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Physical and Sexual Assaults

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Physical and Sexual Assaults

Public liability law covers a wide range of circumstances where a person suffers injury or death as a result of another person's negligence or failure to take reasonable care. However, ‘common law’ claims arising from physical and sexual assaults have some important differences from negligence law in general, as the conduct complained of is intentional.

Where an assault gives rise to a claim, the law is complex.  It becomes necessary to consider separately the law applying to the perpetrator of the assault as an individual, and the law applying to a company or an organisation that may also be liable for the assault.

In a claim against an individual perpetrator, there are special exceptions to the operation of the civil liability legislation for intentional acts, sexual assault or sexual misconduct.  As a result, injury thresholds may not apply and so the compensation amount may be more generous. However before commencing an action against an individual it is vital to determine if the perpetrator has any money to satisfy the claim.

A claim against a company or an organisation arise when fault can be contributed beyond the actual perpetrator, for example a hotel may be liable for the conduct of a bouncer, a school for a school teacher or a church for a priest/minister.   Broadly speaking, there is no automatic liability.  To succeed in such a claim it is usually necessary to show that the perpetrator was acting in the course of their employment or that there was negligence, in that the employer knew or ought to have known of the misconduct.

In addition to ‘common law’ claims, a claim may be possible under schemes for compensation of victims of crimes, and/or special schemes which are operated by some major churches and organisations such as The Salvation Army.