Question: I want to file a lawsuit for abuse by a teacher when I was in high school. My teacher pressured me into having a sexual relationship. He knew that I was vulnerable after a close family member died. I told the school counselor, but nothing happened. I have never been the same since. Can I get compensated for what happened?
Answer: Without knowing additional facts, the answer below is general. If you’d like to get a free consultation and speak to an attorney at our firm about your specific situation, please call our main office at 215.399.9255.
In any sex abuse lawsuit involving abuse at school, the critical questions are: 1. does the state’s statute of limitations law prevent any legal action from being taken, and 2. is there sufficient evidence of liability? These questions have to be answered before even getting to the question of financial compensation in a sex abuse or assault lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations Issues
With respect to the statute of limitations issue, it’s impossible to know whether a case can even be filed without knowing what state the abuse occurred in and when the abuse occurred. Every state has different statute of limitations laws which govern when child sex abuse or assault lawsuits can be filed.
These laws impose a time limit; cases MUST be filed within the specified time period. While the usual statute of limitations period in typical injury cases is 2 years from the date of the incident, many states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have expanded the statutory period in child molestation cases.
In addition, in the last 20 years, many states have amended such laws, giving victims even more time to file lawsuits. A handful of states have even passed special laws that revive cases which were previously time-barred, or too old to be filed. Additional states have considered passing similar laws.
Therefore, the only way to know whether a case can be filed is to discuss the specifics with a sex assault victims lawyer.
Liability or Negligence
With respect to the issue of fault or negligence, it is important to know who the liable parties are because that often determines whether financial compensation is even a possibility. Most perpetrators, the individuals who actually commit the acts of abuse, do not have any ability to pay a financial judgement. That’s just the reality in sex assault or abuse cases.
However, when the acts occur within a school, church or other business or public entity, the chances of actually receiving financial compensation increase. If an entity (school, church, etc.) is found liable, the victim may be able to obtain financial recovery directly from the entity itself and/or through an insurance policy obtained by the entity. These policies are usually general liability insurance policies and provide coverage to the entity in the event the entity is sued for committing some act of negligence that led to the injury of another person.
Liability in school sex abuse lawsuit cases can be established by proving the school either knew about the abuse or assault or should have known about it. Oftentimes, these cases boil down to whether there is enough proof that a school employee had prior knowledge of the risk or danger, but failed to take appropriate action like reporting the conduct to a superior or contacting law enforcement or another government agency.
In this case, reporting the conduct to a school counselor would suffice. However and more importantly, there must be evidence that the failure to take action led to additional or subsequent acts of abuse or assault. In other words, did the assault or abuse continue even after the report was made? If not, did another school employee know or have reason to know about the specific teacher? Had the teacher been reported previously for similar conduct with another student?
One of the key issues in a school sex abuse or assault case is whether the victim reported the conduct to law enforcement. This is often a critical step on the road to seeking justice.
Getting law enforcement involved is important because other victims may be identified and the perpetrator is likely to be questioned. Many times, perpetrators will admit the conduct during questioning by experienced sex crimes unit detectives. Later on, these cases often end in a plea deal, where the perpetrator admits guilt in court and is sentenced.
In addition, criminal statute of limitations laws are often more lax than civil ones. In practical terms, a case that is too old to be filed in the civil court system may still be filed in the criminal one.
For more info, access legal articles on sex abuse and assault lawsuits.
Victims Law Firm – We Handle Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Our law firm has handled many sex abuse and assault lawsuits, including several high profile cases involving the Catholic Church, a state court judge and Penn State. Contact our office for a free consultation. 215.399.9255