Philadelphia Sexual Abuse Lawyers
Unfortunately, sexual abuse cases in Philadelphia are far too common.
If you were sexually abused in Philadelphia, you probably have questions about the legal system including whether you can pursue a civil case and what to expect if you decide to pursue the case?
Philadelphia is a unique legal market that tends to be quite favorable for victims of sexual abuse, but each individual must decide if a civil case is right for them. Below is information that we hope will be helpful to you in making your decision.
UPDATE: HB 963 to extend the statute of limitations on sexual abuse
- Pennsylvania Statute of Limitation Update 12/15/2020
This information is by no means exhaustive so we strongly encourage you to call us for a free consultation so we can help you become more informed about civil sexual assault cases in Philadelphia and Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Should I pursue my sexual abuse case in Philadelphia?
The first consideration is are you ready to pursue a case?
This is a very personal decision, and many potential clients fear they must be prepared to ride an emotional roller coaster for several years if they decide to pursue a civil case.
While we certainly don’t want to talk a victim into doing something they are not ready to do, our overwhelming feedback from clients is that the process is much easier than they expected. At Andreozzi + Foote, we believe no two cases are the same so we try to craft a unique strategy for each case which is based upon the desires of the survivor.
At the outset of the case, the survivor is empowered by being able to make important decisions like “do I want to seek an early resolution to my claim and possibly an out of court settlement” or “do I want to file a lawsuit and attempt to publicly expose the truth.”
Many clients fear that if they file a lawsuit there will be a public record that follows them throughout their lives. We have been told on multiple occasions that a survivor does not want someone to be able to type their name into an internet search only to see information related to their sexual abuse case.
To address this concern, we often provide sexual abuse victims with the option of filing a lawsuit using a pseudonym like “John Doe” so they can pursue the case anonymously. Protection of our clients does not stop there.
Throughout the litigation we chart a course that is designed to obtain the best possible result while causing the least amount of interference to our clients lives. We often tell clients we are being paid to worry about their case so they can focus on other things in their lives.
Are there limitations to pursuing a sexual abuse case in Philadelphia?
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania victims abuse lawyersAssuming you are emotionally prepared to pursue the case, it must also be “viable.” Your case cannot be time barred, or beyond the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania.
Furthermore, the mere fact that you were abused, and your case is not time barred does not mean your case is viable. For a business, organization, institution, or third party to be liable for sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, that third party must have owed you a duty of care and must have violated that duty of care.
We often establish this by proving the defendant was negligent in hiring, retaining, or supervising the abuser, or that it failed to adopt and implement appropriate policies and procedures to protect children.
Sometimes you may have a “viable” sexual abuse case that a law firm will not take. This can be incredibly frustrating for survivors, as well as law firms like ours who are committed to fighting for survivors.
We are commonly asked to pursue a case directly against a victim’s perpetrator. The unfortunate reality is that perpetrators rarely have adequate assets to satisfy a potential judgment.
Therefore, law firm’s who take cases on a contingency fee, like Andreozzi + Foote, could not remain in business because they would be unable to collect any fee to pay for continued operations.
Most often the best recourse for sexual abuse victims against their perpetrators is found in the criminal case where a prosecutor is able to seek restitution for the victim at no cost.
Other financial considerations might also prevent a viable case from being pursued if the defendant has no insurance.
Pennsylvania law does not require that every business carry liability insurance, and often times business who do carry insurance have exclusions for sexual abuse and molestation.
Is Philadelphia the right place to pursue my sexual abuse case?
We almost always recommend our survivor clients attempt to pursue their case in Philadelphia when possible. While juries throughout Pennsylvania do not tolerate careless actions by institutions that allow children to be sexually abused, in our experience Philadelphia jurors are the most sympathetic in the state.
If the circumstances of a case are similar, jury verdicts in sex abuse cases in Philadelphia tend to be higher than any other part of Pennsylvania. Because common defendants in sexual abuse cases like churches, day cares, schools, health care providers, and many others know that juries in Philadelphia are likely to award large verdicts to sexual abuse victims, out of court settlements tend to be very high in Philadelphia because defendants do not want to risk an excessive jury verdict.
