Catholic dioceses in Colorado. As part of the deal, church leaders were allowed to approve the members of the investigative team. Some religious officials were not investigated or included in the review, including one who had been accused of abuse by 23 former students at the high school where he worked.
The dioceses were also responsible for producing their files for investigators and paid for half of the costs of the investigation. The report also does not name church leaders who moved priests to other locations or allowed them to keep working in spite of abuse allegations against them. The attorney general stated that the report was done to provide justice to the abused while also protecting their confidentiality. Colorado’s statute of limitations allows victims to sue over child sex abuse cases until age 24, or two years after the abuse occurred.
Determining Liability After Sexual Abuse by a Member of the Clergy
As previously mentioned, the potentially liable parties in sex abuse cases include clergy, as well as a school or other institution’s staff members. Some of the possible issues your sexual abuse attorney will be looking for in your case when determining liable parties include:
- Was a full background check performed on the abuser before they were hired? Was there anything in the defendant’s past employment history that indicated that they might sexually abuse children which could lead to a negligent hiring claim?
- Did the victim tell anyone else associated with the church, school, or institution that abuse had taken place? Did anyone else who knew about the abuse report it to the church, school, or institution? Individuals who are entrusted with caring for children have an obligation to report allegations of abuse to authorities.
- Did the organization have a policy in place to properly deal with allegations of sexual abuse, and was that policy followed?
- Were abuse allegations investigated by officials at the church, school, or institution?
- Was there any attempt made, by anyone, to conceal evidence, reports, or allegations of the abuse from school officials, social services, or law enforcement?
- Was there any attempt on the part of anyone affiliated with the church, school, or institution to intimidate the victim or coerce them into not speaking about or reporting the abuse?
If you are a survivor of child sex abuse, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer about your case can answer your questions and help you decide how to proceed.
Why Should I Choose Dolman Law Group as My Sexual Assault Lawyers?
As serious injury lawyers, we have recovered over $200 Million for our injured clients. While our impressive results have made us one of the most highly sought-after law firms in Florida, our main satisfaction comes from seeing sexual assault victims the justice and compensation they deserve. Our sexual assault lawyers have over 130+ years of experience handling lawsuits involving sexual violence and emotional distress.
Testimonials from former clients will confirm our commitment to ensuring we secure maximum compensation to alleviate the burden of the damages our clients have incurred. When it comes to our client’s well-being, you will be hard-pressed to find a more dedicated group of advocates. The Dolman Law Group handles sexual abuse lawsuits throughout the nation with the assistance of local counsel when necessary (states we are not licensed). Our firm can assist with sexual assault cases anywhere in the nation. We comply with all local ethics rules. In fact, our involvement will not impact your attorney’s fees as two law firms will now split the fee.
Stanley Gipe – Sexual Abuse Lawyer
Stanley Gipe is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer as designated by The Florida Bar. This designation connotes that Stan is considered an expert in the field of trial law. He has served as lead counsel on over two thousand Florida lawsuits and lead trial counsel on numerous jury trials. Stan is presently representing a number of individuals sexually assaulted by members of the Catholic Church or employees of a medical facility.
Matthew Dolman – Sexual Assault Victim Lawyer
Matthew Dolman has served as lead counsel on over one thousand Florida lawsuits. He is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving cases in excess of $1 Million and $2 Million dollars respectively. Matt has been selected by his colleagues (fellow Florida Bar members) as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite, a combined eleven times.
Matt has served as a lawyer for sexual assault victims on numerous occasions. Further, he has attracted media attention for some of the lawsuits he has handled and has been interviewed by multiple publications for his work as a rape victim lawyer.
If you have survived sexual abuse or assault, you deserve to have a representative you can trust to diligently investigate your claim, collect evidence, and involve you in decisions about your claim. Dolman Law Group is prepared to provide you with the resources and insight you need to obtain a fair settlement.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Claims
What if the Sexual Abuse Occurred Years Ago?
Many states are rethinking their statutes of limitations in sexual abuse cases so that victims can recover compensation for the damages they incurred. This is taking place due to the sheer number of survivors who continue to suffer from the lasting effects of sexual abuse, even into adulthood. In Florida, there is no restriction on pursuing criminal charges or civil damages for survivors who experienced sexual abuse before the age of 16. Your sexual abuse attorney can discuss your legal options with you.
Does My Sexual Abuser Need to Be Convicted for My Case to Succeed?
While a civil case can be filed and even won without a criminal conviction or even a criminal charge brought against the defendant, a conviction in a criminal case can be powerful evidence in the plaintiff’s favor in a civil lawsuit. There is no jail time on the table for a defendant in a civil trial.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Sexual Assault Lawsuit
While the police focus on the criminal aspects of your case, you need an injury attorney on your side that can offer empathetic legal guidance and support at every turn. Dolman Law Group has the expertise and tenacity to successfully settle your Florida sexual abuse lawsuit for maximum compensation.
Additionally, we have extensive resources that allow us to take legal action against powerful institutions and insurance companies in negotiations and in court. At Dolman Law Group, you will receive individualized attention from some of the leading sexual abuse lawyers in Florida. If you want to file a civil lawsuit, you will need a law firm with the necessary financial resources to advance your case. We have successfully represented many victims of sexual abuse.
If you are considering seeking damages (including pain and suffering along with medical expenses) after being sexually abused or assaulted, you need an experienced sexual assault lawyer at Dolman Law Group. We encourage you to schedule a free consultation by calling us at (727) 451-6900 or contacting us through our website.