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Sexual assault: Can I file a personal injury claim for rape?

Sexual assault is illegal and unconscionable. Pennsylvania authorities will prosecute the people who commit sexual assault, and, in the event of a conviction, the guilty party will often go to prison and face other forms of punishment like registering as a sex offender for the rest of his or her life.

However, what about the victims? Is knowledge that your attacker will go to jail sufficient justice? In most cases, it is not. The injuries of sexual assault will endure long after the incident or incidents took place. These injuries are sometimes physical -- in the form of sexually transmitted diseases and physical injuries that may have happened during the assault -- and they are also psychological.

Can sexual assault victims receive compensation for their injuries?

Just like any victim who suffers injury during a criminal act, sexual assault victims can pursue claims for financial compensation from their attackers. Victims will file these claims in civil court, not criminal court, and -- when successfully navigated -- these kinds of personal injury claims can be helpful to (1) give victims a more authentic sense of justice, and (2) give victims money to pay for the various financial and emotional costs they have endured.

Whether you were the victim of sexual assault or your child, you may have a viable claim to seek damages. If the criminal trial resulted in a conviction of the attacker, the evidence revealed in the criminal trial -- as well as the conviction -- will support your claims in civil court. However, even if the criminal suit does not result in a conviction, you may still have sufficient evidence to pursue a separate action for financial compensation in civil court.

What is the legal justification for a sexual assault personal injury claim?

Under the civil code, there is no such thing as a cause of action for "sexual assault." As such, you will need to file your action by citing one or more "intentional torts." An intentional tort refers to a wrongful act that caused a victim harm. Such intentional torts may include:

  • Assault and battery
  • False imprisonment
  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress

A third party might also be liable for your injuries. As such, you may wish to name additional defendants, such as a school or employer for negligent hiring practices if the institution hired someone with a violent criminal record. Naming a third-party defendant like this can help victims secure financial compensation if the attacker does not have sufficient money to pay a damage award.

Pursue the maximum amount of compensation available

Given the extreme injustice of sexual assault, victims can and should pursue the maximum amount of financial compensation available to them. In order to do this, however, they should plan their personal injury lawsuits with care by employing a detailed understanding of the law.

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