Chicago Sexual Abuse Lawyer
In the past several years, states have changed laws to make it easier for victims of sex abuse and sexual assault to file lawsuits. As a result, there have been thousands of claims filed against the organization that employed the abuser.
If you are a victim of sexual exploitation, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation. However, you may need to act soon to make your claim. The organization that was responsible for your suffering may now be held accountable.
Chicago Sexual Abuse Attorney Prosecuting Civil Lawsuits on Behalf of Victims
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, we have helped victims of sexual abuse obtain settlements to pay them back for their suffering. As personal injury lawyers, we understand that these cases require both tact and skill, and we work to protect you while fighting vigorously for your rights. Call us today to discuss your legal issue and schedule your free case evaluation and to learn how our Chicago sexual abuse lawyers can help you. We help plaintiffs all throughout Illinois, including:
- Chicago area
- Cook County
- Arlington Heights,
- Lake County
The Number of Sex Abuse Lawsuits has Increased
Sexual abuse was swept under the rug for decades at some of America's most prominent institutions. Sure, these organizations knew what was being done by their representatives, but they took steps to keep the truth from getting out into the public. They acted to protect themselves as opposed to the children who trusted them to provide them with spiritual or life guidance.
The scope of the problem has become better known in the last two decades, and what the public has learned has been shocking. Pedophile priests were transferred from parish to parish to move the problem somewhere else and stay a step ahead of law enforcement. Dioceses knew exactly what was going on behind closed doors in their parishes but downplayed and denied it in the rare instances when children had the bravery to come forward. As a result, serial predators were allowed to sexually exploit scores of vulnerable children.
In the case of the Boy Scouts, the national organization went so far as to keep files and records about the wrongful abuse committed in their ranks. The Boy Scouts of America had decades worth of records in their files that documented the worst of the abuse that occurred. Instead of taking action to protect children, the Boy Scouts tried to make sure that these allegations never saw the light of day.
Sexual Exploitation is Still Being Exposed
Things began to change in the United States around the turn of the 21st century. While there were occasional cases where dioceses paid settlements to the victims of a serial pedophile priest, national attention was not focused on this issue until 2002. At that time, a team of journalists from the Boston Globe uncovered a number of cases of pedophiles that were protected by the Church. This caused more victims to come forward, and more widespread investigation and publication of sex abuse claims followed.
While the spotlight initially focused on the Catholic Church, soon practically every organization came in for scrutiny. The truth of decades worth of abuse emerged through both news reports and civil trials. For example, the world learned about the abuse in the Boy Scouts through a lawsuit brought by an Oregon man. His tale of abuse resulted in a civil trial. During the course of discovery, the existence of the secret Boy Scouts file became known. This opened up the floodgates for a series of lawsuits against the Boy Scouts that led to the organization's bankruptcy filing.
Defendants in Sex Abuse Civil Suits
There are many different organizations that have faced sex abuse lawsuits for what happened in their ranks decades ago or even more recently. Essentially, any organization religious or otherwise that has worked with kids for decades has most likely had pervasive abuse in their ranks. Here are some of the common defendants in sex abuse cases:
- The Catholic Church is by far and away the most frequently sued defendant in sex abuse cases given the extensive abuse across all its dioceses for decades. There are virtually no dioceses that did not have a sex abuse problem. A shocking 2018 grand jury report in Pennsylvania laid bare some of the worst horrors that the Catholic Church has hidden over the years.
- The Boy Scouts of America. As of September 2020, there were approximately 300 open lawsuits against BSA.
- Boys and Girls Club - As of August 2020, there were 15 pending lawsuits filed with more on the way.
- Jehovah's Witnesses - The religious organizations has been sued for covering up and failing to report sex abusers to the authorities. Plaintiffs received a $35 million verdict in Montana, but it was overturned by the state's Supreme Court.
- Schools. School leaders have an obligation to screen all teachers and other employees prior to hiring them. They also have a responsibility to investigate each episode of alleged abuse and report these situations to law enforcement. When schools fail to protect students, they may open themselves to litigation.
Your Legal Options for For Pursuing a Sexual Abuse Claim
When you are the victim of sexual abuse or assault, you have a number of different options about whom to file your claim against. The best thing for you is to seek justice from the person or entity that can pay the largest possible settlement or verdict.
Many times, the person who committed the abuse is dead. Moreover, they may not have the financial resources necessary to pay you the compensation for the harm that you suffered. However, personal injury law allows you to hold the organization that employed the abuser or in whose name they acted legally accountable for the misdeeds of their employee or representative. We note that while most people will sue an organization, you can still also file a lawsuit against your actual abuser for sexual violence.
In the context of the Catholic Church or Boy Scouts, this means that the organization is responsible for the illegal actions of the clergy member or scout leader that sexually abused you. The crimes are imputed to them because they employed the abuser. Even though the Catholic Church and other organizations often knew of the abuse that was happening, they did not need to know what was going on in order to be held legally responsible.
The average sex abuse lawsuit settlement varies. Most dioceses have chosen to settle sex abuse civil lawsuits rather than fight them. Their own investigations have shown that most of these clergy have been credibly accused. Moreover, the Boy Scouts tried to fight the early lawsuits and ended up on the receiving end of massive punitive damages.
There is simply too much evidence for these defendants to fight the cases. Their own records show what happened in their ranks over the course of decades. This is why most sex abuse cases end up settling without a trial. Still, our law firm understands how difficult it is for you to come forward and relive the trauma. Unfortunately, that may be necessary as we gather the facts to draft your complaint.
