Parents send their children to school every day, trusting that the employees will protect them. No parent wants to think their child may suffer sexual abuse at school. Sadly, this is the reality we must accept.
According to the United States Department of Education, there were approximately 13,114 incidents of sexual assault in K-12 schools in 2017-2018. Many of these occur when children are on field trips or overnight activities.
So, who is liable if sexual abuse occurs on a school trip? While the answer to this question depends on the circumstances, D’Amore Law Group can help you hold the responsible party liable. Don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Liability for sexual abuse during a school trip depends on the facts of the incident. For intentional harm cases, the person who causes the harm is undoubtedly liable. For negligence cases, the party who violates their duty of care and fails to protect the student can be liable.
Courts determine liability by evaluating these elements:
- Duty of care. Some individuals or entities owe a duty to act reasonably and prevent harm to others. In cases of sexual assault, this duty extends to protecting students from foreseeable harm.
- Breach of duty. A breach of duty occurs when someone fails to meet the expected standard of care. Examples of breaches can include poor supervision, ignoring complaints, and failing to act in a way to protect a student.
- Causation. There must be a direct link between the breach of duty and the sexual assault. It should be demonstrated that someone’s negligence was a substantial factor in enabling the assault to occur.
- Damages. The victim of the sexual assault must have suffered harm due to the assault. This harm could be physical, emotional, or psychological.
Someone may be liable if the victim can prove all four of these elements.
Many Parties Can Be Liable
School trips involve many parties and venues. Each of these owes a duty of care to people in their care. Depending on the circumstances, a victim of sexual abuse during a school trip can file a lawsuit against the following parties.
Oregon law makes sexual abuse a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of the event. The state will place criminal charges on the abuser, but the victim can also file a civil complaint. In a civil trial, a judge or jury can find the abuser liable for the victim’s injuries. If so, the abuser may need to compensate the victim for their damage in addition to their criminal sentence.
Schools must report incidents of sexual assault involving students. Failing to report the incident may lead to penalties.
Additionally, Oregon places a significant responsibility on schools and educational institutions to ensure the safety and well-being of their students, whether they are on or off campus. This duty extends to school employees and chaperones. A school can be liable for harm if its representatives breach this duty.
Many schools take trips to zoos, theme parks, and museums. These venues can be liable for harm that occurs on their premises. A venue may be liable if it fails to provide a safe environment for the student, which leads to harm. Moreover, these venues are liable for the actions of their employees. If a museum employee assaults a child, the museum can be liable.
Students require constant supervision on school trips. In some cases, chaperones are parents and not school employees. These chaperones can be liable for a student’s injuries if their negligent supervision leads to harm.
How Long Does a Victim Have to File a Lawsuit?
If the victim is under the age of 18 when the sexual abuse occurs, they have until their 40th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. The victim can file a lawsuit against anyone who conducted the abuse or knowingly allowed, permitted, or encouraged the abuse.
The law also allows the victim to file a lawsuit after their 40th birthday in some cases. A victim over 40 who discovers the connection between their harm and an abuser has five years to file a lawsuit after this discovery.
How an Attorney Can Help Parents and Guardians
Discovering that your child has been sexually abused while on a school trip is a distressing and deeply emotional experience. Parents and guardians may feel overwhelmed and uncertain about the appropriate steps to take. An attorney familiar with child sexual abuse cases can offer support and guidance.
Legal Advice and Advocacy
During your first visit with an attorney, they will listen to the facts about the assault. The attorney will understand how to best proceed with your case and can explain the legal options available. They can identify potential parties who share liability for sexual abuse on a school trip.
Navigating the Legal Process
The legal process in cases of child sexual abuse can be complex. It often involves investigations, evidence collection, and court proceedings. Your attorney will manage this for you to help ensure you meet important deadlines and requirements. They can also handle communication with law enforcement, school authorities, and opposing parties, allowing you to focus on emotional healing.
In some cases, it may be in the child’s and the family’s best interest to pursue a settlement instead of going through a lengthy trial. Your lawyer can negotiate on behalf of the child to seek a fair resolution. This settlement may include compensation for medical expenses, therapy, and emotional suffering.
Protecting Against Retaliation
Some families fear retaliation or harm when pursuing legal action against a school or abuser. They may not be able to send their child to another school and want to ensure they still get equal treatment. Attorneys can help protect children from retaliation and extend supportive measures to foster greater safety for your child throughout the legal process.
Get a Free Case Evaluation
D’Amore Law Group understands the emotional and financial toll caused by sexual abuse. Our lawyers offer compassionate and reliable service for survivors of abuse. We can help you find out who is liable if sexual abuse occurs on a school trip. Once we do, our attorneys will fight relentlessly to maximize the compensation necessary to help your child recover. In one case of sexual abuse, Tom D’Amore helped a client recover $950,000 after a month-long trial.
Contact our office today to schedule your consultation.