Among the most serious and traumatic experiences that a person can live through is sexual abuse. Whether that abuse was experienced as a child or adult, the physical harm and mental anguish that can follow is life-changing. The state of Florida’s police departments and prosecutor’s offices take these allegations very seriously.
Regardless of the outcome of any criminal prosecution undertaken by these agencies, victims of sexual abuse have the option of filing a civil suit against their abusers. Pinellas County sexual abuse lawyers represent individuals in these civil suits to obtain compensation for their injuries and to work towards closure. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you prepare evidence and witnesses before a trial would begin.
Florida Sexual Abuse Laws
While different versions of sexual abuse are well-defined by the Florida criminal code, there are no such definitions for sexual abuse in civil law. Instead, plaintiffs who wish to bring a civil suit against their abusers must rely upon other established causes of action. These causes of action, or torts, are defined by Florida’s courts through the common law.
This simply means that it is the courts themselves who have defined what these causes of action are. A Pinellas County sexual abuse lawyer can help ease the burden of filing an injury claim.
Possible examples of torts that victims of abuse may pursue claims under include:
- False imprisonment
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
Pinellas Statute of Limitations
For most civil suits involving some form of personal injury, the statute of limitations, or time limit to file suit, is strictly defined. In cases where a plaintiff alleges sexual abuse, however, the rules become more flexible.
Florida Statute describes these limits as:
- If the plaintiff was under the age of 16 and was the victim of sexual battery, a claim can be filed at any time
- For all other forms of abuse, if the victim was under 18, they have seven years after reaching the age of 18 to file a claim. In other words, until they reach 25
- If the defendant was dependent upon the abuser, they have up to four years after leaving the abuser. This can apply to victims of all ages
- In all other instances, the injured party has four years after the discovery of the injuries. This can be more than four years after the abuse ends, since phenomena such as repressed memories can delay the discovery of the abuse
Filing a Sexual Abuse Civil Suit
One other aspect of these cases to keep in mind is that the same facts can lead to a criminal case and a civil case. While in most instances of sexual abuse, the district attorney’s office will pursue criminal charges, it is up to the victims themselves to initiate a civil suit. No matter what the result of a criminal case, the option of a civil suit remains open. Even if the defendant is found not guilty in a criminal trial, they may be found guilty under the less strict standard of proof in a civil trial.
Hiring an Attorney
If you or a loved one have been sexually abused, the first thing you should do is contact the police. They will both investigate the crime and get you the medical attention that you need. Whether or not this investigation leads to criminal charges for an abuser, you still have the right to pursue a civil case for monetary compensation. Pinellas County sexual abuse lawyers will listen to what you have to say with patience and compassion. With this knowledge, they will advise the correct course of action for pursuing damages. Pursuing justice from an abusive situation is a difficult thing to do. Pinellas County sexual abuse lawyers can work with you to make the road slightly easier.