Holding a Business or Property Owner Civilly Liable for Sexual Assault on their Premises

Sexual assault or abuse is a highly traumatic experience for a survivor. In the aftermath of the abuse, it is likely that a survivor may hesitate to report the perpetrator out of feelings of shame, confusion, humiliation, or hopelessness.

Filing a civil sex abuse claim can be a powerful step in your healing journey. While a successful sexual abuse claim can help you recover compensation for the harm you suffered, it can also allow you to hold any responsible parties accountable for their actions. This includes relevant companies and organizations that may have failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the abuse from happening.

How is a Civil Sex Abuse Claim Different than a Criminal Case?

A civil claim requires a lower burden of proof compared to a criminal case. When a person is tried in a criminal court, the jury is instructed to convict the accused if they are guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Whereas in a civil trial, the jury must believe that “more likely than not” the defendant committed the abuse or is vicariously liable for it. If so, the defendant who is facing the allegations could be required to compensate the plaintiff (the person who filed the claim).

Unlike in criminal court, civil claims can also be filed against businesses that may not necessarily have committed a crime but whose actions or lack of actions made it easier for the perpetrator to commit the assault. This is an important way to hold companies accountable that may try to cover up crimes in order to protect their reputation, as well as those that may have weak security and hiring procedures in place. These cases are made extremely difficult in Texas due to legislation allowing the defendants to point their fingers at “responsible third parties” including the rapist.

sexual violenceFiling a Sexual Assault Claim Against the Perpetrator

Finding a lawyer to file a sexual assault claim against the perpetrator alone can be difficult in Texas.  Debtor protection laws make it hard to collect a personal judgment against an individual unless he happens to have a large number of assets (such as two residences) that a lien that can be attached to. A single residence is protected from collection by the Texas Homestead Act.  Additionally, liability insurance policies such as homeowners’ policies do not typically cover intentional or illegal acts. As a result, a lack of assets often makes pursuing just an individual cost-prohibitive.

Filing a Sexual Assault Claim Against Third Parties

With the help of a skilled personal injury lawyer, a sexual assault survivor may be able to bring a claim against potentially liable businesses and property owners.

Some examples of when another party might be held accountable in a sexual assault claim include:

  • Failure to investigate sexual assault allegations: If an organization simply dismisses claims that an employee sexually assaulted someone, they may be considered negligent.
  • Inadequate security on its premises: This may include insufficient security cameras, lack of security guards, or poor lighting when they are located in a known area of high violent crime.
  • Failure to conduct background checks on new hires: Too often predators are transferred to different areas of an organization when claims of assault are made, or they are able to be hired at a new company that does not check references or conducts background checks.
  • Human Trafficking: In recent years States such as Texas have passed laws to allow civil attorneys to go after criminal enterprises and businesses that turn a blind eye to human trafficking including forced prostitution of minors and slave labor.

Types of Damages Awarded in a Successful Sexual Assault Claim

Bringing a claim against a potentially liable business owner or property owner may have a better chance of successful recovery than bringing a civil claim against an individual who committed the assault. This is because businesses and property owners are often required to carry insurance, and therefore, have a better chance of being able to financially compensate the survivor.

A plaintiff who brings a claim against a business or property owner for sexual assault that occurred on their property may be eligible to receive the following types of damages:

  • Pain and suffering, such as mental, emotional, and psychological trauma
  • Medical bills, including any emergency hospitalization
  • Relevant lost wages
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

The damages allocated to the survivor for the harm suffered depend on the unique circumstances of their case.

Contact a Compassionate Sexual Assault Attorney for Help

While considering taking legal action against a business or property owner, you should have access to competent and compassionate legal representation. A sexual assault attorney will understand and be able to get ahead of the nuances that might complicate your case so you can pursue the maximum compensation possible. Contact Simmons and Fletcher, P.C.’s attorneys today for a free case evaluation to learn more.

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