In addition to having favorable jurors, the court system in Philadelphia is also equipped to move a large volume of cases in an expeditious and organized manner.
Shortly after filing a lawsuit, a preliminary conference is set up among the attorneys and a court representative to set deadlines for the case and ensure there is no unnecessary delay.
We often find that defendants will try to delay cases as long as possible and the court system in Philadelphia does not allow defendants to employ stall tactics that work in other parts of the state.
While pursuing a sexual abuse case in Philadelphia County Court is almost always the preference of the victim, whenever possible, the Defendant will attempt to have the case removed to another County or even Federal Court.
Shortly after a lawsuit is filed, Defendants in sex abuse cases will file a motion arguing that Philadelphia is not the appropriate place for the case to be heard. A Philadelphia judge will ultimately look at the facts of the case, consider issues like the connections between the defendants and Philadelphia, and determine if the case can stay in Philadelphia.
This is a fairly complicated process but is very important to the ultimate outcome of the case. Experienced sexual abuse attorneys will generally spend considerable effort litigating this issue.
While Philadelphia County is the preferred venue for a case, at Andreozzi + Foote we have also had considerable success in the surrounding suburban counties, like Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery.
While jurors in the Philadelphia suburbs may not be quite as sympathetic as their neighbors in the city, we find they do not tolerate businesses or organizations who fail to protect children from sexual abuse.
At Andreozzi + Foote, we have successfully pursued many sexual abuse cases in South Eastern Pennsylvania.
Currently, we have an active docket of sexual abuse cases in the Philadelphia area and have no doubt worked on cases that you have heard about in the news. While we have received national attention for our work on behalf of sexual abuse survivors and represented clients in almost every state, we consider Philadelphia our back yard.
In addition to having an office in Philadelphia, all of our attorneys are licensed in Pennsylvania, and many were born, raised, and attended college and law school in Pennsylvania. We think this experience and these connections to the community give our clients and advantage.
What kinds of damages can sexual abuse survivors In Philadelphia pursue?
Our goal is always to obtain the optimal outcome for the client.
Because each new client has different needs, goals, and a distinct definition of healing and closure, we try to uniquely tailor our approach to that survivor, and early in the process ask what does the client want to get out of the case?
While the civil system is limited in some ways (i.e., we generally cannot collect damages against the perpetrator, we cannot force the police to criminally charge negligent or intentional actors, etc.) there are many ways we are able to help clients in their journey.
Have you ever heard someone who was sexually abused as a child say “I no longer consider myself a victim, I am now a survivor.” The process of identifying oneself as a survivor as opposed to a victim is a complex one, but at its core, that individual has made a decision to change the way they define themselves.
For many this starts with reclaiming power or taking back something that was taken from them when they were sexually abused as a child. When survivors file a lawsuit or pursue a claim against the institution responsible for allowing them to be abused, they are forcing that institution to be accountable for its actions, and reclaiming the power and control that was taken from them at a young age.
This step in the process can be incredibly cathartic for sexual abuse survivors. In fact, for many the journey itself is a liberating reward, even more powerful than the financial outcome.
Many victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, have been haunted for years by unanswered questions like was my abuse preventable, and “who knew what and when?” Through the discovery process, we are generally able to obtain documents and interrogate witnesses that can answer many of these questions.
The process of gaining a more complete picture of one’s past can be incredibly powerful.
Furthermore, forcing the institution to produce information, particularly in cases where they have maintained secret files serves to shine light on the dark and ensure an end to a cycle of abuse.
Many lawyers do not understand or appreciate the importance of seeking non-economic results for victims of child sexual abuse. I cannot count how many times clients have told me “I want to make sure this never happens again.” Whenever we see the opportunity, we encourage survivor clients to force defendants to change the way they operate in order protect children in the future.
This often involves requiring that churches, day cares , schools, or other defendants change their policies and procedures. This could mean forcing them to implement new staffing and supervision ratios, new reporting procedures, or conduct comprehensive background checks to weed out perpetrators before they are able to infiltrate the institution.
When most people think of the end result from a civil case, they think of the award of money damages or financial compensation. We strive to maximize the financial recovery in every case because we know that our clients may have needs well into the future.
