Why hire a lawyer for sexual abuse by doctors
Although sexual abuse has been occurring for years, only relatively recently has it become a topic that is covered extensively in the local and national news media. We now know that sexual abusers can be found among the "superstars" of entertainment (Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein) and politics (former Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman). Although these cases received considerable coverage in the national press, it is a sad fact that the vast majority of sexual abuse incidents never receive news coverage.
On this page, the sexual abuse lawyer at the Doan Law Firm will present an overview of criminal sexual abuse and why it is often necessary for victims of these crimes to file a civil lawsuit against the abuser if they want to seek. He will then discuss the types of damages that may be awarded to a victim following a successful sexual abuse lawsuit.
What are "sexual battery" and "sexual assault"?
Although each state's criminal code gives the precise definition of sexual battery and sexual assault as it applies to criminal cases, the following definitions of these acts are generally accepted in civil courts as the legal basis for a lawsuit against the abuser.
Sexual battery is usually defined as any unwanted form of contact with an intimate part of the body that is made for purposes of sexual arousal, sexual gratification or sexual abuse. Since there are differences in each state's precise definition of sexual battery, it is best to discuss your state's law with an attorney who is familiar with your state's criminal code as it applies to sexual crimes.
The US Department of Justice has defined sexual assault to be "… any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape." [emphasis added]
Can I file a lawsuit if my abuser has been charged with a crime?
Since sexual abuse is a crime in all states, there is the possibility that your abuser has been charged with a crime and may, or may not, have been found innocent, guilty, or taken a "plea deal." Since sexual assault lawsuits are tried in civil courts and involve issues that are not considered in criminal trials, you can file a sexual abuse lawsuit regardless of any criminal charges or the outcome of those charges. Of course, if your abuser has been convicted on a criminal charge, that conviction will make it easier to win your sexual abuse lawsuit.
In some sexual abuse lawsuits there is also the possibility that other parties can also be named as defendants. In general, these other defendants will be the abuser's employer (such as a school, hospital, or a medical group practice) or some other entity (e.g. church, school, or volunteer group) that knew, or should have known, that sexual abuse was taking place but did nothing to intervene and stop the abuse. The inclusion of such "third parties" in a civil sexual assault lawsuit is a matter that is best left to you and your lawyer.
As with criminal cases, there are time limits on when a lawsuit can be filed. These time limits, called the Statutes of Limitations, are set by state law and are strictly enforced by the courts. If your lawsuit is filed after the Statutes of Limitations have "expired" or "run out," your lawsuit will be dismissed by the court. Since there are different Statutes of Limitations that may apply to sexual abuse cases, you should seek the advice of an experienced sexual abuse lawyer who is familiar with the laws of your state.
What types of damages are available in sexual abuse lawsuits?
"Damages" is the legal term for an award, usually of money, that a court has ordered to be paid to a person as compensation for some loss or injury. Damages are divided into two broad types: compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are awarded by a court to "compensate" or "pay back" the plaintiff (you) for any expenses that they have incurred as a direct result of the defendant's (the abuser) actions.
In sexual abuse lawsuits, compensatory damages may include expenses related to:
- Medical expenses, including psychological counseling and therapy, both current and anticipated future expenses
- Loss of current and future earnings
- Costs associated with cancelling future plans such as vacations or social events
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
On the other hand, punitive damages are intended to "punish" the defendant and to deter others from acting in the same manner. In sexual abuse lawsuits juries tend to award relatively large amounts of punitive damages, often several times greater than the amount of compensatory damages.
Why you will need a sexual abuse lawyer
If you are considering filing a sexual abuse lawsuit, you will need the services of a lawyer who has knowledge and experience in areas such as:
- Your state's sexual abuse laws
- The Statutes of Limitations in your state for both criminal cases and in civil lawsuits
- Investigating all aspects of your case, including interviewing witnesses and taking depositions
- Locating and hiring expert witnesses in support of your case
One law firm with experience in managing sexual abuse lawsuits is the Doan Law Firm, a nationwide law firm with offices in major cities throughout the country.
When you contact our firm regarding your potential sexual abuse lawsuit, your initial consultation and case review are always free of any charges and do not obligate you to hiring our firm. Should you decide that we should be your attorneys, we are willing to assume all responsibility for preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.
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