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Child Sex Abuse Attorney in Palm Harbor, FL
If you could be with your child 24 hours a day, you would. But life frequently forces you to leave your child unattended while you do other things.
When you place your child in another person’s care, you expect them to be protected from all harm. Schools, daycares, churches, and similar facilities should all be staffed with caring adults you can trust to keep your child as safe as they would be if they were with you. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
Some teachers and caregivers prey on the children placed in their care. And when there are no witnesses, those predators abuse children in myriad unspeakable ways.
The harm caused by these predators is horrific and often life-altering. Your child may need years of counseling and dedicated care, and even then, they may never be able to fully trust authority figures again. Such interventions are expensive, and you shouldn’t be required to pay for the harm caused by another.
At Morgan & Morgan, we see this type of harm all too often. While we wish we could turn back time and prevent your child from ever being abused, we simply don’t have the power. What we can do is secure compensation for your child’s necessary medical and therapeutic expenses, along with damages for the pain and suffering they’ve been forced to endure.
If your child has been a victim of sexual abuse, contact us immediately to speak to a child sex abuse attorney in Palm Harbor, FL. We’ll be happy to provide a free case evaluation and consultation to help you explore your options for seeking justice.
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What are Signs of Abuse?
One of the reasons child sex abuse often goes unidentified is that children can be reluctant to tell someone that the abuse occurred. They might not want to speak of abuse because they:
- Are embarrassed about it
- Were specifically instructed not to tell anyone
- Have been threatened
- Don’t have the vocabulary to explain what happened to them
Regardless of why your child won’t speak about abuse, you may still be able to discover signs of abuse if you know what to look for. Here are some common indications that something is amiss.
Your Child Suddenly Becomes Withdrawn
Most children are active and exuberant, especially when they’re having fun. If your child suddenly becomes quiet and withdrawn or shies away from activities or friends they previously enjoyed, it could be a sign that they’ve been abused.
Children aren’t always able to express their emotions in words when they’re hurting. Sometimes, their only option is to try to hide from the world around them emotionally.
Your Child Has Trouble Sleeping
Many children have trouble sleeping at some point in their lives, so this isn’t necessarily proof-positive of abuse.
Still, if your child was previously sleeping throughout the night with no difficulty and is suddenly having trouble sleeping, you should investigate the cause of the change. Frequent nightmares or bedwetting can also be suggestive of emotional issues.
Your Child Is Self-Harming
One of the scarier signs of abuse in young people is self-harm. You might begin to notice unusual wounds or bruises on your child’s body. While it’s easy to write these injuries off as the kinds of cuts and scrapes that all children occasionally suffer, you shouldn’t be too quick to do so, especially if your child is exhibiting other warning signs.
Self-harm is potentially the most dangerous indication of abuse and one that you shouldn’t try to tackle alone. Consult with a licensed therapist to determine why your child is harming themselves. If it turns out that abuse is the reason, your next step should be to retain the services of a child sex abuse attorney in Palm Harbor, FL, immediately.
A Drastic Change in Your Child’s School Performance
If your child is being abused, one way their emotional turmoil might manifest is in a marked drop in their grades. Many parents and teachers are more aware when a child’s grades start dropping than they are when a child reaches out for help in other ways.
Rather than get angry at your child when their grades drop, talk to them and try to discover the problem that’s led to the decline. Sadly, they may be the victim of some form of abuse, possibly occurring at the school.
Your Child Exhibits Rebellious or Defiant Behavior
Many children are rebellious or defiant at some point in their development. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the behavior is always normal. Pay close attention to any changes in your child’s personality that suggest more than the usual boundary-testing that kids often engage in.
You might be tempted to punish your child for acting out or going against your wishes, but scolding a child that’s been a victim of abuse could just make the situation even worse. When this type of behavior occurs, the best approach is to investigate the cause, not to punish the effects.
If you discover evidence of abuse early on, it could mean all the difference in how quickly and fully your child recovers from their emotional wounds.
How Can a Child Sex Abuse Attorney in Palm Harbor, FL, Help You?
