Can I sue for sexual assault and other FAQs

Can I file a sexual assault lawsuit? Can I sue for a rape/battery or other violent crime? What if I didn’t know the person who attacked/assaulted me?

A sexual assault lawsuit can help victims recover damages for their injuries.  If you have been the victim of a sexual assault or other violent crime, you may be able to sue.

There are generally two potential types of defendants in cases like these: (1) the perpetrator; and (2) third-parties that could have prevented the crime.

In addition to facing criminal charges, a perpetrator (the person who committed the crime) can be held civilly liable—that is, face a sexual assault lawsuit.

This type of lawsuit typically works best in certain scenarios—for instance, when the perpetrator was known/identified or when a perpetrator has assets that can be used to satisfy a judgment.

But, even if you don’t know who the perpetrator was or the perpetrator was never found, you may still be able to pursue recovery from third-parties.

Examples of third-parties that may be liable for failing to prevent a violent crime include apartment complexes or property managers, store owners  that were responsible for the building or the parking lot or areas where the sexual assault or violent crime occurred, local governments, schools/colleges/universities, or even an airbnb host if they knew you were at a greater than normal risk.

In addition to compensating you for damages, if you have been the victim of a violent crime pursuing justice may also have therapeutic effects.

I live in an apartment complex with inadequate security and I don’t feel safe. Is there anything I can do? 

If you are a tenant and you feel unsafe, one of the most important things you can do, besides taking steps to ensure your own safety, is notify your landlord in writing of the reasons for your concerns.

If you are aware of other crimes that have taken place on the property or around the property, include these in your letter. To prevent a sexual assault lawsuit, a property owner who knows or should know of certain types of crimes occurring is responsible for taking reasonable steps to guard against them.

Reasonable steps that an apartment complex should take to prevent crime may include things like:

    • ensuring adequate lighting
    • ensuring bushes/trees/landscaping are maintained in such a way as to minimize opportunities for the commission of violent crimes,
    • warning residents of occurrences that may affect their safety
    • ensuring the property is maintained in such a way that it does not “invite” crime
    • ensuring that the perimeters of the property are well-maintained
    • providing appropriate security

 I am being harassed by another student, how can I make it stop?

If you feel unsafe or threatened on your school/college/university campus, you should voice your concerns to an administration official.

Whether your concern is general or specific, your institution should be placed on notice. If your concern is with your general safety, be sure to communicate the particular events that have caused you to become concerned.

Also consider what measures could help increase your safety. In other words, if appropriate, present your ideas regarding particular steps are you wanting your institution to take.

If you are a dealing with a threat that is specific to you—for instance, you are being harassed, targeted, or threatened by someone you know—your school has a responsibility to address peer-on-peer sexual harassment.

Be sure to bring your concerns not only to administration officials but also, when appropriate, to the police.

How do I choose a lawyer to bring a sexual assault lawsuit?

One of the best ways to find a lawyer, is to start with a lawyer that you know and trust, and ask him/her for a referral to an attorney that practices in the area of law for which you are seeking representation. If you don’t know any lawyers personally, then standard online searches will help you gather a pool of candidates that practice in the particular area of law you are interested in. Your state bar (like the State Bar of Georgia) may have resources to assist you.

Once you have collected a sampling of attorneys, spend some time figuring out what is important to you.  Some clients prioritize outcome. Some people are more interested in receiving personalized support throughout the case resolution process. Some people prioritize name recognition and reputation.

Spend some time thinking about what your case means to you. Then reach out to the pool of attorneys you collected and consider how well the services they are offering matches up to your particular needs.