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June 2nd, 2014

Civil Lawsuits for College Crime (Assault, Sexual Assault, Alcohol Accidents) Part 1

Criminal activity can occur both on and off college campus. Physical assaults, sexual assaults and alcohol related accidents are naturally more common than crimes such as murders. The problem is that students often assume they are safe on campus and while at college related events and functions. However, many schools are located in large cities, where criminal activity can take place literally just outside the door.

Students who are victims of crime often suffer serious physical injuries as well as mental and emotional ones; many students may have to discontinue their education or transfer schools due to crime. The damages can be extensive.

Victims and their families can seek justice in both the criminal and civil courts. However, the criminal justice system is limited in that the only recourse is against the direct perpetrator, the individual or individuals who committed the crime. The civil justice system, on the other hand, can provide what the criminal system cannot – financial compensation.

Below, part 1 of this article discusses two common types of civil lawsuits for college crime. Part 2 of this article will discuss the basis of liability and financial recovery.

Two Common Types of Civil Lawsuits for College Crime

Physical/Sexual Assaults at College or a College Related Event

Civil lawsuits may be filed for physical or sexual assaults which occur both on and off college campuses. The parties liable in a civil lawsuit involving a physical or sexual assault often include one or more of the following:

  • the perpetrator,
  • the educational institution,
  • contractors hired by the educational institution (i.e., security companies),
  • independent student organizations, and
  • sororities and fraternities.

Example – College Liable for Sexual Assault in a Dorm

Multiple reports have been filed with school security regarding sexual assaults at a particular dorm. The perpetrator is a single individual. The school, however, takes no action in response to the reports. Subsequently, more students are assaulted. Here, the victims may have valid claims against the perpetrator and the school. The perpetrator would be liable for committing the crimes. The school’s liability would be based on the failure to take appropriate corrective action, such as reporting the crimes to local law enforcement, instituting appropriate disciplinary action against the student (i.e., expulsion), and warning other dorm students about the risk.

Related: Civil Sex Abuse & Assault Lawsuits in Pennsylvania – Justice Beyond the Criminal Courts

Alcohol Accidents (DUI, Fights, Etc.)

College students often engage in excessive alcohol consumption. In fact, it’s no surprise. There are well-circulated lists of the top 10 party colleges in the U.S. At least one college in Pennsylvania consistently makes that list, and Pennsylvania is known to have rates of binge drinking among young adults.

Civil lawsuits may be filed for alcohol related incidents including:

  • DUI car accidents,
  • alcohol related fights and assaults, including sexual assaults, and
  • other alcohol related accidents.

Related: Liability in School Hazing Cases

Example – Fraternity Liable for Serving Alcohol

A fraternity may be liable for hosting a party and failing to check identification at the door. An 18 year old student gets drunk at the party and then later causes injury to himself or another individual, or a student gets drunk at the party and then gets into a DUI car accident. In either situation, the fraternity may be liable for serving alcohol. In addition, the school or university could also face liability, if the evidence shows that the school failed to take action after it had notice that the particular fraternity was serving alcohol to minors.

Related: Alcohol Accident & Injury Lawsuits in PA & NJ

College Crime Victims – Legal Help

Firm founder Guy D’Andrea is a former sex crimes unit prosecutor. For a free case evaluation, please call Click To Call.

Our lawyers are licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia and Illinois and also accept cases in other states on a case by case basis.