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If you or a loved one has been sexually assaulted, you are not alone. You can call RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673 or chat with someone online for confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In recent years, the #metoo movement has led to increased scrutiny of sexual harassment and sexual assault. As a result, many people are becoming more aware of the devastating and wide-reaching impact sexual assault can have on the lives of survivors.

Many survivors struggle with feelings of helplessness in the wake of an assault. If you have been sexually assaulted, you may feel overwhelmed and hesitant to come forward. However, it is important to know that every survivor of sexual assault has the right to seek justice. Sexual assault is both a criminal offense and grounds for a civil lawsuit, and as a survivor you may be entitled to just compensation for what you have suffered.

Although no amount of money can take back what has happened to you, just compensation can help you to both practically rebuild your life and feel that those responsible for the attack are held accountable for their actions or lack thereof. If you were sexually assaulted at a place of business, the property owner or business may be liable. A compassionate and experienced sexual assault attorney can help you understand the options the legal system provides.

How Is Sexual Assault Handled as a Civil Matter?

Sexual assault, as defined by the Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women, is “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.” It is important to recognize that nonconsensual sexual contact does not have to rise to the level of rape to be considered sexual assault.

Sexual assault is handled somewhat differently in civil court vs. in a criminal proceeding. In a criminal trial, the victim/survivor serves as a witness to the government’s case against a defendant accused of sexual battery. The prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil proceedings, on the other hand, you as a plaintiff are represented by your own attorney and need only meet the lower burden of a preponderance of the evidence to prove liability. In many ways, you have more control over important decisions during a civil suit, including whether to file a claim, what kind of damages to seek, and whether to settle or go to trial.

What Kinds of Damages Can I Seek?

If you are sexually assaulted at a place of business, you may be able to seek various kinds of compensation and damages, including:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Future lost earnings if you are left with a permanent or long-term disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

There are two main avenues from which you can seek damages through a civil complaint:

  • Civil lawsuit against the attacker – A cause of action could be brought against an attacker based on intentional torts, which might include assault, battery, false imprisonment, or intentional infliction of emotional distress. A civil lawsuit against your attacker can allow you to seek damages for pain and suffering, emotional suffering, and loss of consortium (i.e., loss of companionship and fellowship with your spouse). However, your decision to file a civil lawsuit against the attacker may depend on whether or not they have sufficient assets to pay damages if you win your case.
  • Civil lawsuit against a third party – If the actions or lack thereof of a third-party property owner or business contributed to your sexual assault, they may be held liable for damages. For instance, if the business was aware of a risk and failed to address it, their negligence may be deemed a “proximate cause” for the assault under premises liability. A personal injury attorney must make the case that the assault was “foreseeable.”

Because Florida holds business owners financially liable for any security negligence that results in sexual assault, many business owners carry premises liability insurance. A competent personal injury attorney can help you to seek a fair and comprehensive settlement from the business’s insurance company.

How a Sexual Assault Attorney Can Help

Sexual assault can be a devastating experience, and for many survivors it can be extremely difficult to come forward and speak about the assault and its aftermath. An attorney experienced with sexual assault and abuse claims will be sensitive to the trauma you have experienced while helping you seek the justice and compensation you deserve.

At Mitchell & West LLC, our compassionate attorneys are committed to helping you move forward with your life. If you are considering bringing a civil complaint against an attacker or a business, contact us online or call us at (305) 783-3301 to schedule a consultation.