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Paul Anthony – Legal Herald
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We all trust our doctors and no one ever expects this trust to be violated. Certainly, no patient ever expects their doctor to sexually assault them. While most doctors are trustworthy professionals, sexual assault by doctors is a more common problem than most people realize. Victims of doctor sexual assault deserve justice and have legal options in both criminal and civil courts. In many cases, these victims may have grounds for a sexual assault lawsuit against a doctor or medical facility.
How Common is Sexual Assault by Doctors?
An investigative report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed the extent of the doctor sexual assault crisis in the United States. According to this report, the AJC found documents detailing heinous acts of sexual abuse by doctors in all 50 states – including rapes by gynecologists, psychiatrists seducing their patients, fondling by various physicians, and pediatricians molesting children.
Furthermore, this report found that the medical community has grossly mishandled reports of patients sexually assaulted by doctors. This has left many victims feeling helpless. However, many victims have started to fight back by filing lawsuits against doctors who have sexually assaulted them and medical facilities whose negligence allowed the assaults to occur.
Victims of sexual assault by doctors can file lawsuits directly against the doctor who sexually assaulted them. If the victim is a child, an adult with special needs, or an elderly person, then the victim’s family may file the lawsuit on their behalf instead.
Doctors can be held liable for all forms of sex crimes and sexual misconduct, including:
Sexual activity when the patient cannot consent (i.e. a psychiatrist manipulating a patient into a sexual relationship)
and other forms of sexual misconduct
Determining if you have grounds for a sexual assault lawsuit against a doctor is a decision best made with guidance from an attorney who is experienced in handling sexual assault claims.
When Can a Medical Facility Be Sued For a Sexual Assault by a Doctor?
In some cases of sexual assault by doctors, the doctor is not the only party who can be held liable for the sexual assault. Some of these cases involve third-party negligence by the doctor’s employer or a medical facility where the assault happened, such as a hospital, medical clinic, doctor’s office, or university.
Medical facilities can be held liable if the sexual assault only happened due to negligence. Some common types of negligence in doctor sexual assault cases include:
Hiring a doctor with a history of sexual misconduct allegations
Failing to address previous reports of sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior by the doctor at the facility
Covering up previous cases of sexual assault against patients
These are just a few common examples. Establishing negligence is a complicated process which will require legal guidance from an attorney.
Differences Between Criminal Sexual Assault Charges and Civil Sexual Assault Lawsuits
When a doctor is arrested for sexually assaulting patients, a criminal investigation by police and prosecutors will result. These criminal cases differ from civil sexual assault lawsuits against doctors in some important ways.
Criminal cases seek to punish sexual predators for their crimes, while civil lawsuits directly address the needs of victims through financial compensation.
Additionally, criminal charges are brought by law enforcement and prosecutors, while the victims are in control in civil lawsuits.
Finally, the burden of proof is far more strict in a criminal case. In order to convict a doctor for sexual assault, the prosecution must prove that the doctor is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil lawsuits, only a “preponderance of the evidence” is necessary to award compensation to the victim – meaning that the evidence shows that it is more likely than not that the doctor sexually assaulted the patient.
If the doctor is convicted of sexually assaulting a patient, this will likely help bolster the civil lawsuit. This guilty verdict can be a powerful piece of evidence in the civil case and makes a settlement or court verdict more likely.
However, a criminal conviction is not necessary for winning a doctor sexual assault lawsuit. Many survivors of doctor sexual assault have been awarded financial compensation in settlements in court verdicts after the criminal justice system failed to convict the doctor.
How Much Time Do Sexual Assault Victims Have to File Lawsuits Against Doctors?
The amount of time a sexual assault victim has to file a lawsuit depends on the state where the assault happened. Each state has their own statute of limitations, which govern the maximum amount of time one can wait before filing a lawsuit.
Many states have a short 2-year statute of limitations, meaning you must file your lawsuit within two years of the date of the sexual assault.
However, most of these states have different rules for child sex abuse victims. Children who have been sexually abused by pediatricians may file a lawsuit by their 26th birthday in many states, or within three years of discovering a psychological illness that resulted from the sexual abuse – whichever is later. However, each state has its own rules, so please discuss with an attorneys who regularly practices these types of cases.
Several states have recently expanded the statute of limitations for sexual assault lawsuits, and many more are considering similar legislation. New York, New Jersey, and California have all expanded their statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims until age 40 or five years from the discovery of the abuse. Again, it is best to confirm your scenario with an experienced attorney.
You can find out if you still have time to file a sexual assault lawsuit by speaking with an experienced sexual assault victims lawyer in your state. Contact us today for a referral to an attorney.