Fort Lauderdale Sexual Assault Attorney
Nobody should ever have to go through a traumatic and life-altering sexual assault, and our Fort Lauderdale sexual assault attorneys know that the criminal justice system often does not give survivors of these violent crimes the justice they deserve. While a civil lawsuit cannot require a perpetrator of sexual assault to serve a criminal sentence, it can provide a survivor of the assault with a sense of closure and financial compensation for injuries. Our injury attorneys know that financial compensation will never be able to fully compensate you for the losses you have experienced as a result of this crime, but it can help to begin making you whole again. Do not hesitate to get in touch with our firm to learn more about how we can assist you.
What is Sexual Assault in Fort Lauderdale?
Sexual assault is defined under Florida law in terms of “sexual battery.” According to the Florida Statutes, sexual battery “means oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any object.” Many sexual battery crimes are charged as first-degree felony offenses in Florida, and the charges can be increased to a life felony or capital felony under certain circumstances, especially in cases where the victim was a minor. Upon conviction, the penalties for a first-degree felony offense can include up to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Yet proving sexual battery in a criminal case and getting a conviction can be complicated and difficult, and victims of sexual assault or battery can often be retraumatized in the process. That trauma is only compounded in situations where the perpetrator has the charges dismissed or is acquitted after a lengthy and emotionally difficult trial. Further, a recent investigative report found that only about 10 percent of reported sex crimes in Florida actually go to trial. Indeed, of a total of 7,339 sex crimes reported between 2008 and 2017, about 50 percent accepted pleas before going to trial, and approximately one-third of the cases were “simply thrown out.” In total, 792 of those cases went to trial before a jury.
When victims of sexual assault cannot get justice through the criminal system in Florida, it is more important than ever to learn about filing a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator or another liable party who may be responsible for the harm you have endured. Whether a person was convicted of a sex offense in your case or not, you may be eligible to file a civil claim for sexual battery.
Getting the Facts About Sexual Assaults in Florida
Sexual assaults in Florida occur more often than many people might think, and they are not prosecuted in court as frequently as they should be. The following are statistics concerning sex crimes from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE):
- One out of every five women in the U.S. will be raped or be the victim of an attempted rape in their lifetime;
- One of out every three women who are the victims of rape or attempted rape will have that crime occur when they are between the ages of 11 and 17;
- Approximately 25 percent of undergraduate women students at major universities report being the victims of sexual assault or misconduct;
- More than 50 percent of female rape victims report that the perpetrator is an intimate partner, and more than 40 percent report that the perpetrator is an acquaintance;
- Approximately one out of every four men who are the victims of rape or attempted rape will have that crime occur when they are between the ages of 11 and 17;
- Nearly 25 percent of all men in the U.S. experience a form of sexual violence during their lifetime;
- More than 50 percent of men who report being raped identify the perpetrator as an acquaintance, while about 15 percent identify the perpetrator as a stranger;
- Sexual harassment can create the conditions in which sexual violence occurs, and more than 80 percent of women and more than 40 percent of men report experiencing sexual harassment in their lifetimes;
- In 2018 alone, approximately 734,630 people were raped in the U.S.;
- Reporting rates for rape and sexual assault appear to be declining in the U.S., with 40 percent of victims reporting rape or sexual assault in 2017 and only 25 percent reporting those offenses to law enforcement in 2018;
- Fewer than half—and often significantly fewer people than that—report rape or sexual assault when it occurs, meaning that more than 50 percent of rapes or sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement;
- False reporting rates for sexual assault and rape are extremely low, accounting for only 2 percent to 10 percent of all reported crimes;
- NSVRC reports that the lifetime financial costs of rape are more than $122,000 per victim;
- Florida had more than 8,100 rapes reported in 2018, and underreporting information from the NSVRC suggests that the actual number of rapes and sexual assaults is significantly higher;
- Including attempted rape reports, Florida had a total of 8,436 reported rape offenses in 2018;
- A total of 1,937 people were arrested for rape in 2018, and 253 of those arrestees were under the age of 18; and
- While the total number of reported rapes in Florida has increased steadily from about 2010 onward, the rate of arrests has declined.
Where Fort Lauderdale Sexual Assaults Occur in Fort Lauderdale
Sexual assaults can occur almost anywhere, from public exterior spaces to the presumed safety of a person’s residence or hotel room. At Boone & Davis, we regularly represent clients who have been harmed by sexual assaults that occur in various places, including but not limited to the following:
- Shopping malls; and
- Retail parking lots.
When sexual assaults occur at any of these sites, not only can the perpetrator of the sex crime be responsible for injuries, but the property owner or business manager also may be accountable for the violence you have endured.
