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Minors and Sexual Abuse Suits

Sexual AbuseSexual abuse is tragic and can have lifelong emotional and psychological consequences for victims. The perpetrators of sexual abuse can be sentenced to lengthy prison terms for their crimes, but achieving criminal justice for an abuser does not mean that the wrong has been righted. Organizations such as schools or churches may be responsible for failing to prevent abuse, and victims are left with medical and counseling costs and years of pain. Fortunately, civil lawsuits allow victims to recover monetary compensation for their harms and to hold liable organizations and people who contributed to the harm by failing to take preventative measures.

Liable Parties

The perpetrators of child sexual abuse are often those in a position of trust or authority over the victim, such as:

  • Teachers and school personnel;
  • Coaches and other extracurricular activity leaders;
  • Daycare workers;
  • Youth organization leaders;
  • Clergy;
  • Police officers;
  • Neighbors;
  • Foster parents;
  • Stepparents or a parent’s significant other; and
  • Relatives.

In addition to the abusers themselves, certain organizations, such as schools, daycares, or churches, may be held liable for damages for child sexual abuse. If an organization failed to take sufficient precautionary measures to protect children from sexual predators, it may be liable in the event that abuse occurs. For example, a daycare may be held liable if it ignored signs of abuse or negligently hired an employee with a history of sexual abuse.

Criminal and Civil Cases

In a criminal case, the government brings a case against an alleged abuser, who is subject to incarceration, fines, probation, mandatory counseling, and other penalties. The victim serves as a witness rather than as a party to the case.

In a civil case, the victim or his or her parents bring a lawsuit for money damages. The abuser may be held liable, along with any other parties who contributed to the harm in any way, such as by failing to report abuse or failing to conduct background checks on potential employees. The victim is a party to the case, and thus has control over the direction the case will take. Additionally, the burden of proof in a civil case is lower than that in a criminal case, so victims may be able to recover damages even if the abuser was never convicted.

Statute of Limitations

In California, child sexual abuse lawsuits must generally be brought before a victim’s 26th birthday. However, the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse has a major loophole based on discovery of the injury. It allows civil suits to be brought within three years of the date on which the victim discovered, or should have discovered, that his or her psychological injury, occurring after reaching age 18, was caused by childhood sexual abuse. The rule is designed to permit those who have repressed memories of abuse to sue for damages after those memories have been recovered, often through therapy.

If you or your child has been the victim of sexual abuse, please contact the passionate San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free initial consultation.

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