Your Damages in a Sex Abuse Lawsuit
As victims, you or a family member are entitled to damages for a number of things that relate to the abuse that you suffered. Some of them include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional damage for the distress you have suffered
- The cost you have paid out of pocket for medical and psychological treatment
- Lost wages if your abuse has left you unable to work
- Punitive damages in extreme cases
- Loss of consortium for your spouse or partner
How to Prove Damages in Sex Abuse Cases
Proving the damages in your sexual abuse case will require working with an attorney. Since your abuse often happened decades ago, it is not easy to recreate. Oftentimes, we will need to work with a number of experts to figure out the harm that you suffered. There are a number of ways to prove your damages:
- We will work with mental health professionals in order to figure out how much you have suffered.
- Economists can also be experts because they can establish how much your earnings have suffered due to your abuse.
- Your own testimony, based on your recollections, is the best barometer for your suffering.
Statutes of Limitations in Sex Abuse Civil Suits
One of the main problems that abuse victims faced was that their lawsuits were often barred by the statute of limitations. Many people were either too afraid to speak up or had buried and repressed memories of their abuse. By the time the world was focused on the issue of sexual abuse, the time to file the lawsuit had passed.
However, states have recently given sex abuse victims some help in this area. Many states passed laws that either gave victims a window to file lawsuits that were previously prohibited because the statute of limitations had expired or lengthened their own periods to sue. The result has been a tidal wave of lawsuits against organizations like the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts.
In some states, the increased period of time to file civil cases has expired. However, in other states, victims can still file a lawsuit either because the window is still open or the state keeps extending it. In any event, the lengthened statute of limitations has given many people the ability to get justice for the harm that they endured in civil court.
Illinois is perhaps the most favorable jurisdiction in the United States when it comes to the statute of limitations for filing a civil claim for abuse. Illinois has removed the statute of limitations for civil sex abuse cases as well as in criminal courts as of 2013. The state even did this before other states began to give plaintiffs relief.
Thus, if you have been sexually abused or have suffered molestation in Illinois, you can file a lawsuit no matter how long ago your abuse happened. However, you should act relatively quickly to file a lawsuit because your recollections could fade and the defendant could declare bankruptcy at any time.
Sex Abuse Lawsuit Statistics
As a result of the statute of limitations changes across the country, the number of sexual abuse lawsuits in the United States has increased greatly in recent years. From June 2018 - June 2019, 4,434 lawsuits were filed against the Catholic Church, a threefold increase from the previous. Most of these lawsuits were filed by adults who were abused as children. However, there were 37 lawsuits filed by people who were minors. Thus, while the Catholic Church says that they are taking strong action to combat sex abuse, the problem is still occurring.
As of June 2020, the Catholic Church has paid out over $3 billion in settlements and jury awards in sexual abuse court cases. Given the tidal wave of recent lawsuits as a result of the statute of limitations changes, you can expect that this number will increase dramatically.
In a two-year span between 2017 and 2019, the Boy Scouts paid out $150 million in sex abuse settlements. Organizations such as the Boy and Girls Club also face many millions of dollars in possible liability in lawsuits.
Where do These Defendants get the Money to Settle Cases?
While you may think that religious institutions and other non-profits would be cash-poor, that is actually far from the truth. Catholic dioceses have very strong and healthy balance sheets. Besides owning many millions of dollars in real estate, the typical diocese has hundreds of millions of dollars in investments.
For example, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles reported over $600 million in cash and investments in its 2018 financial statement. This was after paying out $660 million in a 2007 settlement. At the time that the Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy, they had over $1 billion in assets. Most of this was held in investments.
However, many dioceses and the Boy Scouts are strategically declaring bankruptcy, trying to keep victims from getting the full amount that they are due for their suffering. As part of their bankruptcy, entities are setting aside settlement funds, but they mean that victims will not see settlements as large as they otherwise would have. This means that, working together with a sexual abuse attorney lawsuit attorney, you need to file your claim now because you can lose the chance to recover after the settlement fund is exhausted.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Below are the answers to some commonly asked questions about sex abuse lawsuits.
Are Punitive Damages Available in a Sex Abuse Case?
Yes, punitive damages are available in some sex abuse cases, but it is not common. The jury would need to find that the defendant acted really wrong. Given the awful fact patterns of most sex abuse cases, it is a pretty high bar to meet. There have been some examples of punitive damages. In one of the early cases against the Boy Scouts, the jury verdict against the organization topped $20 million as the Boy Scouts were found to have kept voluminous files about the abuse that occurred in their ranks over decades.
Who are Common Defendants in Sex Abuse Cases?
It is very rare that the abuse victim will file a lawsuit against the abuser. In most cases, a priest or a scout leader simply will not have the assets available to pay lawsuit damages. Victims will sue the organization that employed the abuser. This means that you will see defendants such as the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs.
How Much is the Average Settlement in a Sex Abuse Lawsuit?
This depends on both the harm that you have suffered and the available assets that the defendant has to settle your claim. In 2007, when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled a large abuse claim, the payments averaged $1.3 million per defendant. However, this is on the high end of settlements. Usually, in large sex abuse cases, the average amount per victim can range from $200,000 - $900,000. However, the amount could vary from that depending on the assets of the defendant.
Can Adults File Sex Abuse Lawsuits?
Most of the plaintiffs in sex abuse cases are adults. Children often do not feel that they have the ability to come forward. Other times, they repress the memories of their abuse until they are adults. The laws of nearly every state, especially Illinois, permit adults to come forward and recover for the sexual exploitation that they suffered as children.
Chicago Sex Abuse Lawsuit Attorney
You do not have to go through the legal process alone nor should you. The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers are experienced counselors who assist you or a loved one in all parts of the legal process. From the minute you contact us to set up your free consultation, we deal with your case with sensitivity and discretion.
We understand the difficulties that you face in coming forward since your case involves sensitive information. Call our law offices today at our toll-free number or fill out an online contact form to set up your free initial confidential consultation.
Related Law Practice Areas:
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