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Financial Compensation: Evaluating Settlements and Awards for Survivors in Philadelphia

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What is the Role of Settlements and Awards in a Philadelphia Civil Lawsuit?

Surviving a traumatic event, such as an assault or long-term abuse, can have profound impacts on an individual’s life. It is difficult to overstate the potential effects of these heinous acts. From debilitating nightmares and flashbacks to costly ongoing medical treatment for physical injuries or chronic conditions, the ramifications of the abusive act can be financially, physically, and mentally overwhelming for victims.

By filing a civil lawsuit, survivors can seek compensation for their losses from the individual(s) who harmed them and any institutions that failed to protect them from the abuse. While no monetary award can undo the injuries a survivor has suffered, a fair settlement may provide a sense of justice and closure for the victim and their family. A settlement also ensures financial stability for the future and the ability to seek medical care, therapy, and other support systems that can improve the survivor’s quality of life. An experienced Pennsylvania sexual abuse lawyer can confidentially evaluate your situation and determine your legal options.

How Do Civil Cases Differ From Criminal Cases?

It is important to remember that the outcome of a civil case is not tied to the verdict in a criminal case. A guilty verdict in criminal court can result in jail time, fines, and restitution orders for the offender. A civil lawsuit aims to hold the perpetrator or negligent institutions financially liable for the damages incurred by the victim. While a guilty verdict may help bolster the claims in a civil case, the lack of a criminal trial or a not-guilty verdict does not necessarily bar the victim from seeking damages in civil court.

What Types of Financial Compensation Could Be Available to Abuse Survivors?

Survivors of abuse can experience many losses due to the misconduct of the abuser. While some damages are easily quantifiable, others may be less obvious. Sexual abuse lawyers are skilled at identifying the full spectrum of losses victims have suffered and using formulas to calculate a fair settlement amount that accounts for past and future damages. The types of compensation awarded to survivors in Pennsylvania can be split into the following three categories.

Economic Damages

Economic damages account for any monetary losses suffered by the victim. This category may include current and future medical expenses, counseling and therapy costs, and lost wages during recovery. Victims typically have bills or other proof of these expenses, making them more straightforward to calculate. However, accurately determining future economic damages requires significant skill and knowledge to ensure that all foreseeable costs will be covered.

Non-Economic Damages

Abuse survivors frequently have substantial non-economic damages due to the harrowing nature of their experiences. These damages are the less tangible, but often life-altering, non-monetary effects of the assault. Victims may seek compensation for pain and suffering, the loss of enjoyment in typical life activities, and emotional anguish. The calculations for these damages are unique to each case and will depend on the circumstances of the injuries incurred.

Punitive Damages

Pennsylvania courts have the discretion to award punitive damages in sexual abuse cases if they believe it is appropriate. Punitive damages differ from the other types of damages because their intent is not to make the victim financially whole again. Instead, punitive damages punish the defendant for harmful behavior that was malicious, egregious, intentional, or wantonly reckless. These damages protect citizens by discouraging and deterring the defendant and others from engaging in similar behavior.

What Factors May Impact the Settlement Award in a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

It is difficult to determine the potential value of a Philadelphia injury claim without thoroughly examining the case’s details. Several factors play a crucial role in determining the amount of compensation a survivor may receive:

  • Severity and duration of abuse: The more severe and prolonged the abuse, the higher the potential compensation, especially if it resulted in extensive physical, emotional, and psychological trauma.
  • Impact on the victim’s life: The long-term effects of the abuse on the victim’s ability to form relationships, maintain employment, and their overall mental health are critical considerations.
  • Strength of the evidence: The impact of the provided evidence and the credibility of the victim’s testimony can significantly influence settlement amounts. Thorough documentation and detailed witness statements may be vital to recovering maximum compensation.
  • Age of the victim: Younger victims, especially children, may receive higher compensation due to the profound detrimental impact of abuse on their developmental years.
  • Previous awards and history of the defendant: Courts tend to follow the precedent set by the outcomes and awards in similar cases. Additionally, if the defendant is an institution or individual with a history of abusive acts or cover-ups, the court may be more likely to award higher damages due to their apparent lack of remorse or gross negligence in failing to protect individuals in their care.
  • Insurance coverage: It can be futile to seek higher damage amounts if the defendant does not have the ability to pay. However, the presence of insurance coverage, especially when the perpetrator is part of an institution, can provide a source of funds for victim compensation.

Why is it Critical to File a Claim Promptly?

The statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims in Pennsylvania is highly complex. For typical civil lawsuits, the state’s standard statute of limitations is two years from the date of injury for adults or two years after a child victim turns 18. However, legislation was passed in 2019 that extended the time limit on filing civil claims for cases of child sexual abuse until the victim’s 55th birthday. Victims between 18-24 at the time of the abuse will now have until their 30th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. 

Unfortunately, these reforms are not retroactive. Cases of abuse occurring prior to January 1st, 2019 are still subject to the old two-year statute of limitations as of March 2024. In light of recent reports on clergy abuse and other sex abuse scandals, there are ongoing efforts in the Pennsylvania legislature to update the laws again to allow more victims to bring claims. With the shifting legal landscape, discussing your case with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer is vital to understanding your current rights. Contact Andreozzi + Foote today at 866-311-8640 to schedule a consultation with our compassionate and experienced legal team.

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