Thousands of adults and children are sexually assaulted or sexually abused in California each year. At The Thompson Law Office, we believe that each person who is a survivor of sexual assault deserves to have their story heard in a court of law. We believe that each survivor deserves to see their attacker brought to justice and each survivor deserves to be compensated for the injuries and damages they sustained because of the sexual assault.
Whether you or a family member is the survivor of sexual assault, our legal team wants to help. We encourage you to call 1-650-513-6111 to speak with a member of the legal team at The Thompson Law Office to discuss how you can file a sexual assault lawsuit under California’s personal injury laws.
In this article, our attorneys discuss:
- What is Considered Sexual Assault in California?
- How Long Do I Have to File a Sexual Assault Lawsuit?
- What are the Long-term Effects of Sexual Assault?
- What Damages are Available in Sexual Assault Cases?
- Why Should I File a Personal Injury Claim for Sexual Assault?
What is Considered Sexual Assault in California?
Sexual assault is a crime in California, but the definition of sexual assault varies. Several criminal statutes apply to sex crimes and sexual misconduct. In the broadest definition of the term, sexual misconduct is any behavior of a sexual nature that is directed toward another person without that person’s consent. It does not matter whether the person is unwilling or unable to consent. If the person does not consent to the sexual behavior, the behavior is considered misconduct.
Sexual misconduct can take many forms. Rape, sexual assault, molestation, fondling, abuse of power, sexual battery, and forcible sexual penetration are examples of sexual misconduct. Each type of sexual misconduct has specific criminal elements. The penalties for a conviction under various sex crimes vary depending on the crime.
Unfortunately, a criminal conviction for sexual assault does not compensate the victim. In the worst case scenario, the attacker evades a criminal conviction. However, victims of sexual assault in California can file claims for personal injury against their attackers. Even though an attacker may not be held criminally liable for the sexual misconduct, a victim can hold the attacker liable for injuries and damages in a civil lawsuit. By filing a civil lawsuit, a sexual assault victim can recover compensation for damages.
How Long Do I Have to File a Sexual Assault Lawsuit?
In 2018, a new law was passed extending the time for sexual assault victims to file lawsuits seeking compensation for damages. Proponents of extending the statute of limitations for sexual assault argue that it was necessary to allow victims of sexual misconduct the necessary time to file a claim against their attackers.
As of January 1, 2019, victims now have 10 years from the date of the sexual assault or the attempted sexual assault or three years from the discovery of an injury or illness resulting from the assault, whichever is later, to file a civil lawsuit. The extension relates to individuals who have been sexually assaulted as adults.
Individuals who were sexually assaulted as children have eight years from their eighteenth birthday to file a civil lawsuit for sexual assault. In addition, the victim also has three years from the date of discovery of the abuse or trauma to file a civil lawsuit, which is essential for child victims who may have blocked out the sexual assault or were not aware of the injury and harm caused by an assault until much later after they become adults.
What are the Long-term Effects of Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault has an immediate impact on a victim. Some victims are physically injured because of the assault. Typically, most victims of sexual assault suffer some form of immediate emotional harm when they are assaulted. However, the harm is not limited to the assault and the immediate days and weeks following the sexual assault.
Sexual assault often has long-term effects on survivors. The unwanted sexual contact by another person can leave a victim with long-lasting emotional and mental issues. Some victims of sexual assault experience:
- Eating disorders
- Insomnia and sleeping disorders
- Chronic fear and anxiety
- Nightmares and night terrors
- Flashbacks and PTSD
- Panic attacks
- Depression and suicidal thoughts
- Eating disorders
- High blood pressure, ulcers, and other health problems
- Sexual health problems
Each victim’s experience with sexual assault is unique, and each victim’s recovery and the long-term impact of the incident are different. Some victims experience difficulty forming new relationships or holding on to old relationships. The sexual abuse or assault can significantly impact a survivor’s ability to work, conduct daily activities, or continue healthy relationships. Because of the sexual assault, the person’s life can be thrown into chaos.
One of the important steps for a sexual assault victim is seeking help from physicians, mental health professionals, and other professionals trained in how to assist sexual assault victims. RAINN can help victims contact professionals in their area to seek assistance and treatment after a sexual assault. You can get information 24/7 online or by calling 800-656-4673.
What Damages are Available in Sexual Assault Cases?
Reporting a sex crime to law enforcement agencies is important to hold the attacker criminally liable for his or her actions. However, victims of sexual assault may also have a civil action against the perpetrator. Under California’s personal injury laws, a sexual assault victim may be entitled to compensation for injuries and damages. Examples of damages that may be compensable in a sexual assault claim include:
- Physical injuries and conditions
- Emotional and mental distress and anguish
- Psychological conditions and disorders, such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc.
- Diminished enjoyment of life
- Loss of income and loss of earning capacity
- Medical expenses, therapy, and treatment
Your damages may include past and present financial losses and ongoing and future economic losses. The amount of compensation depends on several factors. An experienced California sexual assault lawsuit attorney helps survivors document their damages and losses to maximize the compensation they may receive for a claim.
Additionally, an attorney understands the complex issues related to valuing pain and suffering damages. Therefore, you always want to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can correctly calculate the value of your injury claim.
Why Should I File a Personal Injury Claim for Sexual Assault?
Some sexual assault survivors wonder why they should go through the emotional journey of filing a sexual assault lawsuit. No amount of money will undo the damage caused by the criminal acts of an attacker. However, there are some very good reasons why you may want to consider taking legal action against the person who is guilty of sexual misconduct against you.
- A personal injury lawsuit can compensate you for your economic losses. Many sexual assault victims experience a financial hardship because of the medical bills, therapy costs, and lost wages associated with an attack. A sexual assault claim can reimburse you for your financial losses.
- A claim can also pay for future therapy costs so that you can be assured that you have the funds to pay for continued therapy and counseling, which can be crucial for your overall well-being and future quality of life.
- Filing a personal injury lawsuit and holding the perpetrator legally responsible for the sexual assault can help you regain control over the situation. You may not have been in control over the incident, but you can be in control of how you handle the incident moving forward.
- Sexual offenders are repeat offenders. In many cases, the perpetrator may have assaulted victims in the past. By filing a sexual assault claim, it may encourage other victims to break their silence and come forward. Also, by bringing the sexual assault into the open, it could prevent another person from being assaulted.
- In some cases, you might also name additional parties to the lawsuit. For instance, if the sexual assault occurred at the gym or at school, the owner or operator may be liable if it was negligent in allowing a sexual predator to be on the premises or in a place of authority.
The reasons for filing a sexual assault lawsuit will vary from person to person. While the reasons may vary, one thing remains the same. If you want to pursue an injury claim for sexual assault, it is wise to consult an experienced California sexual assault lawsuit attorney to discuss your options. Proving the legal elements required to recover compensation in a sexual assault lawsuit can be complex. For that reason, you want an attorney who handles these cases and has the experience, resources, and skills to investigate the incident, gather evidence, and build a strong case against the attacker for compensation of damages.
Contact The Thompson Law Office for a Free Case Review
It can be difficult to talk about what happened; however, discussing the details of the attack with a compassionate personal injury lawyer may help you determine how you want to move forward. Our legal team wants to provide the support, legal advice, and guidance you need as you fight for justice. We stand with our clients and fight aggressively to give our client’s resolution.
For a free consultation with a California sexual assault attorney, please contact our office by calling 1-650-513-6111.