Legal Options For Sexual Assault Victims
South Carolina recently was at the top of a list no one wanted to be on. The Palmetto State has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. Sexual assault may be one of the worst of these violent crimes, because this offense affects victims in so many different ways. Criminal courts punish these offenders. However, in most cases, criminal courts do nothing to compensate the victims of these crimes. Indeed, sexual assault victims have almost no rights in criminal proceedings. As far as prosecutors are concerned, victims are just material witnesses.
Civil court sexual assault cases are different. Under South Carolina law, a Columbia personal injury attorney can hold the property owner financially responsible for the attack. This financial responsibility usually includes compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. In the aftermath of such successful claims, property owners usually make their properties more secure. That action helps prevent future sexual assaults at that location.
Premises Liability Basics
South Carolina property owners have a duty of care to ensure their property is reasonably safe if the victim was an invitee. Almost all social and commercial guests are invitees. The duty of safety includes a responsibility to provide adequate security. Property owners rarely commit assaults. But their negligence creates the environments that lead to assaults. In civil court, that’s enough to establish liability for damages.
A few guests, mostly people like guests of hotel guests, are licensees. In these situations, owners must warn about negligent security and other injury hazards. However, owners don’t have a duty to address these hazards. A handful of guests are trespassers. These individuals have no permission to be on the property and do not benefit the owner. People who commit sexual assaults are clearly trespassers, so no duty of care applies to them.
In addition to establishing a duty, a Columbia personal injury attorney must prove the owner knew, or should have known, about the negligent security or other injury hazard. Direct evidence of actual knowledge, like a security report that shows a security weakness, is the best evidence of this point. This proof usually becomes available during discovery. So, if a sexual assault action settles before then, the best evidence, and therefore maximum compensation, may be unavailable.
Foreseeability of Injury
South Carolina law limits property owner liability in negligent security cases. In plain English, since the owner wasn’t directly responsible for the sexual assault, a Columbia personal injury attorney must prove foreseeability (possibility) of injury.
Several factors make a sexual assault or other third-party crime foreseeable in South Carolina, including:
- Type of Business: Sexual assaults are very rare in and around donut shops. These incidents are a little more common at apartment complexes or other businesses where people come and go at night.
- Business Location: Speaking of coming and going, businesses near busy highways are attractive places for criminals. Businesses or homes on cul-de-sacs are less tempting targets.
- Prior Similar Incidents: In simple terms, if it happened before, it could happen again. The prior similar incident could be at that property or at another nearby location.
If victim/plaintiffs have strong cases, their claims usually settle out of court. These resolutions benefit victim/plaintiffs, mostly because they end cases earlier and avoid the uncertainty of trials.
Reach Out to a Thorough Richland County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Columbia, contact the Marc Brown Law Firm. We routinely handle matters throughout South Carolina.