Clergy Abuse Lawyer
Clergy abuse survivors have been impacted in many different aspects of their life. The law allows survivors of clergy abuse to recover damages via legal action against the Church to ensure all at fault for damages are held accountable.
The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC are committed to maximizing the recovery for each clergy sexual abuse victim. Call our clergy abuse attorneys at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) for a free consultation to discuss your legal options in a strictly confidential setting.
Monetary damages in a clergy sexual abuse case are similar to other personal injury cases and include economic and non-economic damages. In many cases, punitive damages may also be eligible because those in charge of the religious institutions turned a blind eye and never stepped forward to protect survivors or report abuse.
Examples of these damages may include:
- Therapy and counseling expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Lost wages
- Loss of normal life
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors Get Justice
Statistics can never do justice to describe the scope of sexual abuse cases plaguing the Catholic Church for decades.
In 2002, the Boston Globe began its groundbreaking reporting on the topic, becoming the basis for the movie Spotlight.
It generated much attention devoted to not only the clergy child sexual abuse. The report shows how the church leadership and other very high levels of the church institutions looked the other way while the clergy abuse happened.
Now, the Church is being called to account legally for its gross errors in failing to deal with this childhood sexual abuse epidemic as it was happening by the accused priests. The legal system is making it easier to pursue legal action against religious institutions, causing inundation of civil and criminal cases against the Church.
Child Sexual Abuse is Pervasive in Religious Organizations
After some initial sexual molestation and sexual exploitation reports emerged, the Church officials commissioned a study to learn the problem's scope. The John Jay Report found that over 11,000 allegations were made against over 4,000 accused priests.
The results of the Jay Report merely scratched the surface of the potential instances of clergy abuse. In 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury issued its report that just studied Pennsylvania.
The report revealed over 1,000 identifiable clergy abuse victims in the state, and there were likely thousands of additional victims who had not yet come forward.
There have been reported episodes of clergy abuse involving:
- Attempted rape
- Serial rape
- Gang rape
- Indecent actions, including stimulation, humiliation, and sexual satisfaction
- Extortion requiring individuals to perform inappropriate sexual activities
- Sexual harassment
- Publishing photographs, recordings, or videos of degrading or humiliating sexual activity without the victim's consent
- Sharing pornography with a minor
- A harasser's sexual remarks or propositions
Legal Theories Under Which the Church Leaders Can Be Liable for Abuse
Many survivors may now seek compensation from the Church because the Catholic clergy operates as representatives of the religious organization in their duties. However, there are numerous legal theories under which a sexually abused victim can recover from the Church.
Here are a few theories that could be used in a child sex abuse lawsuit:
- Clergy members might be liable for employees' misdeeds because they act as employer agents.
- The Church failed to act on credibly accused clergy of childhood sexual abuse against specific priests, either leaving them in their roles or moving them to another diocese to make the problem go away in the short term.
- An employer who knew or could have known of the possibility of wrongdoing and molestation within the Church, but did not investigate, could be held legally responsible.
There have been numerous findings and some indictments detailing the scope of the Church's failure to do anything about this problem despite years of evidence and new accusations made by survivors of clergy abuse.
The indictments involving clergy abuse victims have reached the highest level of the Church as many senior priests allegedly have actively participated in a coverup of clergy sexual abuse claims.
Contact our law firm if you or a loved one has suffered from clergy sexual abuse and now feel it is the time to seek compensation for all the damage you suffered from the trauma. One of our experienced professionals will hear your story and guide you through this process.
Damages in Childhood Sexual Abuse Cases
Clergy abuse survivors have been impacted in many different aspects of their life. The law allows victims of sexual abuse to recover compensation and seek justice by filing civil cases in civil court against the Church.
Damages in priest sexual abuse cases are similar to other civil action cases and include economic and non-economic damages. In many jurisdictions, punitive damages are a legal remedy to resolve a claim for a victim who seeks justice.
Monetary damages involving a sexually abused victim may include payment for:
- Therapy, counseling, and medical expenses, current and future treatment
- Pain and suffering for deep wounds that create emotional problems for decades
- Mental anguish
- Lost wages
- Loss of normal life
Many victims of clergy sexual assault suffer severe health and social injuries, including:
- Sexual problems
- Difficulties with interpersonal contact
Because priest abuse is painful and has many long-term emotional and psychological repercussions, many survivors are reluctant to come out and disclose their abuse. Rarely, if ever, do victims of child abuse feel comfortable speaking up until many years have passed since the molestation took place.
