Like schools, hospitals are places we expect to feel safe and secure. We trust doctors and other medical practitioners with the most private parts or aspects of ourselves. According to a 2021 Ipsos survey covering 28 countries, an average of 64 % of respondents rated medical practitioners as trustworthy.
Unfortunately, physicians can often exploit or misuse this trust by sexually abusing their patients. That is true, especially if the patient is extremely sick, has mobility issues, or is under the effect of certain medications or sedatives.
When the hospital fails to protect and care for patients in their respective facilities or wards, resulting in sexual abuse, it could be accountable for the patient's compensatory damages. Hiring a reliable attorney with significant experience in these cases is the key to preparing your claim and filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party as soon as possible.
If you are a survivor or victim of hospital sexual abuse or assault, our seasoned attorneys at Sex Crimes Attorney can help you pursue a civil claim against the at-fault party to seek the justice you deserve. The sooner you contact an attorney after an incident of hospital sexual assault, the better to prepare a claim while the memories of the eyewitnesses and evidence are still fresh.
Hospital Sexual Assault or Abuse at a Glance
Even though most sexual abuse cases where doctors, psychiatrists, and other mental and medical practitioners are the perpetrators often go unreported, sexual abuse and harassment in hospitals are common. Sexual assault cases in hospitals are increasing alarmingly, and anyone, including children and the elderly, could be a victim.
Doctors and other professionals in the medical field can misuse their societal position or standing to assess and assault vulnerable patients in their rooms. Sexual abuse is an umbrella term for several forms of sexual violence anyone can commit.
Hospital sexual abuse refers to any sexual conduct or acts against a patient without his/her consent. Examples of sexual assault acts that could occur in hospitals include the following:
- Attempted rape.
- Non-consensual touching or stroking.
- Oral sex.
- Penetrative sex.
Some of these incidences of sexual abuse could occur when you are partially asleep, sedated, immobilized, or partially dressed. When a physician or doctor leaves you exposed or naked, that could be a sign of a sexual abuse habit that he/she has. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), the following acts or activities could qualify as hospital sexual assault:
- A doctor examining your sexual organs without the necessary medical glove.
- A doctor insisting that you should show or expose intimate parts of your body, even though it is not a necessity in the required medical examination.
- A doctor refusing to answer your queries or telling you to remain silent.
- A doctor failing to have another person in a patient’s room.
- A doctor refusing to tell you what he/she is doing or the reason he/she is doing it.
- A doctor inquiring about your sexual activities or history in an uncomfortable way.
It is worth noting that hospital sexual harassment or assault can happen in various parts of the hospital, including (but not limited to):
- The doctor's office.
- Emergency rooms.
- Theaters or surgery rooms.
- Nursing homes.
If you had an incident that you believe could qualify as hospital sexual assault, you should speak with an attorney to look at the matter and determine whether you have a viable claim.
Prevalence of Hospital Sexual Assault Cases
Hospitals owe their patients, visitors, and employees a legal duty of care. Generally, every hospital must have strict measures to protect every person on its premises. However, that does not happen as required, and several patients experience sexual abuse or harassment in clinics and hospitals due to the negligence of one or more parties.
Although most incidences often go unreported, hospital sexual abuse cases are more common than you can imagine. A study by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution used public documents from each state to reveal the prevalence or commonality of sexual assault or abuse incidents in hospitals.
After analyzing and examining over 100,000 disciplinary records and other documents submitted from the first day of the year 1999, researchers discovered several doctors were facing disciplinary actions due to sexually-related cases. According to this report, more than 3,100 physicians had public disciplinary issues against them after being indicted or accused of sexually-related offenses.
Of the 3,100 physicians mentioned above, more than 2,400 faced disciplinary actions for offenses involving patients. Out of the 100,000 disciplinary documents reviewed, over 90,000 showed disciplinary punishment or actions for offenses that did not involve sexual abuse. However, these statistics do not show the following:
- Several sexual assault survivors who opt not to report their abuse cases.
- The claims that the responsible evaluating medical board found not credible.
- The violations that did not result in disciplinary actions for the physicians, doctors, and other medical caregivers.
Examples of Hospital Sexual Assault Cases Reported in the Media
Hospital sexual assault can take any form. A seasoned attorney can investigate and examine your unique case for proper legal advice on your legal options. Below are a few instances of sexual abuse cases in hospitals that have become headlines in the media:
- In 2013, a nurse aid in a children's hospital facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, entered the patient's room of a boy aged eleven (11) years, lifted his medical uniform, and sexually assaulted him.
- In 2011, a nurse sexually touched or abused a female patient throughout her stay at Bethesda Memorial Hospital in Florida.
- In Missouri, a doctor casually asked her female patient disturbing questions about sexual desires when treating her urinary system problems.
Potential Perpetrators or Culprits of Hospital Sexual Assault Cases
Most perpetrators or culprits in sexual abuse cases in hospitals are the staff. According to statistics, hospital staff, including doctors, nurses, therapists, caregivers, and support team members like technicians and transporters, are the majority of perpetrators in sexual abuse cases in hospitals.
