Sexual abuse is a terrible thing that no one should ever have to experience. Unfortunately, it occurs all too often. When you or someone you care about has been sexually abused, you know that even if there are no physical injuries, the emotional and mental healing process can take a long time and looks different for everyone.
Although it cannot undo what happened to you, bringing a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator or those who enabled his or her access to the victim can bring some people a sense of peace and closure. It can also provide monetary compensation that can go towards counseling, therapy, or other resources to help with the effects of the experience. A compassionate Bedford County sexual abuse victims lawyer can help you understand what a civil lawsuit would entail in your situation. Our dedicated personal injury attorneys will work with you to use the judicial system to reach your desired outcome.
Sexual abuse can take many forms, but often, sexual abuse will be some form of crime. You can report your situation to the police department and pursue criminal charges against the abuser. A district attorney will then take over the case, investigate, and proceed with a criminal trial on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If a jury decides the abuser is guilty, the abuser will be convicted of a crime and may receive a jail sentence.
You could also decide to file a civil lawsuit against the abuser. If so, you would benefit from hiring a Bedford County attorney with experience representing sexual abuse victims. Unlike the district attorney who represents the government, this attorney would represent you and your interests. The civil lawsuit would be filed on your behalf, and you would decide how it will proceed with the help and advice of your legal counsel. If the lawsuit is successful, the court will issue a judgment ordering the abuser to pay you monetary damages as compensation for the harm he or she caused. In many cases involving sexual abuse, it is possible to pursue either criminal charges or a civil suit, or both.
In most instances, there is no insurance coverage available for abusers, because most insurance policies do not cover intentional or criminal acts. However, if the perpetrator was given access to the victim through negligence or carelessness on the part of another entity, such as a school, church, or athletic program, that entity may also be held financially responsible.
Speaking with a seasoned lawyer can help you understand what options are available and how each legal proceeding may influence the other if both occur simultaneously.
Determining the deadline for filing a claim in a case involving sexual abuse can be complex, and the rules may evolve in the future. The best course of action is to consult with a well-practiced sexual abuse victims lawyer in Bedford County to understand how these deadlines will apply to your circumstances.
In general, a person who has suffered a personal injury has two years from the date of the incident to file a civil suit. However, because of the traumatic effects of sexual abuse, the legislature has created a longer statute of limitations, acknowledging that in many contexts, it is unfair to expect sexual abuse to be reported within a short timeframe. That deadline has given childhood victims of abuse until the age of 30 to file their claims.
In 2019, the legislature amended 42 P.S. § 5533 to provide even longer deadlines for filing claims: if the victim is under the age of 18 at the time the abuse occurs, he or she will have until the age of 55 to bring a civil lawsuit. If the victim was older than 18 but under 24 at the time of the abuse, he or she will have until the age of 30 to file suit.
However, these 2019 amendments do not currently apply retroactively, and only apply to incidents occurring from 2019 onward. That is, if your incident occurred prior to then, your deadline may still be governed by the former time limits (age 30), so you should not delay. An experienced attorney can discuss these timeframes with you.
When you experience sexual abuse, you do not need to move forward on your own. There are resources available that can assist you in getting the help you need. Moreover, a proactive attorney can help you hold the person who hurt you legally and financially responsible for what happened.
Marcus & Mack