What Is the Difference Between a Criminal Case and Civil Lawsuit?
If the abuser (defendant) is found guilty in a criminal case, they could spend time in jail or on probation. Only if the court orders the defendant to pay the plaintiff reparation will the victim (plaintiff) receive money.
If the abuser (defendant) is found accountable in a civil action, they must compensate the victim financially (plaintiff). The jury chooses the award's total cost. The awards compensate for any harm brought by the abusive behavior. Some accusations, like assault, may lead to civil and criminal proceedings.
Our injury lawyers are experts in clergy abuse cases. They have helped many victims pursue justice in the civil and criminal courts, obtaining fair and total compensation for their suffering.
Contact our legal team for a free consultation, and we will provide the best legal options for your case.
Why Might I Need an Attorney in a Civil Case of Priest Sexual Abuse?
Finding out about their legal choices and making their own decisions about what justice entails is one of the most empowering things a survivor can do. A lawyer focusing on legal options for priest abuse might help simplify the procedure.
Legal justice plays a role in the healing process for some victims. You can get assistance from an expert in the healing process.
An accomplished clergy sexual abuse attorney will create a compelling legal argument on your side. They will assist you in identifying the legislation and laws that apply to your situation the most.
They can also provide information on recent laws that might facilitate filing civil cases or criminal accusations against sexual abusers or accountable organizations. For example, certain states recently created "look-back" windows that enable victims of sex abuse to bring civil lawsuits against perpetrators.
Survivors may file expired cases within a "look back" window per the state's statute of limitations. Survivors with cases that date back decades can pursue justice because of these retroactive windows.
The Statute of Limitations in Clergy Sexual Abuse Civil Legal Actions
The time for bringing a civil lawsuit is governed by time constraints known as the statute of limitations. Injury lawyers must file civil claims within this time frame, or the sexual abuse claim against a Catholic priest or another clergy member will be forever barred.
The statute of limitations in a clergy sexual abuse case varies drastically based on the jurisdiction of the abuse.
Many victims of sexual abuse may be repressing what happened. In response, some states have extended the statute to allow a victim to bring a civil legal action years after the incident occurred.
Our law firm handles civil claims against sexual predators and religious groups to help guide survivors toward the legal remedies, monetary damages, and other relief they deserve. Contact our law firm today to schedule your initial free case evaluation to discuss legal options with an experinced clergy abuse lawyer.
All sensitive information and evidence you share remain confidential through an attorney-client relationship.
What to Do If My Clergy Sexual Abuse Case Happened Years Ago
As the reports of widespread sexual abuse began to pour in after increased media attention, states realized that their current laws restricted clergy sexual abuse survivors' rights and have now started to change their laws.
It was unjust that a victim file a civil lawsuit within a short time after the sexual abuse or even in a limited amount of time as an adult.
Many people either have blocked out the memory of their trauma or were too afraid to speak when they were younger. Until the past two decades, many who experienced sexual abuse were not believed and did not come forward.
Recognizing that, states began to waive or lengthen the statute of limitation in clergy sexual abuse cases, which gave legal options to the victims. Changes made by individual states in response to growing reports of widespread sexual molestation include:
- In 2013, Illinois' governor signed a bill removing relevant statutes in sex molestation cases. Priest abuse survivors can bring a lawsuit at any time, regardless of how long ago the abuse allegedly occurred.
- New York and New Jersey passed laws extending the age until sexual abuse victims can file a claim to fifty-five years old.
- Victims of California clergy abuse have until forty-five years after discovering previous sexual molestation to file a lawsuit.
- Texas recently expanded its statute of limitations in child sexual molestation civil suits against the abusive religious leader and institution until thirty years after the victim's 18th birthday.
Other states have given abused survivors a seven-year window in which the time limitations are temporarily waived to allow them to file clergy abuse lawsuits. However, the waiver will expire at a certain point, so victims must contact a clergy abuse lawyer to file a lawsuit.
