Suffering a sexual assault or abuse is a traumatic event that can leave lifelong emotional scars. Sexual assaults are much more prevalent than many would like to admit. According to sexual assault statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (and reported by RAINN), roughly one in three sexual assaults go unreported.
Fortunately, thanks to the “#MeToo” movement, sexual assault is taken much more seriously nowadays than it has been historically.
But you might be wondering, where can you find lawyers for sexual assault cases?
Sexual assault attorneys are typically educated in personal injury law and work with very, very delicate situations. Choosing an expert to represent you is never an easy decision. Before diving into the legal proceedings, several factors come into play. In this post, we want to clarify the nature of sexual assaults from a legal perspective – as well as what your options are. Let’s get into it.
What is Considered Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse?
Sexual assault and sexual abuse are often used interchangeably. While there is certainly overlap, there are a few key differences.
What is Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse is a term commonly used to describe behavior directed towards children, as opposed to adults. This typically involves inappropriate touching, rape, making a victim look at private parts, and so on. Every state has laws recognizing that children cannot give informed consent to sexual acts. However, the age of consent ranges from ages 16 to 18.
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is a broad term used to describe a range of criminal acts of a sexual nature – which extends to adults. This can involve unwanted touching, kissing, groping, rape, and more.
Lawyers for sexual assault cases manage claims of both abuse and assault.
Sexual Assault Civil Suit vs. Sexual Assault Criminal Cases
Civil lawsuits and criminal cases have several key differences – especially when dealing with sexual assault/abuse.
Sexual Assault Civil Suits
Civil suits involving sexual abuse are filed on behalf of the victim in a civil court. The evidence is then analyzed and a result is determined by a judge and jury. If the court decides that sexual abuse occurred, the damages sought by the victim will be examined to figure out if the award is fair.
Unlike a criminal case, the purpose of a sexual assault civil suit is to determine if the defendant is legally liable for damages/injuries suffered by the plaintiff. Lawyers for sexual assault cases work closely with victims to gather and present evidence to maximize the legal payout.
Sexual Assault Criminal Cases
Sexual assault criminal cases begin when the incident is reported to the police. Assuming the law enforcement investigation leads to an arrest, the suspect will face sexual assault charges and be subjected to prosecution. If the defendant is found guilty, they will face punishment including incarceration, probation, fines, etc.
Now, the key difference is the victim is not compensated for the assault in a criminal case. In fact, victims have very little say in how the case is presented and carried out. All of these details are left to the prosecutor.
Victims may still file a sexual assault civil suit if a criminal case is filed. They would need to seek out lawyers for sexual assault cases to do so.
Why Do You Need a Sexual Assault Attorney?
If you plan on seeking financial compensation for a sexual assault, you need a skilled attorney. Trying to manage a case on your own will be extremely difficult. Finding lawyers for sexual assault cases can be intimidating. But it’s important to remember the law is on your side.
You’ll need to find one with experience in civil tort law. Torts are civil wrongs that resulted In economic or emotional damages to an individual – for which the at-fault party is held legally liable. Civil torts fall under the umbrella of personal injury law. However, not all personal injury attorneys are experienced lawyers for sexual assault cases.
A skilled sexual assault attorney will help you:
- Understand the requirements involved in sexual assault cases.
- Gain basic legal knowledge regarding your options to seek compensation.
- Determine the liability for all people and/or entities involved.
- Understand the value of your case and the damages you may be eligible to seek.
- Understand the process of seeking a settlement from insurance companies – which provide coverage to the abuser/other liable parties.
- File a sexual assault lawsuit following court requirements.
- Manage your case in litigation
- Collect your damages.
- Manage any appeals filed by the defendant.
Lawyers for sexual assault cases do a lot to help victims through these difficult times. Hiring an experienced one will be crucial in receiving fair compensation for your damages.
Statute of Limitations on Sexual Assault
Each state has separate rules when it comes to the statute of limitations. Formerly, victims over the age of 18 had two to twenty years for filing a civil case. If this time limit was exceeded, victims were generally barred from seeking compensation.
Fortunately, times have changed.
In July of 2019, Governor J.B Pritzker signed legislation that abolished the time limit for pursuing justice for sex crimes. The law went into effect on January 1, 2020. Advocates claim this new law is a big step forward for survivors of sex crimes.
What to Look for in a Sexual Abuse Attorney
Searching for licensed lawyers for sexual assault cases can be a daunting task. To reiterate, not all personal injury attorneys are skilled in these types of cases. Some may try to convince you they can take your case, but don’t possess the experience needed to earn fair results. In your search, there are a few key factors to look for, including:
Experience in sexual assault law
Obviously, you need your sexual assault lawyer to have experience in the field. However, this needs to be demonstrated – rather than just verbalized. Ask them about the nature of sexual assault law in your state, the common challenges, their process, and what they will do to ensure you earn justice.
The attorney should be able to answer your questions without a second thought. If they don’t seem 110% confident, keep looking. There are plenty of qualified lawyers for sexual assault cases out there.
You’ll want to get a feel for the attorney’s experience with sexual assault cases. When asking about this, they should have no problem telling you some figures they’ve secured in the past. They won’t give you any names of past clients, but they should be able to showcase that they know what it takes to earn compensation.
Sexual assault cases are extremely personal. The attorney you work with should manage communications with empathy and do their best to accommodate your traumatic situation. If it seems like they are moving quickly to take your case – with little regard for your wellbeing – it’s a big red flag.
Willingness to listen
The best trait in lawyers for sexual assault cases is their ability to listen. You should be able to tell them your story and provide the details necessary to build a strong case. Attorneys that are constantly interrupting you or disregarding your words most likely don’t have your best interests in mind.
Aggressive in fighting for victim justice
A sexual assault attorney should sympathize with your experience and maintain a clear dedication to fight for every penny you are owed. Now, this does not equal bold promises of results or monetary gains. There are no guarantees in personal injury law. The lawyer should maintain a cautiously optimistic and confident mindset.
Your Next Steps
Surviving sexual assault or abuse is something no one should have to experience. If we can provide any good news in these grim situations – it’s that you are not alone. We are living in a time when more sexual abusers are facing justice than ever before.
Midwest Injury Lawyers is here to point victims in the right direction and start the path of seeking fair compensation for traumatic experiences. Our attorneys are happy to answer your questions and make sure you get the legal representation you deserve.