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Sexual abuse of a child is nothing short of horrific. At the law office of Powers & Santola, LLP, our Syracuse child sexual abuse lawyers know that when sexual abuse happens, it may have an impact on the child’s life for years to come. We also know that someone who was a victim of child sexual abuse may not be thinking about their legal options years, or even decades, later. If you are a parent of a child who has been a victim of sexual abuse, or if you are now an adult who was a victim of child sexual abuse yourself, it’s important to know that you have legal options available to you. At the law office of Powers & Santola, LLP, our Syracuse child sexual abuse lawyers are available to support you and approach your case with both the level of sensitivity and aggression that it demands. Call us today to learn more.
Civil vs. Criminal Child Sexual Abuse Claims
For sexual abuse victims, as well as the parents of child sexual abuse victims, it’s very important to understand the differences between civil vs. criminal claims. In a criminal case, the state brings forth charges against the defendant. If the defendant is convicted of the crime and found guilty, then they will be punished by the state. When a conviction occurs, there are no damages paid to the victim; criminal and civil cases are entirely separate and distinct.
What’s more, the burden of proof in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that in order to secure a criminal conviction in a sex abuse case, the prosecution must be able to prove that the defendant convicted the crime, and that the evidence is so robust that there is no doubt in a single juror’s mind that the defendant did it.
In a civil lawsuit, on the other hand, there are no criminal penalties for a defendant if they are found to be liable and responsible; instead, the victim of the crime will be awarded damages (monetary compensation). The outcome of a civil case won’t show up on a defendant’s criminal record and, in many cases, criminal charges won’t be brought at all. The burden of proof in a civil case is less – it’s by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that the plaintiffs need to prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant did the thing on which the case is based, but that doubt can still exist in order to find the defendant liable.
Types of Damages Recoverable in a Civil Sexual Abuse Case
A civil sexual abuse case is used to hold the defendant liable and recover monetary damages for the sexual abuse victim and their family. Types of damages recoverable in a sexual abuse civil lawsuit in New York include:
- Economic damages. Economic damages refer to the value of actual out-of-pocket financial losses associated with the sexual abuse. This might include costs of medical care, psychological services, lost wages (resulting from an inability to work due to physical or psychological injuries), etc. A victim of sexual abuse maintains the right to seek compensation for economic losses in full.
- Noneconomic damages. In addition to the value of actual monetary losses, plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases can also seek compensation for the value of their noneconomic losses. This includes the value of emotional distress, psychological injury, pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, etc.
- Punitive damages. Punitive damages are not designed to compensate victims for their harm, but rather to punish defendants for egregious actions. Talk to our lawyers about the possibility of recovering punitive damages in your sexual abuse lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations on Sexual Abuse Claims in Syracuse
A statute of limitations refers to how much time you have to bring forth a lawsuit after the sexual abuse occurs. Adults who are victims of sexual abuse (and are adults at the time of the abuse) have three years from the date of abuse to file a lawsuit. However, the rule is different for child victims of sexual abuse. Under New York’s law, a person who is a victim of sexual abuse as a child has until they are 55 years of age to file a lawsuit to recover compensation. This means that if you were a child victim of sexual abuse and many years have passed since, you may still have the right to bring forth a claim and recover monetary compensation for the harm you have suffered. This law is found in the New York Child Victims Act.
Get the Help and Support You Need Following Child Sexual Abuse
For parents of children who have been sexually abused, as well as adults who were sexually abused as children, taking legal action can feel overwhelming, shameful, and unbelievably difficult. At the law office of Powers & Santola, LLP, our Syracuse child sexual abuse lawyers are here to support you. Receive your free, confidential, no-obligation consultation by calling us today.
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