Some experts have estimated that changes in the state's statute of limitations might subject the Catholic Church to approximately $4-5 billion in additional liability.
What Would Happen Should a Diocese Declare Bankruptcy
Declaring bankruptcy does not allow the Church to escape responsibility for failing to protect children from priests' actions.
Several dioceses have declared bankruptcy due to the crushing burden of legal liability that they might face due to the massive amounts of current and past abuse victims. However, a child sex abuse victim can still receive financial compensation.
Clergy sexual abuse lawsuits have been filed against the Church. However, the bankruptcy process impacts civil claims or those that will be filed in the future.
Suing for Abuse Against The Roman Catholic Church
The diocese where the sexual molestation occurred would be financially responsible for the actions of the Catholic priest.
The Catholic Church is not a monolithic organization. In other words, there is not one overall religious organization to sue for sexual molestation. Instead, A bishop oversees each church's jurisdiction (diocese).
Every diocese is a separate and distinct organization. The diocese holds assets and debts in its name. Even if the abuse occurred within a particular parish, the diocese would have been responsible for supervising the clergy member.
In most clergy sex abuse lawsuits, it would make sense to sue the diocese instead of the individual priest who committed the abuse. Many accused Catholic priests died years ago.
Clergy Sexual Abuse FAQs
Below are some frequently asked questions raised by people who have been victims of abuse by a member of religious organizations. Should you have additional questions, we encourage you to contact our law firm for a free consultation. We can address further questions or concerns regarding your potential legal action.
Our sexual abuse attorneys have assisted many survivors in seeking justice and can do the same for you.
How Many Catholic Priests and Clergy Members Have Been Accused of Child Sex Abuse?
A study completed by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice revealed that nearly 4,400 Catholic religious leaders sexually assaulted more than 10,000 underage minors over seven decades.
According to an NBC news report, almost 1,700 Roman Catholic religious leaders facing accusations of sexual assault are not currently supervised.
How Much Has the Catholic Church Paid to Childhood Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse?
By 2019, the Church had paid over $4 billion in negotiated settlements, jury awards, and legal fees to survivors of clergy misconduct.
The Catholic church is not the only religious organization that has paid abuse survivors and other victims. Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints resolved many allegations of current and former members being sexually abused by church leaders and paid more than $250 million in damages.
What Is the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests?
Advocates established the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) as a support group for child abuse survivors to aid the healing process.
The organization's founding President, Barbara Blaine, started the group to educate and support survivors of sexual abuse.
Will I Need to Face My Abuser in Court if I File a Clergy Abuse Claim?
You'll unlikely confront your abuser in court if you file a sexual abuse claim or if they are involved in a criminal case. Many sex abuse claims get resolved out-of-court without needing to file a lawsuit.
What If My Abuser is in Jail?
Thankfully, law enforcement officials are stepping forward to prosecute many sexual molestations, assaults, and abuse episodes. Many priests with allegations of sexual misconduct are held accountable in criminal cases or serve time in jail.
What is the Child Victims Act?
An innocent child experiencing a traumatic event often experiences lasting psychological and emotional effects long into adulthood. The legal system has enacted the Child Victims Act – which provides special provisions designed specifically for those seeking financial compensation as a necessary step toward recovery.
Many child abuse victims file lawsuits against credibly accused priests, religious leaders, and other clergy members responsible for the sexual trauma they endured months or years earlier.
In many cases, the priests accused of child abuse cases had died years ago.
Were You Sexually Abused by Someone in the Catholic Church or Another Religious Organization? Hire a Sexual Abuse Lawyer
No matter how long ago your sexual molestation occurred, you might still be able to seek accountability for your childhood sexual abuse in financial compensation.
Throughout the decades of sexual misconduct, the Church cannot escape liability for the blame that thousands of priests subjected survivors of clergy sex abuse. Most leaders have failed to prevent sexual abuse in their organizations.
Each clergy abuse lawyer at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC is committed to your case. We recognize that sexual assault survivors face many issues when holding sexual predators accountable.
Contact our law firm today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or through the contact form to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation in our first meeting. We provide every potential new client with a confidential case evaluation.
All discussions with the legal team are handled in a confidential consultation through an attorney-client relationship.