Phoenix Sexual Assault Attorney
Civil Sexual Assault & Abuse Lawsuits in Arizona
Advocacy efforts like the #MeToo movement are putting a spotlight on sexual misconduct in America, and have already resulted in real progress. Today, more people recognize the lasting repercussions of sexual assault and abuse, and are more receptive to claims brought by victims and survivors who courageously step forward to share their stories.
What’s more, states across the country have proposed and passed new laws which expand the rights of survivors who seek justice and accountability in the civil justice system.
That includes Arizona, which recently passed legislation to expand the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse assault and abuse cases, and provide a temporary legal window for victims abused as minors to file claims until the end of 2020.
MayesTelles: Making Your Voice Heard
At MayesTelles PLLC, our Phoenix trial lawyers, who include many former sex crimes prosecutors, are proud to serve as passionate advocates for survivors and families who wish to step forward and make their voices heard. Although the current social climate is more accepting of survivors’ stories, sexual assault and abuse claims remain emotionally turbulent and legally complex cases. Our team is committed to helping clients navigate the difficult journey ahead.
We help clients file civil sexual abuse and sexual assault lawsuits involving:
- Child sexual abuse
- Sexual abuse of vulnerable individuals (i.e. nursing home abuse)
- Sexual abuse in schools, youth organizations, and sports programs
- Clergy sex abuse (i.e. Catholic Church abuse)
- Workplace sexual violence, assault, and harassment
- Sexual assault by physicians and other health care providers
- Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services
Our sexual abuse and assault attorneys represent victims and families in civil claims across Phoenix and the state of Arizona. Call (602) 428-7104 or contact us online for a free and confidential case evaluation.
Can I File a Sexual Abuse / Assault Lawsuit in Arizona?
Sexual assault and abuse can result in criminal charges against an alleged wrongdoer. However, these cases focus solely on whether defendants are guilty of a crime, and what, if any, penalties they will face.
As many perpetrators are never convicted or charged with crimes related to their misconduct – whether because of difficulties in meeting the high burden of proof, overcoming statutory time limits, or other reasons – the criminal justice system may not provide the sense of justice victims deserve. And even when there are convictions, criminal cases offer little in terms of compensation and accountability.
As such, survivors may turn to the civil justice system as a means to fight back. By filing sexual abuse or assault lawsuits in civil court, victims have greater opportunities for reaching the resolutions they deserve, and for benefiting from legal pathways which may otherwise be unavailable in criminal courts, or in the absence of a criminal case. This includes the following:
1. Greater Opportunity for Accountability
Even if an individual wrongdoer is charged and convicted of a crime, it is often the case that other parties with some shared responsibility go unpunished. This is common in cases of institutional sexual abuse, as well as sexual assaults arising from the negligence and failures of corporations, business owners, employers, and others who have legal responsibilities to keep victims safe.
Civil lawsuits can name various entities as defendants, and hold them accountable for failures to prevent abuse or assault, or for covering it up. Examples include:
- Claims against schools or school districts that failed to act on complaints or reports from students, faculty, or parents about personnel who go on or continue to abuse students.
- Lawsuits against youth organizations or sports leagues that failed to adequately screen coaches or leaders, or respond appropriately to complaints about possible abuse and assault.
- Holding an employer or business liable for the negligent hiring or retention of unfit and dangerous employees, such as failures to conduct adequate background checks of drivers, supervisors, and others in positions of authority.
Sexual abuse and assault claims filed against entities often involve negligent supervision, failures to adhere to mandatory reporting requirements / refer cases to law enforcement, negligent hiring or retention, failures to respond to complaints or conduct an appropriate investigation, negligent security or protection of vulnerable individuals, and other similar allegations.
2. A Lower Burden of Proof
Civil lawsuits adhere to rules and procedures which are distinctly different from those used in criminal cases. In addition to different rules of evidence, civil lawsuits operate on a lower burden of proof.
The “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard most people are familiar with is the highest burden of proof in U.S. law, and it applies only to criminal proceedings. While this adheres to a structure where it is more favorable to let a guilty person go free, than to imprison an innocent person, it can mean wrongdoers may go unpunished if the government fails to meet its burden.
By contrast, the civil justice system requires plaintiffs – those who bring claims against defendants – to prove their allegations by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Generally, this means a defendant’s actions “more likely than not” caused a victim harm and losses for which they should be held responsible.
3. Financial Compensation
It may be true that criminal cases have a component of victim restitution, but when wrongdoers are sent to prison or beat their charges, there is often little to no compensation offered to their victims. Known as “torts,” civil lawsuits exist precisely to provide the injured and the wronged with legal remedy – often in the form of financial compensation for the damages they’ve suffered. This can include various economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Future pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma and mental anguish
- Anxiety, PTSD, and other similar conditions arising from the incident
- Financial losses arising from the abuse or assault
Arizona Sexual Assault / Abuse Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse / assault lawsuits in Arizona varies depending on the facts involved. In many cases, victims have 2 years from the date of the incident to file a civil lawsuit. However, the statute of limitations may be tolled (extended) under certain circumstances, particularly when the victim was a minor under 18.
Thanks to legislation signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey in 2019, the statute of limitations for civil child sex abuse lawsuits in Arizona was extended. Under the new law:
- Victims sexually abused as minors now have until the age of 30 to file civil lawsuits;
- Child sex abuse victims of any age may file civil lawsuits until the end of 2020 (but must prove their claims by “clear and convincing evidence,” a higher standard than a “preponderance of the evidence” which still applies to victims who file suit by age 30).
Speak With a Caring Attorney During a Confidential Consultation
Our team at MayesTelles PLLC knows sexual abuse and assault cases can be inordinately difficult, especially when they involve concern organizations that work to willfully conceal or cover up wrongdoing.
As attorneys, we’re here to guide clients through the legal issues they must face when courageously speaking out, protect their confidentiality and privacy, and seek resolutions that offer the justice and compensation they deserve – as well as the accountability needed to protect others from suffering similar harms in the future.
Call (602) 428-7104 to discuss your potential sexual assault or abuse lawsuit with a Phoenix attorney. Consultations are free and confidential.