Victims of child sexual abuse may pursue both criminal charges and civil lawsuits. Whereas criminal cases are brought by the government and may involve jail time as a punishment, civil cases are brought by individuals seeking restitution for a wrongdoing. A civil lawsuit may be filed after a criminal trial is completed regardless of the outcome. Because of the lower standard of proof required, a defendant who was found not guilty in a criminal trial may still be held liable in a civil trial. Civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse can only be brought by certain individuals and typically include multiple causes of action. Victims may be entitled to financial compensation for physical, emotional and psychological harm.
A civil lawsuit for child sexual abuse may be brought on the child’s behalf by the child’s legal guardians or by victims of the abuse themselves. It is common for adult survivors of child sexual abuse to commence a lawsuit after many years of staying silent and suffering with the effects of the abuse. When they finally expose the abusers and hold them accountable, survivors often feel a sense of empowerment and closure.
Because many children do not realize the extent of their injuries until adulthood, many states have extended the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits. In Delaware, the Child Victim’s Act allows a child sexual abuse cause of action to be filed at any time following the sexual acts constituting abuse.
A child sexual abuse civil lawsuit may be based on relevant causes of action depending on the facts of the case. For example, causes of action may include assault and battery. While intentional torts such as assault and battery typically require the plaintiff’s non-consent, in the case of child sexual abuse, a defendant may still be held liable even if the child gave consent because the law views children as incapable of giving valid consent to sexual acts.
Other common causes of action are intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress and, for cases in which a child was threatened or confined, false imprisonment. Many cases involve third parties such as daycares, schools or churches that may be held accountable for their failure to prevent or stop the sexual abuse. If an individual is employed without proper screening or monitoring and that employee sexually abuses a child, then the employer may be liable for negligent hiring, retention or supervision.
Federal statute 18 U.S.C. §2255 authorizes victims of child sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits for the violation of any statutes prohibiting child abuse and exploitation. The statute also states that anyone who suffers personal injury due to such violations will recover no less than $150,000 in damages. Victims may be compensated for any past and future bills and expenses resulting from the crime, such as medical bills and counseling fees. They may also be awarded damages for emotional pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and other non-economic damages.
If your child was the victim of sexual abuse or you are ready to pursue a civil claim for sexual abuse you suffered as a child, contact a Wilmington sex abuse lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Our lawyers have been successfully litigating child sexual abuse cases for over a decade. We represent clients throughout Delaware from our Wilmington and Georgetown offices. Call us at 302-656-5445, toll-free at 800-355-1818 or contact us online for a free, confidential consultation.