If your child has been abused, you’ll no doubt want to do everything in your power to prevent further abuse and help them recover. You’ll also likely want to hold whoever has harmed your child accountable.
Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is limited in its reach. As such, there’s no guarantee that criminal prosecution will provide the solace you seek. You may have to rely on the civil justice system instead.
Under civil law, you can file a lawsuit against both your child’s abuser and the institution that allowed the abuse to happen. This means that if your child was abused at a school, a childcare facility, or a church, that institution might also be liable for the abuse. And in civil law, when an organization is found liable, it can be forced to pay compensation.
A child sex abuse attorney in Palm Harbor, FL, will examine the details of your case and determine liability. Once your attorney has determined which parties are liable, they can file a lawsuit on your behalf. Your attorney knows what kind of evidence can be used at trial and how to collect that evidence efficiently.
Because rehashing the details of abuse may cause further harm to your child, your attorney will attempt to negotiate a settlement with responsible parties and their insurance companies.
If they’re successful, your child won’t have to testify in court, meaning they’ll be shielded from additional trauma. If a trial becomes necessary, your attorney will do everything they can to limit the emotional stress placed on your child.
How Long Do I Have to File a Sex Abuse Lawsuit?
In the state of Florida, you have up to four years after the most recent incident of abuse to file a sex abuse lawsuit.
This might sound like a long time, but it can be a relatively short window considering that many children don’t reveal incidents of abuse until years or even decades after they’ve occurred.
Even if your child’s case is past the four-year limit, you should still consult with a child sex abuse attorney in Palm Harbor, FL, to find out what other options you have available to you.
Can Morgan and Morgan Help in a Criminal Trial Against the Perpetrator?
Unfortunately, there’s little that a civil attorney can do for you. The state is responsible for pressing charges and prosecuting the individual or institute that perpetrated the crime. The only thing we can do is provide evidence for prosecutors to use at trial.
That said, if there are criminal proceedings, we might be able to introduce valuable evidence or use the outcome of the trial to help your civil case.
Can I File a Civil Lawsuit if the Defendant Isn’t Found Guilty in a Criminal Trial?
Just because someone has been found not guilty in a criminal trial doesn’t mean they might not be found liable in a civil trial. A criminal trial requires evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. A civil trial, by contrast, only requires a preponderance of the evidence against the defendant.
This difference in the standard of proof is crucial. It would certainly be easier to prove culpability in a civil trial if the defendant was previously found guilty in a criminal trial, but that prerequisite is far from necessary.
Should I Accept a Settlement Offer From the Institution Responsible for the Abuse?
In a sex abuse case where an institution is liable for the harm done to your child, there’s a good chance that you’ll be offered a settlement to prevent you from filing a lawsuit or speaking about the abuse to others.
Settlements of this kind will often be much lower than is reasonable. However, it’s still a good idea to run any offers you receive from your Morgan & Morgan attorney before you turn them down. Your attorney will be able to judge whether the offer is fair and what stipulations you should be aware of if you choose to accept it.
Will I Have to Sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) if I Accept a Settlement?
Settlement offers typically come with non-disclosure agreements attached. This is because institutions want to protect their reputation. Even if you receive a fair settlement offer, it will usually include an NDA. If you break the agreement, you'll be required to return part or all of the money you received from the settlement.
If you’re unwilling to sign an NDA, tell your attorney before negotiations start. Your attorney may still be able to get you a fair settlement, but it will probably be less than if you agreed to sign the NDA.
Alternatively, you can choose to go to trial. The outcome of a trial can’t be guaranteed, but a trial award will never come with an NDA attached.
Contact Morgan & Morgan When You Need a Child Sex Abuse Attorney in Palm Harbor, FL
The scope of the harm that sexual abuse can cause a child can’t be overstated. Children who have been the victims of abuse may never feel completely safe again and will likely have difficulty trusting others for the remainder of their lives.
While we can’t repair this type of damage, we can get you and your child the compensation you need to begin the healing process. If your child has been sexually abused in Palm Harbor, contact Morgan and Morgan today to get a free case evaluation and learn about your options.