Survivors of human trafficking or sexual abuse face a long road to recovery. Seeing their abusers face criminal charges can provide some sense of closure, but there’s no guarantee of a conviction—and the criminal justice system doesn’t provide sufficient monetary compensation for the harm survivors have suffered.
Filing a civil claim for damages is one way for survivors to regain control over their futures. While a monetary settlement can’t ever erase the trauma you’ve suffered, the funds can allow you to access the care you need to figure out your next steps.
Potential Causes of Action
Florida civil courts do not offer a specific legal cause of action for sexual abuse cases. Civil suits are filed using the framework outlined in existing personal injury statutes. This can include:
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress
- False imprisonment
When a business is found to have created an unsafe environment that allowed the sexual abuse assault to occur, they can be held liable for negligent hiring or retention, inadequate security, or premise liability. Some of the businesses that have been successfully sued in civil court by sexual crime survivors include hotels, restaurants, malls, retail stores, strip clubs, apartment complexes, and rideshare services such as Uber or Lyft. Even event planners could potentially be liable, such as if a music concert did not have adequate safety measures in place to protect everyone in attendance.
Note that a civil suit is independent of a criminal case. You might choose to file a civil suit even if your criminal case was unsuccessful or no criminal charges were filed.
A civil suit related to sexual abuse or assault can include compensation for three main types of damages:
- Medical expenses, including care for physical injuries as well as any mental health counseling
- Lost wages from the time you were unable to work or time you missed due to medical appointments
- Pain and suffering, including mental anguish, damage to relationships with others, and loss of enjoyment of life
Medical expenses and lost wages are referred to as economic damages since these costs can be verified using documentation such as invoices, billing statements, and pay stubs. Pain and suffering compensation is a type of non-economic damages since it compensates you for losses with no readily identifiable monetary value.
Florida Statute of Limitations and Rules for Cases Involving Minors
The statute of limitations refers to the amount of time a survivor has to file a civil suit for damages. If you do not file within the appropriate timeframe, the case will be dismissed.
In most cases, a lawsuit claiming personal injury in Florida must be filed within four years of the injury. However, child victims are granted additional time to file. If a child was the victim of a sexual battery before age 16, they may file a civil lawsuit related to that sexual battery at any time. Additionally, a victim of sexual abuse who was abused between the ages of 16 and 18 can file a civil action against the perpetrator of the abuse within seven years after the victim turns 18, or within four years of the reasonable discovery of the harm suffered.
Under Florida law, children under age 18 can’t bring a legal action on their own. However, the child’s parent or legal guardian can initiate a civil suit on their behalf. The court will simply need to approve the terms of the settlement if the damages awarded exceed $15,000.
The Value of Legal Representation for a Human Trafficking or Sexual Abuse Survivor
Attorney Doug Clifton was inspired to pursue a career in law after suffering a childhood injury that led to a personal injury claim. A father of two and an active member of the Jacksonville community, he is passionate about using his skills to help survivors of human trafficking and sexual abuse get the justice they deserve—even when criminal charges have not been filed.
Clifton Law Office accepts cases on a contingency fee basis. This means there is no upfront cost for legal representation. A percentage of your final settlement will be accepted as the fee for service, and there will be no charge if the case is unsuccessful.
If you are concerned about protecting your privacy in a civil suit, we can discuss the options available to you. For example, cases can be filed using a pseudonym such as John Doe or Jane Doe. This can help prevent media coverage from leading back to your home or place of work.
Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review. Let us help you better understand your legal options during this difficult time.