The positions of these people in the hospital give them close contact or interaction with patients and other subordinate staff members, who make up the vast majority of sexual assault victims. Hospital staff members in high-ranking positions are the majority of perpetrators in most of these sexual offenses, and they target vulnerable patients.
Hospital sexual assault perpetrators mainly commit these offenses when performing critical medical examinations and treatments on their patients. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, patients have a lot of trust in their doctors and other hospital staff members.
That means a patient will voluntarily and willingly do what the physician asks him/her to do as long as he/she is certain the intentions are to make him/her feel better. Unfortunately, hospital staff abuse the trust and use it as an opportunity to abuse their patients sexually, especially when they have health conditions that make them vulnerable, like memory loss.
Regardless of the seriousness of the offense, when a doctor or any other medical staff member abuses a patient sexually, he/she can suffer physical or emotional injuries that can negatively affect his/her life. With the help of an attorney, you could hold the hospital or the perpetrators civilly and criminally accountable for these damages or injuries if you are the victim.
Liability for Sexual Abuse Cases in Hospitals
Once a patient or victim of sexual assault in a hospital reports the issue to relevant authorities, an adequate investigation is required to determine the liable party/parties to hold accountable for the damages caused. Sadly, sexual abuse cases in hospitals are not straightforward, and without adequate legal representation, the chances of obtaining damages for your losses will be less.
When a clinic or hospital fails to safeguard and care for its patients, exposing them to sexual predators in their rooms, it could be accountable for damages caused under the respondeat superior legal doctrine. According to this legal doctrine, employers are liable for their employees' actions.
For instance, if your assistant nurse or caregiver harasses you sexually in a patient's room, the hospital could be liable for the injuries and damages caused. Although these cases are rarely successful since some perpetrators' sexual abuse actions in hospitals are not within the scope of their employment, a reliable attorney can increase your chances of obtaining damages in a lawsuit.
The most successful hospital sexual assault claims that victims have received compensation for in the past were for administrative negligence in the employees' recruitment process or supervision rules. In an administrative negligence claim or theory, your attorney can argue that the hospital failed to make pre-background checks when recruiting its employees or staff.
According to negligent supervision legal theory, the hospital could also share accountability for your damages. In this theory, your attorney can argue that the hospital failed to establish policies and procedures that ensure all patients receive adequate and uniform medical care, or they failed to respond to the possible dangers that certain employees pose on their premises.
Like other negligence claims or lawsuits, your attorney must present evidence to prove to the court that the defendant or at-fault party owed you a legal duty of care that they breached, leading to your injuries. Further, your attorney must prove your damages or financial losses incurred were due to the injuries sustained during the sexual abuse in the hospital for maximum compensation.
Evidence that Could Help Prove You Deserve Damages for Your Hospital Sexual Assault Claim
Gathering evidence that could come into play in your hospital sexual assault claim could be challenging because it requires records or video tapes that only hospital staff can access. However, a seasoned attorney will know the best approaches to obtaining the necessary evidence to build your compensation claim against the at-fault party.
Some of the evidence that you could need to obtain substantial compensatory damages in a hospital sexual assault claim includes the following:
- Human resource (HR) procedures and policies involved in the recruitment of hospital employees.
- The alleged perpetrator's file from the HR department and his/her employment information.
- General sexual assault or harassment reports involving the alleged perpetrator, including your specific case's police reports and investigation notes.
- All hospital procedures and policies, eyewitness testimonies, and documentation of the allegation responses.
- All allegations from patients against the alleged perpetrator within the last three (3) years, including sexual abuse reports and disciplinary actions he/she received, if any.
- Proof of bodily injuries you sustained during and after sexual abuse in the clinic. Medical records, medicines, and any therapy subscription you now require could help prove this fact to obtain the utmost compensation for your losses.
- Any evidence that can help prove that punitive or exemplary damages are necessary for your claim.
- Anything else your attorney finds important to help strengthen your claim against the at-fault party for the maximum compensatory damages possible.
In some cases, hospitals can cover up sexual assault cases on their premises because they do not want to put their reputation at risk. Therefore, gathering and compiling all the above evidence could be daunting, especially if you do not have an attorney.
A seasoned attorney can investigate your case and handle the overwhelming paperwork and details necessary to help pursue compensatory damages in a civil lawsuit against the at-fault party.
Compensatory Damages You Could Receive on Your Hospital Sexual Assault Lawsuit
Generally speaking, hospital sexual assault could qualify as a civil and criminal case. That means the alleged perpetrators can receive penalties, including fines and jail time, upon conviction in a criminal court.
Although you can obtain compensation through the criminal justice system, filing a civil lawsuit against the at-fault party could increase your chances of obtaining maximum damages for your losses resulting from the sexual assault. In a hospital sexual assault civil lawsuit, you could qualify for the following categories of compensatory damages if everything works in your favor:
The court will award you economic damages for all the monetary or financial losses you incurred due to the injuries resulting from the sexual abuse incident in the hospital, including:
After a hospital sexual assault incident, especially one that involves penetration, there are chances that you will need treatment, which will cost you some money. Your hospital and therapy receipts can help convince the court that you deserve adequate compensation for incurred medical expenses.
