Sexual assault is illegal and intolerable, which is why the laws in Georgia and all US states are exceptionally harsh on offenders. Georgia criminal laws on sexual offenses include provisions regarding sexual assault, sexual battery, and aggravated sexual battery. The specific unlawful conduct with each crime varies based on age of the victim and type of sexual contact, but these offenses are charged as felonies in most cases. If convicted, the defendant could be sentenced to a maximum of 25 years’ incarceration or even life in prison. Plus, the person will be required to register as a sex offender.
As a victim, getting justice and seeing punishment for the offender who sexually assaulted you is a form of closure. However, the criminal process does nothing to cover the tremendous losses you suffer. There are physical, emotional, and financial consequences.
Fortunately, Georgia law provides you with legal remedies to recover compensation after a sexual assault. It is possible to seek damages from the individual who attacked you, but there may be other parties to pursue. You will need assistance from an experienced Atlanta sexual assault attorney, especially considering the complicated laws that apply to your case.
Criminal versus Civil Law Cases
The point of a criminal case is to punish the wrongdoer, but the victim does not get any recourse if the defendant is convicted. Instead, you will need to file a personal injury case against the offender. A case for sexual assault is called an intentional tort, so you must prove that the defendant purposefully attacked you and caused devastating losses.
As a special note, it is not necessary for the defendant to be convicted in the criminal case for you to prevail in a civil case. The burden of proof is lower for personal injury claims, not the proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt standard for a criminal case.
The obvious limitation in these cases is that the defendant could have a hard time paying your judgment if in prison. For this reason, you might consider other options.
Civil Lawsuits and Negligent Parties
When a criminal case is not fruitful in terms of recovering compensation, there may be additional parties whose actions contributed to the sexual assault. Instead of an intentional tort, your claim is based on the concept of negligence. Specifically, you allege that another person or entity did not prevent the attack when under a legal duty to do so. For instance:
- If a building, business, or property owner is negligent in managing security on the premises, you could have a claim for negligent security.
- When a person is obligated by their employment to protect individuals, there may be a claim for breach of duty. Examples include teachers, daycare employees, nursing home staff, social workers, police, and many others.
Georgia’s Statute of Limitations
An important point relates to timing and deadlines for sexual assault cases. The government has a statute of limitations for prosecuting the case, but there is also a deadline for YOU when filing a civil case. Georgia has a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases, including sexual assault. If you were an adult when attacked, you must file your lawsuit in court before the two years is up. The clock starts to run on the date of the assault.
However, if you were under 18 years old when attacked, there is a different statute of limitations. This development is somewhat recent, taking into account the fact the unique effects of sexual assault on children. Georgia allows extra time, so you can bring a lawsuit up to the date you turn 53 years old. The prior law imposed a deadline of the victim’s 23rd birthday.
Steps in the Legal Process
Whether you are pursuing the attacker or a negligent party for damages, the process for recovering compensation is similar. In many claims against an at-fault property or business owner, it is likely that you will be dealing with an insurance company. You can expect the following:
- You file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurer, alleging how negligent acts enabled an attacker to commit sexual assault.
- The insurance company will likely make a counteroffer in an attempt to settle.
- If the insurer will not pay a fair amount to cover your extensive losses, you take your case to court.
Compensation for Sexual Assault Victims
As with other personal injury cases, you can recover for both economic and noneconomic losses. Your damages may include medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
However, there are additional losses sexual assault cases, and they are unique because of the horrific, tragic, dehumanizing effects for the victim. Many will require treatment from mental health specialists to alleviate depression, fear, and anxiety. The medical costs related to this care would be part of the losses you can recover, and you can seek amounts for the horrendous impacts on quality of life.
Tips to Protect Your Rights
While it is essential to rely on an attorney for legal help, there are some tasks you can handle if possible based upon your injuries. Taking action will protect your rights, so consider a few points:
- In the immediate aftermath of an attack, call 911 to relate the sexual assault.
- Make it a priority to seek medical care for your injuries and inform providers what happened. As uncomfortable as it seems, a rape kit is powerful evidence for both your criminal and civil cases.
- Meaningfully participate in the criminal case. A conviction may not be necessary, but it is strong proof for your civil claim.
Discuss Legal Options with an Atlanta Sexual Assault Lawyer
If you can handle a few of these essential tasks, you can count on the team at Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys to manage legal requirements. We are prepared to pursue all potential parties to get the compensation you deserve under Georgia law, so please contact our firm to set up a free case evaluation. You can reach our offices in Atlanta by calling (404) 529-3476 or going online.