Justice in sexual assault and rape cases may be hard to win in the criminal courts, where guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If you have been the victim of a sexual assault or rape, a Miami personal injury attorney may be able to offer you an alternative in the civil courts.

The numbers are disturbing. Sex crimes have been increasing in Florida. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, more than 11,000 rapes and sexual assaults were reported in our state in 2018. The number of convictions for these crimes, however, is far lower.

Every rape and sexual assault victim in Florida has a right to bring legal action and to seek monetary damages from both the perpetrator of the crime and from anyone who had responsibility for inadequate security that may have been conducive to a rape or a sexual assault.

What Does It Take to Prevail With a Civil Lawsuit?

The right Miami injury attorney can explain the legal process and then walk you through it step-by-step. But to understand how compensation is made available to the victims of rape and sexual assault, it is important to distinguish between the criminal courts and the civil courts.

In criminal cases, a prosecutor represents the state and seeks to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But in civil cases, your lawyer represents only you. Instead of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, only a “preponderance of the evidence” is needed to hold a defendant liable.

The lower burden of proof in the civil courts allows you to take legal action against a sexual abuser or a sexual predator even if the state will not or if a prosecutor failed to win a criminal conviction.

When you file a claim for damages in civil court, you and your attorney will make important decisions about what damages to seek, whether to accept or reject a settlement offer, and whether you should take your case to trial if no reasonable settlement offer is forthcoming.

Can You Receive Monetary Compensation?

When a sexual predator or a sexual abuser is convicted by a criminal court in Florida, the payment of restitution to the victim may or may not be required by the court. But if you sue a sexual predator or a sexual abuser in civil court, monetary compensation is the main objective.

Insurance companies often pay damages in injury cases arising from accidents, but they almost never pay for acts of intentional wrongdoing. A settlement or verdict is worthless if you can’t collect, so your lawyer may conduct an asset search to determine if a lawsuit is worth the effort.

However, a sexual predator or abuser may not be the only party with liability for a rape or sexual assault. If an individual or business had a legal duty to provide security and breached that duty, giving rise to conditions that were conducive to sexual violence, that party may have liability.

How Do “Third-Party” Lawsuits Work?

Every Florida property owner is obligated to make “reasonable” efforts to keep customers, employees, tenants, and others safe from hazards – including the hazard of crimes like rape and sexual assault. If a third party was negligent, there may be liability – and liability coverage.

Security concerns arise wherever there is public access: arenas, apartment complexes, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, amusement parks, theaters, garages, and parking lots. If owners do not keep their properties reasonably secure, sex crimes – or something even worse – can happen.

Security is imperative at malls, in parking garages, and at other sites that may entice predators. Retailers advertise secure parking. Realtors stress security when they sell properties. Those at concerts and sports events expect security guards and security cameras to protect them.

What Are a Property Owner’s Legal Obligations?

Property owners who do not take adequate security measures or do not inform visitors about potentially hazardous conditions may be held accountable for their negligence with a premises liability lawsuit.

If you became a victim of rape or sexual assault because a property owner failed to provide locks, alarms, sufficient lighting, security cameras, or security guards, speak to a reliable Miami injury lawyer about your rights and your legal options.

If someone is sexually assaulted on private property in Florida, and if that assault could have been prevented had the property owner taken reasonable and responsible action, that owner may have to pay for the victim’s medical expenses, legal fees, and personal pain and suffering.

Is There a Deadline for Filing a Lawsuit?

The statute of limitations can vary in these cases, especially if a sexual assault victim or a rape victim was a minor when the crime took place. It may be difficult, but the wise move is to seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible after you have been victimized.

The good news is that you do not have to worry about the cost of seeking justice. Personal injury lawyers in Florida work on a “contingent fee” basis, which means they do not get paid until and unless they recover damages for their clients.

The contingent fee system levels the legal playing field and gives everyone in Florida – whether your circumstances are affluent or modest – an equal opportunity to seek justice from the courts.

Your first legal consultation with a Miami personal injury attorney is free and entails no obligation. Your attorney will review the details of your case and recommend the best way to move forward. If you are a rape or sexual assault victim, compensation is your right.

What Will Your Attorney Do on Your Behalf?

Lawsuits arising from intentional wrongdoing – like sexual assault and rape – can often be resolved out-of-court. Especially if you are suing a business – a hotel or a shopping mall, for example – the potential for bad publicity might mean a quick, out-of-court settlement.

Nevertheless, your attorney should be an experienced trial lawyer as well as a skilled negotiator. If a reasonable settlement offer is not made during private negotiations, you and your attorney can show a jury the evidence and ask that jury to order the payment of your compensation.

In you are victimized by a sexual predator on private property in south Florida, seek medical attention immediately. After a medical provider has seen you, arrange at once to discuss your rights and your options with a south Florida personal injury attorney.