If injuries resulting from this incident could require continued treatment or therapy, the court will increase your potential compensation to cover any future medical expenses you will incur.
Some injuries resulting from a sexual assault incident could be severe, requiring you to call off work to seek treatment and recuperate. If you had to do that for a few weeks or months after the sexual abuse incident in the hospital, the court would award you compensation for missed or lost income.
Non-economic damages are awardable in a sexual abuse civil lawsuit to compensate you for all the non-tangible losses caused by the incident, including:
- Pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of your ability to enjoy life.
- The damaged reputation.
- Loss of companionship or consortium.
- Disfigurement caused by the injury.
Although every case is different and unique, you could qualify for the above compensatory damages on your hospital sexual assault claim.
Steps to Take After Sexual Assault by a Doctor
If you are a victim or survivor of hospital sexual assault, what you do after the incident could determine whether you will receive compensation for your losses. Below are the key steps to take to increase your chances of obtaining maximum compensatory damages for your losses after a sexual assault incident by a doctor or any other medical practitioner:
Seek Medical Attention
Clinics and hospitals have medical practitioners trained to deal with sexual assault incidents. A sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) will record the incident details and recommend appropriate treatment for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy prevention, if necessary.
Your attorney can respectfully request the nurse to testify in court to increase your chances of obtaining maximum compensation for your losses.
Report Doctor Sexual Assault Incidence
Once you receive the necessary medical attention, the next step is reporting the sexual assault incidence by a doctor or medical practitioner to the relevant authorities. Generally, you can report your sexual abuse incident by:
- Calling 911.
- Contacting the office of the doctor, clinic, or hospital where the sexual assault occurred.
- Reporting the sexual assault incident to the medical licensing board for disciplinary action against the perpetrator.
Undoubtedly, sexual assault can result in emotional trauma, significantly impacting your social life. That is why it is important to seek counseling or emotional support from a therapist or counselor after the incident. The services your counselor or therapist will give you can help:
- Find alternative ways to deal with any negative feeling
- Develop and boost healthy coping mechanisms
- Explore thoughts or feelings you cannot address or discuss with your family or friends
File a Civil Lawsuit Against the Perpetrator
Although filing a lawsuit will not undo the incident, it can help you obtain the compensation necessary to deal with the aftermath of a sexual assault incident. Hiring an experienced sexual abuse attorney can make the process less overwhelming and increase your odds of obtaining substantial compensation for your losses.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Hospital Sexual Assault Lawsuit
Like other injury civil claims, there is a deadline for filing a hospital sexual assault lawsuit against the perpetrator. Initially, survivors of sexual abuse cases had eight (8) years after attaining eighteen (18) years to file a lawsuit or three (3) years from the date of discovery to pursue a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator.
"The date of discovery" is typically the day you discovered that your mental problem or injury was due to the sexual assault you experienced in the hospital. However, after the enactment of Assembly Bill (AB) 218, victims or survivors of sexual assault have up to twenty-two (22) years from the date of the incident to sue the perpetrator for compensatory damages.
The "period of discovery" also increased from 3 years to 5 years to give victims adequate time to prepare their civil lawsuits against the perpetrator. When you fail to file your claim within this time limit, you will lose your right to sue the alleged perpetrator afterward.
That is why it is crucial to hire an attorney as soon as possible after the hospital sexual abuse incident to investigate your case and file the claim within this time limit.
How a Hospital Sexual Abuse Attorney Can Assist You
If you are a survivor or victim of hospital sexual abuse, you cannot overlook the advantages of retaining the services of an attorney. Aside from giving you the necessary legal counsel, your hospital sexual assault attorney will:
- Investigate, gather the necessary evidence, and prepare your civil lawsuit.
- Calculate the potential compensation value to expect from the at-fault party.
- File your lawsuit on your behalf, and help you navigate the confusing legal justice system to seek justice and obtain adequate compensation for your losses.
Since the at-fault party will also have his/her attorney ready to challenge your claim, you should take your time to find a reliable attorney to increase your odds of obtaining substantial compensation from the lawsuit. Aside from being experienced, ensure the attorney you retain when seeking compensation as a victim of hospital sexual assault is:
- Legally licensed.
- Qualified and accredited.
Find a Dependable Hospital Sexual Abuse Attorney Near Me
If you or a loved one have experienced any sexual abuse, assault, or harassment while undergoing treatment at any clinic or hospital, our understanding attorneys at Sex Crimes Attorney can help. We understand how traumatic and confusing it can be to deal with the aftermath of sexual abuse from people you trust and expect to treat you with the utmost respect.
Our competent and seasoned attorneys will keenly investigate, prepare, and file a civil claim against the at-fault party to obtain your compensatory damages. You do not have to deal with the traumatic aftermath of hospital sexual assault alone. We invite you to call us at 866-853-2106 and let our attorneys plan a way forward if you are a victim of hospital sexual assault in California.