Victims of sex abuse or assault who are considering filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania have more at stake than plaintiffs in other types of tort/injury lawsuits. That’s because of the very personal nature of the case. Sexual abuse and assault result in extreme mental and emotional trauma. While there are many variables involved in deciding whether to proceed with a lawsuit for a sex abuse-assault case in PA, the ultimate choice belongs to the victim and the victim alone.
If you are considering filing a sex abuse-assault lawsuit in Pennsylvania, below are some common questions and answers about sex abuse lawsuits in Pennsylvania.
Who is involved in the case?
From a purely legal standpoint, the victim is the plaintiff in the case, the person bringing a lawsuit. The defendant(s) is any person or business entity which either directly or indirectly caused the acts of abuse or assault. A direct perpetrator (the actual individual who committed the acts) will almost always be named as a defendant. In addition, indirect perpetrators, individuals or business entities which shielded the direct perpetrator, can also be named as defendants.
The most common example involves a priest or teacher sex abuse case. A church or school which allowed the abuse to occur may be held liable for hiding the abuse or otherwise failing to investigate reports of abuse.
From a personal standpoint, victims should be aware that other people will probably be involved in the case, other than lawyers and court personnel. For instance, the victim’s family members and friends may be called to testify. Depending on the nature of the case, other individuals such as medical professionals, mental health professionals, police officers, etc., may also be involved in the case.
Where is the case filed?
The case will be filed in the Court of Common Pleas, and each county in Pennsylvania has its own such court. In Pennsylvania, venue principles will determine where (what county) the case is actually filed in. Venue is usually based on where the acts occurred or where the parties reside or do business. Philadelphia County probably sees the highest number of sex abuse-assault lawsuits due to a number of reasons, including population.
What happens and what is the outcome?
Once the lawsuit is initiated, by filing a complaint or legal document which lays out the plaintiff/victim’s case, the court will oversee the discovery stage of the case. In the discovery phase, the parties will exchange or subpoena physical evidence, i.e., anything which helps the parties prove their claims. This includes documents, pictures, video footage, etc. The discovery process also involves depositions of all relevant parties. At a minimum the victim and defendants will be deposed. Other parties may also be deposed, such as eyewitnesses or other important witnesses. The discovery phase is the most important part of the case, it is literally where cases are made or broken. At the end of the discovery phase, the case will move towards resolution.
When will the case be resolved?
Resolution of a civil sex abuse-assault lawsuit will happen in one of three ways: settlement, non-trial resolution or trial. At any time, the parties can reach an agreement to settle the case. Non-trial resolution is usually a mediation or arbitration. These are special non-court proceedings involving individuals, usually other lawyers or retired judges, who mediate the case (mediation) or actually decide the case (arbitration).
The timing for resolution depends on the complexities of the case. Some cases are simpler than others. While in general, most sex abuse-assault lawsuits in Pennsylvania take about 1-2 years to resolve, this excludes time for any appeals. There are many complex legal issues in civil sex abuse-assault lawsuits, which means that either party may appeal a court ruling. Appeals can tack on several years.
For legal advice about a sex abuse-assault lawsuit in Pennsylvania, please contact our office for a free case evaluation. 800.220.7600
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