Can I Sue for Sexual Abuse If It Happened When I Was a Minor?
Filing a Civil Lawsuit for Child Sexual Abuse
Unlike criminal court, civil court is a way to punish an abuser for sexual abuse by making them pay their victim financial compensation. Civil cases are easier to win than criminal cases because criminal cases must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt while a civil case only has to prove that it’s more likely than not that the defendant is guilty.
Sexual assault is all too common, and the vulnerability and naivety of children increase their victimhood. It can take years, even decades, for these children and the adults they become to speak about these traumatic events from their childhood.
The trauma from childhood abuse can often lead to issues later in life, such as PTSD and other mental illnesses, substance abuse, emotional outbursts, and more. While there’s no cure to these painful memories, one route many adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse can take to receive justice is by suing their abuser.
Similar to a car crash or slip and fall accident, you can file a lawsuit for compensation. Your financial settlement can then be used to pay for therapy and anything else that helps you cope with your trauma.
Whether or not you can sue your perpetrator will depend greatly on time limits that are put in place for all kinds of civil and criminal suits.
Statute of Limitations
The time limit that is put on lawsuits is called a statute of limitations. Each state is different, and California recently extended its statute of limitations for reporting sexual assault to support more victims.
A childhood sexual abuse case is treated differently from a sexual assault that happens to an adult. Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse have until their 40th birthday to file a civil suit. An exception to this is if the person realizes that they were abused later in life, and in that case, they have 5 years from the date they were diagnosed to file. Since these new regulations were passed in 2020, claims that were previously barred by the old statute can be filed within the next 3 years.
If decades have passed since your traumatic event, you are well within your rights to file a civil lawsuit alongside a sexual assault lawyer.
Suing Someone Who Abused You as a Child
When you file your sexual abuse claim, you may be concerned about speaking to your abuser again. Childhood abuse wounds run deep, and it’s normal to be scared. Rest assured, your sexual assault attorney can facilitate all communication between you and your abuser so that you are triggered a minimal amount.
Each personal injury lawsuit must be filed under a theory of “cause of action,” under which you can hold your abuser liable. In a sexual assault civil case, this cause of action will be either civil assault/battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
It’s also important to note that your attorney may have additional parties in mind to sue for your abuse. It’s possible for civil cases to call a third party’s negligence into question, especially when they were tasked with your protection when you were a child.
The most common organizations that your lawyer for child abuse will sue include:
- Babysitting companies
- Recreational facilities and clubs
These kinds of institutions are generally tasked with a special legal duty to protect the children that have been placed under their care. These large organizations have been sued multiple times in the past, and a few examples are listed below.
If a school district failed to conduct a background check on an employee that had a previous charge of abuse of a minor and that employee goes on to hurt you, this is seen as either negligent hiring or negligent supervision. Another organization that came under fire in recent years was Boy Scouts of America. So many victims came forward that the famous organization actually filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy to ensure that everyone was equitably compensated.
Hiring an Attorney
If you were the victim of sexual abuse as a child in the lower California coastal area, you should hire a personal injury lawyer in Newport Beach. A personal injury attorney for our firm will go above and beyond the legal standard of proof that you must prove in a standard civil case.
We will work with you to collect hard evidence, relevant witness testimony, and we can also coach you on giving your recollection of these traumatic events. Additionally, we will create a detailed list of damages that you have suffered as a result of this abuse, which will increase the size of your settlement.
We offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose by telling us your story. Contact us at (949) 203-5780 to start your journey to compe.