Children put their trust in adults to educate and care for them. That is why sexual abuse cases involving predatory adults are so upsetting. Instead of protecting young children from the dangers of society, these older authority figures violated that trust and abused children in their care. Rather than being isolated incidents, many adults who sexually abuse children do so again and again with other victims.
Adults who commit these crimes often know their victims will not tell anyone else what happened. That is because many victims of sexual abuse may feel ashamed or even somewhat responsible for what happened to them. Many victims believe they were the only ones abused by such adults, even though the truth is often the exact opposite. One adult might have abused dozens or even hundreds of children.
In Pennsylvania, prominent cases of sexual abuse of children have made headlines involving the Franciscan Friars at Bishop McCort Catholic High School, which is associated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, and Penn State University, where Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of abusing dozens of children.
If you have been sexually abused by an adult, you didn’t do anything wrong. The person who abused you must be held accountable for his or her actions. That’s why you should contact us as soon as possible and put an end to this cycle of abuse. Our personal injury attorneys have extensive experience working with victims in Cambria, Blair, and Indiana counties and throughout western Pennsylvania.
Hold the Perpetrator of Sexual Abuse Accountable
Child sexual abuse cases often involve adults the children know and trust. Such adults often include:
- Athletic trainers and coaches
- Camp counselors
- Scout leaders
- Daycare workers
In some cases, the institutions or businesses that employed these individuals were aware of such abuse and criminal activity. In fact, some institutions did nothing to stop the abuse, choosing instead to reassign the adults to other positions, where these adults continued to abuse other children for years.
Many of us find it hard to believe such horrific crimes actually occurred. We wonder, how could someone take advantage of innocent children, time and time again? That is why we take such cases so personally. For us, these cases are about more than just making sure that anyone involved in sexual abuse is held accountable. It’s about making sure such abuse never happens again.
Identifying all Proper Defendants
Obtaining proper compensation after an incident of sexual abuse is a multi-step process. One of these steps involves identifying all defendants who may share civil liability for an attack. The perpetrator of the abuse is certainly liable to provide compensation, but others may also be responsible.
One dynamic that allows a claimant to attach another defendant to a claim is the concept of respondeat superior. This concept of the law means that an employer is responsible for the actions of their employees while in the course and scope of the employment. If the perpetrator of abuse was a teacher, coach, or camp counselor, the school, sports club, or camp that employed him or her may share liability for the attack. A Western PA sexual abuse victims’ attorney could help determine all possible defendants in a claim to seek maximum compensation.
Are There Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?
Recent changes in the law have made it easier for people who endured sexual abuse as a child to demand compensation in the present day. Generally, people who suffer harm and wish to collect civil compensation only have two years from the date of injury to do so. Fortunately, a new 2019 law extended this time period for people who endured harm as a child.
Pursuant to 42 Pa C.S. §5533, the statute of limitations for a civil action arising out of sexual abuse may be extended.
For victims who were under 18 years of age at the time of the abuse, they have a period of 37 years after their 18th birthday, that is – until Age 55, to file their cases in court.
For victims who were between the ages of 18 and 23 at the time of abuse, they have until Age 30 to file a claim.
This means that incidents that occurred many years ago could be the subject of these claims.
Criminal Charges and Civil Claims Impact on Damages
Although it may be difficult to do so, it is important to talk to law enforcement about an incident of childhood sexual abuse. Recent changes in the law now allow police officers and prosecutors to charge offenders with sexual assault at least until the child in question turns 50 years old.
This is because the outcome of a criminal case can have an important impact on a civil claim. If a jury in a criminal court convicts an abuser, in a civil case, that abuser may be precluded from arguing that he did not commit that act. However, even an acquittal in criminal court does not prohibit a civil claim for compensation. Since the burden of proof in a civil claim is lesser than in criminal court, a jury in civil court can still hold an abuser responsible for their actions. A Western PA sexual abuse victims’ attorney could help to connect a criminal charge to a successful civil claim for compensation.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me if I was Sexually Abused as a Child?
In many cases, the sexual abuse occurred years ago. That is why many victims are often reluctant to come forward. So much time has passed, and they falsely believe there’s nothing they can do about what happened to them.
Under current Pennsylvania state law, adults who were sexually abused as children (under 18 years old) can take legal action for up to 37 years after they become 18 years old, in most cases. As a result, adults of manys ages may still be able to present a claim.
But even if you believe the statute of limitations has expired, don’t simply assume you have no legal options. Schedule an appointment with our law firm. We are aware of the sensitive nature of such cases. That is why we promise to respect your privacy and to handle your case in a thorough, timely manner.
The emotional scars of sexual abuse can last a lifetime. Put your trust in us. We’re available for you to contact our law firm 24 hours a day. Our Western, PA personal injury attorneys are here for you when you need us most.