If you or a loved one was abused by a doctor or physician, you are likely to be traumatized and unsure of how to proceed. During this difficult time, it is important to understand your legal options and what legal avenues are available to you.
While sexual abuse is a crime, an illegal and malicious act can also give rise to a civil lawsuit. These claims—often made against physicians, dentists, and psychologists—are pursued by the affected party and look to provide compensation for their losses.
Recently, 30 health care professionals were punished for sexual abuse and molestation between 2017 and 2018, according to an article by the Lansing State Journal. Between 2011 and 2016, there were 238 allegations leveled against doctors, physicians, and other healthcare professionals alone. All of these claims were received by The Michigan Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs.
However, the civil process to pursue this compensation is often complex, requiring extensive knowledge of the law and how to present evidence and demonstrate fault. A Michigan lawyer who is experienced in physician and doctor sexual abuse claims can help you. By explaining your rights and answering your questions, a legal professional can be a valuable ally through each step of the legal process.
What Constitutes Sexual Abuse for a Physician?
For doctors and physicians, sexual abuse can be verbal or physical acts. This can include expressions of thoughts and feelings, or gestures that are sexual—or that may be interpreted by a patient as sexual—in nature. Physical acts of sexual abuse are also perpetrated on patients under the pretense of necessary medical care.
Sexual abuse by a medical professional is an extreme breach of trust, medical ethics, Michigan law, and federal law. This holds true even if the act was consensual because doctors cannot use their positions of authority to sexually exploit a patient. Our Michigan lawyers handle sexual abuse claims against doctors and physicians will help you get justice in your case.
Notable Doctor Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Many doctor sex abuse lawsuits occur only with a single patient, but other cases involve widespread abuse spanning years and involve dozens and even hundreds of victims. Some notable lawsuits include:
- Larry Nassar M.D. sexually abused patients in his capacity as a Michigan State University athletic physician and in his role with the U.S. Gymnastics team. He abused hundreds of innocent young athletes for over ten years and despite warning signs, the university and his supervisors ignored the warning signs. He is currently incarcerated for his criminal activity. MSU has paid over $500 million in settlements to his victims and a second wave of lawsuits is currently in the settlement process. The Buckfire Law Firm represents multiple claimants in this lawsuit.
- Richard Strauss M.D. was an athletic medicine physician at Ohio State University. He was employed by the university from 1978 to 1998. During that time, it is alleged that he sexually abused over one hundred male athletes during examinations. He died by suicide in 2005. Lawsuits have been filed against the university and are currently pending. Our attorneys represent a number of victims in the case against OSU.
- George Tyndall M.D. was a gynecologist at the University of Southern California. Lawsuits have been filed by hundreds of women claiming inappropriate sexual contact dating back more than ten years. USC has agreed to pay more than $ 200 million dollars to the group of victims.
- Dennis Kelly M.D. was another University of Southern California doctor for more than twenty years. A lawsuit has been filed against Dr. Kelly and USC alleging that he sexually abused dozens of gay and bisexual students under the pretense of medical examinations.
- James Heaps M.D. was a UCLA physician and is accused of sexually abusing and assaulting female patients between the years of 1989 and 2017. The cases allege improper and inappropriate touching under the guise of medically necessary examinations in his office. Both the doctor and the university are named in multiple lawsuits.
- Reginald Archibald, M.D. was a pediatric endocrinologist working for Rockefeller University for four decades, ending in the early 1980’s. Lawsuits have been filed alleging he engaged in unlawful sexual contact with his young patients in examination rooms. The State of New York passed the Child Crimes Victim Act allowing those abused patients to file claims even though the statute of limitations has expired.
Proving Liability in Doctor and Physician Cases
In a civil lawsuit, it is essential to prove that a sexual relationship or sexual abuse occurred between the claimant and their doctor or physician. Many times, there is no physical evidence to prove that this happened and, due to the nature of many doctor-patient visits, there are often no eyewitnesses to these acts.
As a result, these cases can quickly become a “he said, she said” battle between the two sides—meaning the credibility of each party is a big factor in determining what actually happened. Often, however, there can have been similar complaints about a doctor by other patients which can help to bolster a claim. Furthermore, any physical evidence that does exist can prove to be vital.
In addition to suing the doctor, victims can sue the hospital, university, health system, or medical practice that employed the sex abuser. These claims allege that the employer knew or should have known about the sexual propensities of the doctor but failed to prevent the harm. Due to this negligent conduct, the doctor was left in a position to continue to exploit and abuse patients.
The Deadlines for Taking Legal Action
Because of the traumatic nature of any form of abuse, molestation, or sexual mistreatment, many victims do not report the incident or come forward soon after it has occurred—if at all. However, it is important for anyone considering legal action to be aware of the state’s statute of limitations for when a claim can be heard.
Pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws § 600.5805, there is a two-year deadline for taking legal action against a doctor for a claim of medical negligence. For sexual abuse involving a minor, the period can be extended to the victim’s 28th birthday in certain situations. These deadlines also apply to the employer of the abusive physician, such as a medical practice, clinic, hospital, or university.
By reaching out to a Michigan attorney as soon as possible, a claimant can increase their chances of filing a timely doctor sexual abuse claim that satisfies this deadline, as well as to preserve potentially vital evidence.
Damages Arising from a Doctor Abuse Claim
Due to the severe nature of sexual abuse claims, the damages that can be requested are often significant. Of course, the specific forms of compensation sought by a plaintiff will depend on the specifics of each case.
These damages can include non-economic damages—such as emotional distress, post-traumatic stress disorder, and loss of enjoyment of life—and can also include significant economic damages, including ongoing therapy and medication needs, a loss of earning capacity, wage loss, and loss of services.
In addition, the patient’s spouse may have his or her own claim for loss of society, companionship, and consortium, as well as the disruption of the family. While some damages can have definitive pay stubs, others are more difficult to calculate. By working with a dedicated Michigan attorney, a claimant can have legal help to calculate the extent of their losses following a physician’s sexual abuse.
Get Help from a Michigan Doctor Sexual Abuse Attorney
As a patient or parent, people expect medical professionals to treat them or their children with care and respect. Unfortunately, numerous types of sexual abuse at the hands of a doctor are unfortunately common throughout the state and can have a long-lasting and devastating impact on a person’s physical, emotional, and even financial wellbeing.
While a criminal case can be pursued, many victims wish to take legal action through a civil lawsuit with the help of a Michigan doctor sexual abuse lawyer. By reaching out to our compassionate attorneys at Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C., you can rest assured that a legal professional will work hard to demand the compensation you deserve.
Call today to tell us your story. If you have a case, we will represent you under our No Fee Promise, which means there are no legal fees whatsoever unless you win a settlement.
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