Recently, the news has been filled with stories about clergy abuse and civil lawsuits being filed against Catholic Dioceses nationwide. More sexual abuse claims against clergy members are being filed because of recent changes allowing survivors to sue even if the abuse happened many years ago.
Many states, including New York, Illinois, and California, have passed legislation that allows victims of child sex abuse to hold individual Catholic priests, dioceses, and church organizations accountable for the trauma and suffering these crimes have caused. Many survivors are working with Catholic sexual abuse lawyers to bring legal consequences to their abusers.
Many organizations maintain lists of priests, religious brothers, and church leaders who have been publicly and credibly accused of child sexual abuse or sexual misconduct. You can review these lists of accused Catholic Priests by diocese to see which have settled with the abused victim or been convicted of criminal charges.
Taking legal action not only brings abusers to light but, in most states, survivors have the right to sue for damages or other relief, even while supporting criminal prosecution where enough evidence exists for the state to bring charges. Speaking out and demanding accountability may also deter or prevent future abuse.
Survivors of clergy abuse often need therapy and might bear much more than a financial burden as a result of their traumatic experiences. While many individuals struggle with feelings of guilt or shame, coming forward and reporting what happened is an empowering choice. There is no guarantee of winning a case in court or receiving a settlement from the local diocese responsible for the abusive priest, but many survivors have succeeded with the help of an experienced church sexual abuse lawyer.
Survivors might file individual lawsuits or group together in some famous cases that have been settled by the Catholic diocese named in the suit. In states like California, victims might also receive punitive damages up to three times the normal amounts when intentional harm can be proven. This is a factor when church leaders were aware of the behavior and sought to hide sexual assault by transferring priests, taking no action to prevent future victims from being abused.
Some recent examples of noteworthy settlements facilitated by Catholic sex abuse lawyers include:1,2
There is a nationwide movement to expand the statute of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse because many victims cannot reasonably come forward in the amount of time previously given to them to do so. If the statute of limitations to file a case has expired in the state where the abuse occurred, chances are good that new legislation might be on the way that will open doors for victims to take action. You can find out more about the particulars of your own case by contacting Catholic Church abuse lawyers with experience in your state.
In California, Assembly Bill 218 has expanded the statute of limitations for child sex abuse and even opened a limited window allowing cases to be filed regardless of how long ago the alleged abuse occurred. Legislative reforms like these are allowing victims to explore their legal options and join lawsuits seeking compensation for their injuries.
Each case is different, and you should seek sound legal advice from a law firm with experience in the field. You can usually speak to a church abuse lawyer about your case for free. You or a loved one might have several legal options, depending on the evidence available to support your case.
The burden of proof is different for civil and criminal cases. While a criminal case must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a civil case seeking compensatory damages or other damages allowed by state law needs to reach the less demanding burden of “by a preponderance of the evidence.”
An experienced Catholic abuse lawyer can advise you about legal options like these:
There are a number of remedies available to victims of abuse or sexual assault, including:
If enough evidence exists to support criminal prosecution, you might pursue a criminal case. You can pursue this route at the same time as a civil case if you wish. Criminal prosecution may result in the abuser serving jail time for their crime or pressure the organization that allowed the crime to occur to settle the case out of court.
The court may order restitution or other penalties if a guilty verdict is reached. If you are considering criminal charges, consulting with a trusted sex abuse lawyer will be helpful in determining if the burden of proof can be met.
When the concerns of the survivors are to prevent future incidents of abuse in the church, they might seek injunctive relief from the court. This term means that the victims ask the court to order the diocese or religious organization to take actions to prevent clergy abuse in the future. Survivors might ask the church to release information about credibly accused priests or take proactive responses to accusations of abuse.
At Saunders & Walker, P.A., we have years of experience guiding survivors of clergy abuse through their legal options. We have experienced sexual abuse attorneys who can help you and your family make powerful decisions and take meaningful action.
While it can be hard to come forward and seek justice, our compassionate team of attorneys will handle your case with discretion and confidentiality. We can advocate for your legal rights and support a path to healing for you and your family. If you are looking for a team of experienced Catholic Church abuse lawyers in California, contact Saunders & Walker, P.A.