Many clients have used the money from their civil case for counseling, job training, education, housing, to support family, or to start a new business. Our clients can generally use the financial award however they deem appropriate.
The exception is if the client is a minor or incapacitated person. Under those circumstances a judge will generally oversee the distribution of the money and might attach strings to the settlement or require the creation of a trust.
What is the value of my sexual abuse case in Philadelphia?
There are many factors that determine the value of a sexual abuse case. Some of the key factors that drive the financial value of the case are venue, degree of liability, nature of the abuse, impact of the abuse, and the defendant’s ability to pay a judgment.
It is extremely important to note that one factor alone does not drive the value of the case and thus should not be considered in a vacuum. To accurately determine the estimated value of a case, ALL of the facts of the case must be considered with a multitude of factors, some not discussed here.
Furthermore, if one factor is not present, for example, the ability to pay, the other factors may be insignificant or of limited value. We strongly encourage you to contact us to get a better understanding of how these factors impact your potential cases value.
Venue simply means where the case is being presented. A case that is presented in an urban area like Philadelphia generally has a greater value than a case that is presented in a rural area. That does not mean that cases in rural areas do not have significant value.
The discrepancy in case value between an urban area and a rural area can be very significant in a traditional personal injury case, like medical malpractice or a car accident case. However, in our experience, the discrepancy in value in sexual abuse cases is far more subtle. Rural and suburban jurors are just as disgusted by sexual abuse as urban jurors.
The degree of liability really means the extent to which a defendant is at fault for a sexual assault. When a defendant hires an employee to work around children knowing that employee previously sexually abused children that defendant is primarily to blame for the inevitable abuse.
At trial we often tell jurors to think of the defendant business as a zookeeper and the perpetrator as a lion.
If the zookeeper leaves the lion’s cage open and the lion attacks, the zookeeper is primarily at fault for the attack. After all, the lion is simply acting according to his nature, which was known by the zookeeper.
If defendants in a sexual abuse case do not have prior knowledge of the perpetrators abuse, it does not mean that the defendant cannot be held liable. For example, the defendant may have failed to properly screen employees or implement policies and procedures which should have prevented the abuse from occurring.
However, a juror might conclude that in a case with no prior knowledge of abuse the defendant’s actions are less egregious, and thus that case might command a lower value than the case where the defendant knew of the perpetrators prior misconduct.
Any type of sexual abuse is appalling.
However, the nature of the abuse is often a factor which impacts the value of a case. A case that involves touching over the clothes will have less value than a case involving some form of penetration assuming all other facts are the same. Again, this is not to say that a case involving touching over the clothes does not have considerable economic value. We have routinely represented clients in these types of cases and obtained very significant results.
Relatedly, the number of abusive incidents is often a relevant consideration when determining the value of a case. For example, a jury might award more damages in a case where sexual abuse continued daily over the course of a year, as opposed to a case where abuse only happened one time.
However, if a victim was abused on multiple occasions, and that abuse did not have a significant impact on the victim’s life, that case may not have as much value as a victim who was abused one time and has had significant complications from the assault.
One of the key factors in determining the value of a sexual abuse case is the impact the abuse has on the victim. Obviously, sexual assault adversely impacts every victim.
However, some victims suffer from debilitating medical conditions following the abuse including physical injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and severe depression and anxiety. We also know that trauma from sexual abuse can cause injury to the central nervous system and impact development in ways that were previously unknown.
Some of the more complicated cases we face involve survivors who have seemingly made a strong recovery from the abuse. We have represented CEO’s, doctors, lawyers, accountants, professional athletes, and many others who have been successful in their professional endeavors.
We often hear from defendants in these cases that our clients have fully recovered from the abuse and thus their case does not have considerable value. Sadly, many of these “professionals” have masked their pain, are suffering internally, and have become overly invested in their career in order to bury their abuse.
When this story is properly told to a judge or a jury it can be incredibly powerful and turn the defendant’s argument upside down.
Get A Free Attorney Consultation in Philadelphia
At Andreozzi + Foote, we are committed to helping sexual abuse survivors find closure and justice. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with one of our compassionate attorneys, call 866-694-3103, or reach us online.