Can You Sue a College for Damages Suffered in a Sexual Assault?

For a lot of young people, going away to college is something they dream about for years. They can’t wait to live in a dorm and meet new people. They imagine they’ll become best friends with their roommates. They may even envision themselves going to parties and dating.

For most of us, going to college is everything we thought it would be. We manage to escape with a few interesting stories and a 4-year degree. But for some people, their college experience is nothing short of terrifying.

Sexual assault is rampant on campuses today. It seems that, no matter how hard a school tries to create a safe space, people still get hurt. There are thousands of young women (and men) sexually assaulted at college every year.

A lot of times, victims of sexual assault don’t report it. They’re afraid they won’t be believed. They also worry that people will find out what happened and judge them. Despite the recent MeToo movement, victims of sexual assault are still looked at as partially responsible for their assault.

So, the recent court cases challenging a sexual assault victim’s right to privacy is quite troubling. People who are sexually assaulted while living away at college deserve justice. Colleges are responsible for the well-being of their students. Their primary concern should be whether or not their students are safe. The last thing they should do is challenge their right to remain anonymous.

If you’ve been the victim of sexual assault while away at college, you need to contact a personal injury lawyer in Fort Walton Beach. They’ll fight to get you the compensation you deserve. They’ll also fight to make sure your privacy rights are respected.

Colleges Owe Their Students a Duty of Care

When parents drop their teenagers off at college, their biggest fear is that their child will get hurt. They hope and pray that their child will make good choices. But they also understand that some things are beyond their control. That’s when they turn to the school to take good care of their child.

Colleges and private schools are responsible for the safety and well-being of their students. They owe their students a duty of care to keep the safe. And, when they learn that one of their students have been sexually assaulted, they owe the victim an additional duty of care. Their main priority should be protecting and caring for the victim. Not shaming them into going public with their accusations.

No matter how hard they try, there is only so much a school can do to keep their students safe. Some of the safeguards they implement include:

  • Alarm strips in women’s bathrooms, bus stops, and stairwells
  • Panic phones along campus
  • Educational programs to teach young people how to protect themselves
  • Security guards patrolling campus to make sure people are safe
  • Medical treatment and psychological counseling for victims of sexual assault

If a school doesn’t have at least these minimal things in place, they could be found to have breached their duty of care. If you become the victim of sexual assault, the school may be responsible for your injuries.

In addition to putting safety measures into place, a college owes their students an additional duty of care. If someone is a victim of sexual assault, the college needs to respect their privacy. They also owe it to their student to conduct a thorough investigation to find the person responsible for the attack.

If a school refuses to do this, they should be held liable for any damages their student suffers as a result. Your Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyer will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

What Happens if a College Breaches their Duty?

Most colleges take sexual assault very seriously. They take every possible measure to protect their students, both male and female. The last thing they want is for one of their students to be sexually assaulted.

Not only do they have their students’ best interests at heart, but they need to protect their own image. If people learn that someone was attacked on a school’s campus, it could jeopardize enrollment.

All you have to do is look at some of the fallout from recent sexual assault scandals at schools across this country. When parents don’t think their son or daughter will be safe, they’re not going to enroll them in your school.

If college administration doesn’t take the proper measures to protect their students, they can be held negligent. Negligence just means that a defendant breached their duty of care toward a plaintiff. Typically, negligence results in damages. Almost all personal injury lawsuits are based on negligence.

In order to prove negligence, you need to prove the following four (4) elements:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care
  • They breached this duty
  • You were injured
  • Your injuries were caused by their breach

In most personal injury cases, the hardest thing to prove is that the defendant was at fault. In sexual assault cases, the hardest thing to prove may be that an attack took place at all. Clearly, the college owes their students a duty of care. In order to prove that they breached this duty, our Fort Walton Beach personal injury attorney may demonstrate the following:

  • The school didn’t have enough security guards on staff to patrol all parts of campus
  • Security systems on dormitories were non-existent or ineffective
  • Known assailants were allowed to remain on campus to attack other people
  • Reports of sexual assault are not followed up on or investigated
  • Areas of campus are dark and unsafe
  • Security measures such as alarm strips don’t work properly

If your personal injury attorney in Florida can prove any of these things, you may be entitled to damages.

What Kind of Damages are Involved in These Cases?

The whole point of hiring a Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyer is to get justice. You want them to get you compensation for your injuries. This may require them to file a claim against the college. Of course, they may also have to file suit against the individuals who attacked you, if they are known.

Most sexual assault cases against a college involve the following things:

  • Inefficient security
  • Failure to investigate
  • Improper treatment of a victim
  • Covering up any sexual misconduct

If you are the victim of a sexual assault and feel your school didn’t treat you properly, you may have a claim for damages. Anyone who’s been in this kind of situation knows that there are more than just physical injuries.

Some of the injuries caused by sexual assault and the mishandling of a case includes:

  • Physical injuries
  • Emotional distress
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Withdrawal from school
  • PTSD
  • Violations of privacy

If you experience any of these as a result of the way your college handled your assault, you may be entitled to damages. Some of the damages involved in sexual assault cases include:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical bills or costs of long-term therapy
  • The costs involved with transferring schools
  • Any lost tuition as a result of having to withdraw from school
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages

Your Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyer will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve.

Can You Remain Anonymous if You File Suit?

For years, the victims in sexual assault cases have been allowed to remain anonymous in court. This means that, typically, if someone has to sue their school for damages in this type of case, their name isn’t listed on the court file. They can use a pseudonym, such as Jane Doe. Or, they can use their initials.

Recently, a Florida college has decided to challenge this right. A young woman who was a prior student at Florida A & M University, filed suit against the school. She claimed that they mishandled her sexual assault cases. She filed suit for damages caused by the mishandling.

For the first time ever, the school’s attorneys filed a motion to force the plaintiff to use her real name in her civil suit. The judge denied their request. However, the school has filed an appeal. They want to force the plaintiff to identify herself because they think it will intimidate her. They’re hoping she’ll drop her suit rather than reveal her identity.

The case is still pending. However, there is no precedent requiring sexual assault victims to use their real names in court. If the defendant in your case attempts to make you reveal your real name, your Fort Walton Beach injury attorney will fight it.

Contact a Fort Walton Beach Personal Injury Lawyer Today

If you’ve been the victim of a sexual assault, contact a personal injury lawyer in Fort Walton Beach right away. If you believe your college didn’t do enough to protect you from attack, they may be liable for damages.

Call today and schedule your initial consultation. It’s absolutely free and you pay nothing until you settle your case.

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