A victim of sex abuse or sex assault may be entitled to a financial compensation award if their civil case is successful. Click here for part 1 of this article which discusses the basics of financial compensation awards in Pennsylvania and New Jersey sex abuse cases.
Who decides a financial compensation award?
Ultimately, all civil cases including sex abuse cases may be decided by a jury or a judge if the parties agree to a court or bench trial. However, the vast majority of cases will never make it to this final phase. Instead, the parties will often reach a settlement agreement or otherwise resolve the case through an alternative proceeding such as an arbitration or mediation. In an arbitration, the parties hire an individual (usually a retired judge or reputed lawyer) to decide the case. If the arbitrator decides the case in favor of the injured party, they will decide the financial compensation amount. In a mediation, the mediator will attempt to get the parties to agree on a settlement.
In order to reach a settlement, all parties must agree to a financial compensation award. This often involves multiple negotiations. Ultimately, evidence of the harm or damages which resulted from the abuse/assault will play an important role in determining the settlement amount. This is why preparing the evidence sufficiently is necessary. For instance, if a victim of prolonged sexual abuse suffers serious mental health issues and is disabled as a result, evidence of long term financial losses must be prepared, calculated and presented well.
Who pays financial compensation?
The party that ultimately pays a financial compensation award varies from case to case. If there are multiple defendants, and this is often the case in civil sex abuse cases, who ultimately pays will depend on each defendant’s respective percentage of fault. In Pennsylvania, due to recent changes in what is known as joint and several liability laws, defendants only pay their percentage of fault with some key exceptions (i.e., the 60% rule). New Jersey laws are similar. Joint and several liability laws in PA and NJ are very complex, and different rules apply, depending on the type of case. The basic point is that who actually pays in a civil sex abuse will vary.
What is the role of insurance?
In many civil sex abuse cases, especially those involving multiple parties, various insurance policies may apply. For instance, in a civil sex abuse case involving abuse at a school, an outside contractor and the school itself may be liable for negligence in allowing the abuse to occur. Therefore, the contractor and the school’s insurance policies, if any, would apply. Those insurance companies will step in and ultimately pay the entire financial award or a portion of it, depending on how fault or liability was assigned. The contractor may be assigned 25% of liability, and the school may be assigned 40%. Therefore, their respective insurance companies would pay the apportioned percentage of the financial award.
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