Pennsylvania Sexual Abuse Lawyers
Both current and historical victims of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania are slowly benefiting from changes in the laws that make it easier to hold abusers and their institutions accountable for their actions and claim restitution.
It’s never easy for victims of abuse to come forward. They must re-live their experiences, and many who suffered child sexual abuse are now adults and have “lived with it” for years.
As the general public becomes more aware of the problem and legal avenues are opened up, sexual abuse lawyers can help you claim compensation in civil cases against abusers and the institutions that harbor them. Criminal charges may also be pursued in some cases.
UPDATE: HB 963 to extend the statute of limitations on sexual abuse
It takes courage but you will find a compassionate team ready to hear your story at Andreozzi + Foote. Our lawyers have been at the forefront of the struggle to seek justice for victims in Pennsylvania.
Table of Contents
- How can you demonstrate the damages suffered in civil claims?
- What compensation can sexual abuse victims claim in Pennsylvania?
- Will you be awarded punitive damages in a sexual abuse case?
- Common defendants in Pennsylvania sexual abuse cases
- How long do you have to file a sexual abuse lawsuit in Pennsylvania?
- Can you file a lawsuit for historical sexual abuse in Pennsylvania?
How can you demonstrate the damages suffered in civil claims?
It can be challenging to demonstrate the extent of the damages you have suffered in sexual abuse cases because much of it is psychological.
We will call on mental health experts like psychiatrists and psychologists to help demonstrate to jurors the extent of the abuse.
Their expertise can help victims who come forward cope with reliving the horrific experiences that they have been through and aid the plaintiff in maximizing compensation.
What compensation can sexual abuse victims claim in Pennsylvania?
The damages you can claim in a civil case are mainly compensatory, which reimburse the victim for losses suffered. However, the judge may also award punitive damages to punish the perpetrator or the institution they worked for (more about these below).
Compensatory damages are called “actual” damages and cover out-of-pocket costs. General damages may not have a specific monetary value but are down to a judge’s discretion to award.
The general damages in sexual abuse claims may be significant because of the emotional pain, suffering and trauma that victims have been through.
To summarize, the main compensatory damages that apply in sexual abuse cases are:
This includes all past and future medical costs, such as:
- Counseling with a psychologist or psychiatrist
- Treatments in in-patient or outpatient settings
Pain and suffering
This includes all emotional damages you have suffered as a result of the actions of an institution or an individual, including:
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
If you have had to take time off work for counseling, recovery from your ordeal or simply to avoid your abuser, you can also claim these damages.
Will you be awarded punitive damages in a sexual abuse case?
While all successful civil cases result in compensatory damages being awarded, punitive damages are awarded only at the judge’s discretion.
Because of the serious and sickening nature of many sexual abuse cases, punitive damages are reasonably common.
A judge may order a defendant to pay punitive damages if he or he believes that the compensatory damages are not sufficient to compensate the victim or if the perpetrator’s actions warrant it.
Common defendants in Pennsylvania sexual abuse cases
Civil sexual abuse cases can be filed against individuals, groups or institutions. In Pennsylvania, we most commonly represent victims against the following entities:
Thousands of cases have been filed against priests of the Catholic Church across the country – to an extent that has shocked the country and cast a huge shadow over the institution. Pennsylvania has been one of the epicenters for these lawsuits.
Lawsuits against teachers are common in sexual abuse cases in Pennsylvania, with the local school district generally duty-bound to represent them in court as their employees.
There have been high-profile, national sexual abuse cases involving coaches and Pennsylvania has had its fair share of lawsuits against athletic coaches who violated the trust of young athletes.
Foster parents or their agencies
It is horrific to most people that those entrusted with protecting vulnerable children may also be abusers – but it is the sad reality with a minority of foster parents. Often, the foster care agency is held liable due to a failure to screen the parents or adequately supervise a child’s care.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has paid tens of millions to survivors of sexual abuse around the country. In Pennsylvania, there have been cases against other youth groups as well as the Boy Scouts.
Both young children and the elderly – the most vulnerable in our society – have suffered abuse in care facilities in Pennsylvania. Whether it is an indiscretion by an employee of the facility, a visitor, or a resident of a care home, the facility may be held liable in court.
Unfortunately, the medical profession also attracts abusers because of the position of trust and control over patients. Doctors or the facilities they work for can be held accountable if abuse has occurred.
How long do you have to file a sexual abuse lawsuit in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania law has statutes of limitations that state how long a victim has to file a civil lawsuit for wrongs they suffered.
Sexual abuse cases are more complex than most personal injury cases because the victim may have suffered abuse decades ago and never reported it out of shame, fear, or other reasons.
The statutes were reviewed in 2019 in recognition of this. Hundreds of sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church occurred between 1970 and 2000 and this prompted the review: under normal statutes of limitations, victims would have been precluded from filing civil lawsuits against their abusers.
Can you file a lawsuit for historical sexual abuse in Pennsylvania?
Some states have enacted two-year lookback windows allowing child sexual abuse victims to file abuse cases regardless of how long ago the events took place.
If Pennsylvania adopts this policy, it will be easier for historical victims of abuse to take legal action even if the statute of limitations has expired.
However, even now, adults may be able to file lawsuits for abuse suffered as children with the help of our child abuse attorneys.
We may be able to exploit certain rules and exceptions in the law. For instance, the “discovery rule” allows you to proceed if you did not (and could not) discover the cause of what happened to you until recently. Where institutions or abusers have hidden evidence of sexual abuse, this may qualify.
Alternatively, some victims of minor sexual abuse may be able to use the “disability” rule that extends the statute of limitations.
Whether you can file a civil lawsuit depends on the precise circumstances of your case. It’s best to discuss these with one of our sexual abuse lawyers before considering your options.
Help for sexual abuse victims of assault in Pennsylvania
If you would like the team at Andreozzi & Foote to evaluate your case, please call 1 (877)-214-3238 for a free consultation.
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One of the best personal injury lawyers in the country. Great experience. Really genuine people at Andreozzi and Associates.
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When you and your child are victims of a horrid crime it’s hard to understand why things are the way they are. Information and answers are what you want, but unfortunately the system doesn’t offer that. Nathaniel has fielded and patiently listened to a broken mother wanting nothing more than for someone to help her understand why she has no answers, and through these phone calls Nathaniel has been very informative, honest and upfront. I would recommend Nathaniel and this firm to anyone who is seeking answers, help and professionalism in a firm when going through such difficult times.
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It is impossible to put into words our gratitude for Ben and Nate through the most trying time of our life. As scared, confused, and traumatized parents, the isolation and loneliness of litigation are abysmal. In the beginning, everyone surrounding you has endless bright ideas and can’t say enough how you should pursue action, but then when it comes down to it, these cheerleaders are suddenly silent and nowhere to be found in what feels to be your darkest hour. Thank God we had these two extraordinary men at our side from the moment we contacted them. Their friendship, counsel, and sound resolve to do everything they could in order to balance the scorecard meant more than we can ever convey, and is simply immeasurable. If we had known how simple this seemingly horrific ordeal would’ve been with their help from the start, we wouldn’t have agonized a single minute over doing what we did. If you are in a similar position as I’ve described, take advice from someone who’s been through the worst, thankfully with the best. Call them!