North Carolina Sexual Abuse & Injury Claims: What Is Available To Victims & Their Families?
Within the last few years, sexual abuse scandals linked to the catholic church have been exposed in the news; in fact, it has become such an issue that the archdiocese has had to establish a sexual abuse survivor compensation fund for those who were abused by priests as children and who are now trying to recover.
Recently, The New York Times covered several hundred of these settlements, which ranged from $150,000 to $350,000 each. The victim’s abusers were named in some of the cases in the hopes that other victims would feel comfortable coming forward as part of a public safety imperative. The particular incidents highlighted in the article took place in the 1970s and 1980s, although the priests in question continued in their capacity through the 2000s.
What many people do not realize is that while sexual abuse typically gives rise to criminal prosecutions, victims of sexual abuse or assault often have to file a civil claim against the perpetrator in order to obtain compensation for their mental, psychological, emotional, and physical injuries.
Statute Of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse Cases
State law sets the time period (also known as the statute of limitations) in which you must pursue a civil claim for sexual abuse. If a claim is not filed within the applicable statute of limitations, you will not be able to bring your claim. Under most circumstances, for personal injuries, the statute of limitations begins to run from the date of the occurrence that caused the injury; however, nearly every state has a basic suspension that “tolls” the statute of limitations for civil actions while a person is a minor. In other words, states allow additional time for cases involving child sex abuse based upon the fact that children are often fearful to come forward or do not understand until much later in life (generally after the typical timeframe from discovering and taking action for most personal injuries has expired) that the relationship with their abuser was inappropriate and abusive.
This is what is referred to as a “delayed discovery” when it comes to emotional and psychological trauma and the repression of the memory of abuse. Many child victims do not even begin to discover the relationship of their psychological injuries until well into adulthood, usually when they are involved in counseling or therapy.
North Carolina is one such state that has an extended statute of limitations. Because of this, victims can often still pursue civil litigation against their perpetrators instead of being forced to seek settlements through the compensation program.
Technical Claims of Sexual Abuse
Some of the personal injury claims filed against perpetrators of sexual abuse by their victims tend to include assault, battery, and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress. How much a victim should be compensated is left up to the jury. Typically, compensation must come directly from the perpetrators if they are found liable, as insurance policies often exclude coverage for intentional acts.
Victims can also go after employers of these perpetrators if the employers enabled the perpetrators to harm the victims under theories of negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision, and/or failure to provide adequate security. These employers are sometimes schools, hotels, businesses, churches, and/or similar institutions.
Civil lawsuits can also enable victims to introduce evidence that was barred in a related criminal prosecution for one reason or another, exposing that evidence to the public. Additionally, if the perpetrator was convicted in the related criminal matter, the victim may be entitled to bring in evidence that a jury in a criminal case has already found the perpetrator guilty of committing the abuse.
To prove liability in a civil case, the victim only needs to show that it is more likely than not (i.e. by a preponderance of the evidence) that the perpetrator committed the sexual abuse. This is a lower bar than in a criminal case which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Evidence presented in this type of civil case goes towards proving that the sexual abuse occurred and caused emotional, physical, and/or psychological harm to the victim. In many of these cases, several victims come forward at the same time. This is helpful because there are several witnesses (instead of just one) who can help corroborate the allegations of abuse and prove that the alleged abuse occurred.
Oftentimes, in addition to receiving compensation for what they have been through, victims are also empowered by bringing a civil lawsuit because they are able to obtain justice for themselves, bring attention to the issue of sexual abuse, and help others in their community. However, bringing this type of claim can be extremely difficult (physically and emotionally) for victims and privacy can be hard to maintain when details are revealed in and outside of a trial.
Damages from Sexual Abuse
Typical damages sought in these kinds of cases can include compensation to cover medical and therapeutic care, as well as compensation necessary to address a victim’s loss of ability to earn income and loss of enjoyment of life (amongst similar, related damages).
Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help
Personal injury attorneys are skilled at handling these types of cases. If you feel you have been the victim of sexual abuse and/or you are involved in a criminal case against a perpetrator for sexual abuse, there can be therapeutic aspects involved in considering bringing a lawsuit against your abuser.
At Brown Moore & Associates, PLLC, we offer more than 50 years of combined experience pursuing maximum compensation for injury victims and their families. Contact us today to discuss your options when it comes to civil litigation and compensation for your injuries. You have been through a lot—having an experienced, compassionate attorney by your side, providing you with advice and information on what your options are—can make all the difference. Contact our Charlotte office today to schedule a consultation with one of our dedicated personal injury attorneys—we are here to help.