Civil Liability for Sexual Assault in a Fort Lauderdale Civil Claim
While criminal liability for a sexual assault typically lies solely with the perpetrator of the sexual assault or anyone else involved in the criminal act, civil liability can be significantly broader. To be sure, in addition to filing a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator of a sex crime, you might also be able to sue the property owner where the sexual assault occurred, the business manager if the assault occurred on business premises, negligent security companies, safety product makers, or even a condominium association (COA) or homeowners’ association (HOA) if the assault may have resulted from the COA or HOA’s failure to implement or repair certain safety measures. In a civil lawsuit for sexual assault, one or more of the following parties may be liable:
- Perpetrator(s) of the sexual assault;
- Hotel or motel owner;
- University or school;
- Club or restaurant owner or manager;
- Security guard or security company;
- Condominium association (COA) or homeowners’ association (HOA); or
- Designer or manufacturer of a safety device, such as a locking system or alarm system.
Depending upon the specific facts of your case, you may be able to name other responsible or liable parties in your lawsuit, as well. It is important to have one of our experienced sexual assault lawyers in Fort Lauderdale evaluate your case to help you determine the potential defendants in your lawsuit.
Criminal Cases Versus Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Assaults in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Many people who have been victims of sexual assault and are considering filing a lawsuit want to know more about the differences between criminal and civil cases. It is critical to understand that a criminal case against the person who perpetrated the sexual assault is entirely separate from a civil lawsuit you may file. A Fort Lauderdale sexual assault lawyer at our firm will represent you in a civil case, whereas in a criminal case the government will be prosecuting the perpetrator for sexual battery or any other sex offense with which that person has been charged.
We want to make sure you understand that you can be eligible to file a civil lawsuit to seek compensation for sexual assault regardless of whether the perpetrator was ever caught, was arrested, or was convicted. To be clear, even if the police never found the person who assaulted you, and even if the person who assaulted you was acquitted, you can still be eligible to file a civil claim and to win a damages award. You can, of course, also be eligible to file a civil lawsuit if your assaulter was convicted of a sex offense.
Damages in a Fort Lauderdale Sexual Assault Lawsuit
Victims of sexual assault can be eligible to obtain multiple forms of compensation through a civil lawsuit. Compensation usually comes in the form of compensatory damages, which include economic losses (direct, objective financial losses) and non-economic losses (subjective losses, such as pain and suffering). You may be able to seek compensation for any of the following:
- Hospital bills after the sexual assault;
- Medical care;
- Lost wages as a result of your inability to work due to the assault;
- Coverage for psychological counseling;
- Physical pain and suffering;
- Emotional or psychological pain and suffering; and
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other forms of psychological injury.
You may also be able to seek compensation for other harms, and a compassionate Fort Lauderdale sexual assault lawyer can assess your case for you today to help you understand the damages you could be able to seek in a lawsuit.
How Do I File a Sexual Assault Claim in Florida?
The first step for filing a sexual assault claim in Florida is to get in touch with an experienced and compassionate sexual assault lawyer in Fort Lauderdale who can evaluate your case and help you to determine who may be liable for your injuries. Our firm can begin working with you on your case as soon as you get in touch with us. We will go over the case with you and will learn about the evidence you may already have to support your claim, and we will determine what evidence we will need to seek through investigation and through the discovery process. Our team can also provide you with more information about the distinctions between criminal and civil cases, and the damages we can help you to seek through a civil lawsuit.
The next step is to file your lawsuit against the liable party or parties, and to gather as much evidence as possible. In discovery, we will seek various types of documentation from the defendant(s) and from law enforcement, and we will determine which parties should be deposed in your case. It may be possible at this point to settle your case if the defendant(s) offer a reasonable settlement offer. If not, we are prepared to take your case to a jury and to show that you are entitled to compensation.
Keep in mind that Florida law requires you to file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the assault. Failure to do so can result in your case becoming time-barred under the law.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale Sexual Assault Attorney Today
If you were the victim of sexual assault, our dedicated and compassionate Fort Lauderdale sexual assault lawyers can help you to file a civil lawsuit against the responsible party or parties. Regardless of whether a criminal arrest was made and a person was charged with or convicted of a sex offense, we know how important it is to get the closure you desperately need and to hold anyone accountable who played a role in the sexual assault. From the perpetrator of the offense to a property owner or other party, you may be able to obtain financial compensation by suing one or more parties in an intentional tort claim.
Our firm is here to speak with you today, and we can answer any questions you have about civil lawsuits for sexual assault. Contact Boone & Davis today for more information about how we can help you.