Being a victim of a sexual assault or sexual abuse has long-term consequences the severity of which often only become fully apparent years after the sexual assault or abuse occurs. The criminal side of the justice system is designed to determine the guilt of the assailant or abuser and punish the guilty, but does not provide for these consequences of the assault or abuse suffered by the victim.

In a sexual assault lawsuit on the civil side of the justice system, the victim can seek compensation for the damage done as a result. However, as clear-cut as the incident or incidents of sexual abuse may have been, there are difficult legal issues to be confronted by the victim in collecting damages for the injury suffered. Frequently, the perpetrator is incarcerated or otherwise unable to pay for the injury he caused. So, although a substantial sexual assault judgment might be awarded against the perpetrator, actually collecting money from a perpetrator is rare. Civil claims for sexual assault are often brought against parties other than the perpetrator who have the means and ability to both prevent the assault or abuse and pay damages awarded for failing to prevent the harm. Examples of these types of claim are:

  • Rape of a 13 year old special needs student by a school bus driver: claim against the school bus company
  • Repeated sexual abuse of a young male student by a school bus driver: claim against the school bus company
  • Sexual abuse of a teenage girl in a hospital mental ward by other patients: claim against the hospital
  • Rape of a tenant in her apartment building: claim against the building manager and security company
  • Rape of a teenage concert-goer during a rock concert: claim against the promoter and security company
  • Sexual abuse of children at a day camp by a counselor: claim against the day-camp operator
  • Sexual assault on children on an overnight school field trip by a hotel security guard: claim against the security company and the hotel.

A number of thorny legal issues arise in these claims:  1) Is the employer of a perpetrator legally responsible for the criminal sexual assault perpetrated by one of its employees?  2) Can a company be liable for negligence in failing to prevent a sexual assault? 3) How long after the incident or incidents, does the victim have to file suit? 4) How does the victim prove her/his injury where the harm suffered is most frequently largely emotional?   5) Does any insurance policy provide coverage in this type of case? Over the next several postings, we’ll take a look at these questions separately.