Clergy abuse survivors have been impacted in many different aspects of their life. The law allows clergy abuse survivors 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 sexually abused victim.
Call a sexual abuse lawyer at our firm 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 looked the other way and never stepped forward to protect survivors or report abuse.
Examples of these damages in most clergy sexual abuse cases include:
- Therapy and counseling expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Lost wages
- Loss of normal life
Sexual Abuse of Children 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.
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.
Survivors of clergy sexual abuse have reported episodes of the following:
- 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 of clergy sexual assault may now seek compensation from the Church because the Catholic clergy operates as representatives of the religious organization in their duties.
Here are a few theories that could be used in a child sex abuse lawsuit:
- Clergy members operating religious institutions might be liable for employees’ misdeeds because they act as employer agents.
- The Church failed to act on credibly accused priests 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.
Numerous findings and some indictments have been detailing the scope of the Church’s failure to do anything about this problem despite years of evidence and new accusations made by child victims of cleric abuse.
The indictments involving cleric 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.
Damages in Childhood Sexual Abuse Cases
Cleric abuse victims 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 clergy abuse cases in civil court against the Church.
Damages in priest 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, 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
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.
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.
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.
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 an experienced clergy sexual abuse lawyer from our law firm today to schedule your initial free case evaluation to discuss legal options with an experienced clergy abuse attorney.
All sensitive information and evidence you share remain confidential through an attorney-client relationship.
What to Do If Your 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 the victim’s rights of clergy sexual abuse and have started to change their laws.
It was unjust that a victim files 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.
States began to waive or lengthen the statute of limitation in cleric abuse cases, which gave legal options that had not been available to any clergy abuse survivor who filed a claim previously.
Some experts have estimated that changes in the state’s statutes of limitation 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 cases have been filed against the Church.
However, the bankruptcy process impacts civil compensation claims or those that will be filed in the future.
Suing for Abuse Against Religious Organizations, Including 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.
Were You Sexually Abused by Someone in the Catholic Church or Another Religious Organization? Hire a Clergy 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.
The clergy abuse lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC is committed to your case.
We recognize that abused 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.
Resources:  Archdiocese of Baltimore