Victims of sex abuse or assault in Pennsylvania are often surprised to learn that the ultimate outcome of their civil lawsuits will likely be financial compensation. That’s because the civil justice system corrects wrongs by awarding the aggrieved party monetary damages. Pennsylvania’s courts are usually only able to enforce monetary judgments.
Financial compensation in civil sex abuse-assault cases depends on many different factors and will ultimately be determined by the facts and circumstances of a given case.
Under Pennsylvania law, a sex abuse or assault victim has a legal right to go after not only the direct perpetrator but also indirect perpetrators, i.e., those who had knowledge of the abuse but failed to take appropriate action to end it.
As part of the lawsuit, the victim has a right to make a claim for two types of damages: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are exactly what they sound like – financial losses caused by the at-fault party’s actions. In a civil sex abuse or assault lawsuit, economic or financial losses include the following:
- medical bills,
- psychological treatment bills,
- lost wages,
- other out of pocket expenses.
Financial compensation for non-economic damages is designed to compensate the victim for the physical pain and the mental/emotional trauma caused by the abuse or assault. Non-economic damages are also known as pain and suffering damages. Pain and suffering is unique to the individual; no two cases will be alike. Pain and suffering compensation awards in a sex abuse or assault case depend on the following factors:
- the nature and extent of the abuse/assault,
- the age of the victim relative to the age of the perpetrator,
- whether the perpetrator was a stranger,
- the setting where the acts occurred (school, home, church, etc.),
- the nature and extent of any physical injuries, and
- how the abuse/assault affected the individual.
Below are two scenarios which show how pain and suffering varies with each case.
Scenario 1: A woman was raped by a stranger who gained access to her apartment building due to a faulty basement door lock. The woman has tremendous support from family and friends and is able to overcome the assault. She needs some medical treatment and misses some time from work to recuperate. She files a criminal case and ultimately the perpetrator is arrested, prosecuted and jailed. Her life is otherwise unaffected; there are no long term consequences.
Scenario 2: A man was sexually abused by a priest as a child. The abuse occurs over several years. Before the abuse occurred, the priest was transferred into the diocese by church officials who knew of the priest’s pedophile tendencies. Parishioners were told nothing about this priest. As a teen, the victim starts abusing drugs and alcohol to cope with the abuse. Once into adulthood, the victim is unable to form any lasting friendships or romantic relationships. As a result of the abuse, the victim is unable to trust anyone.
These two scenarios present vastly different types of sex abuse and assault cases. In the second scenario, the victim’s pain and suffering is obviously greater than the victim in the first scenario. The key in determining a pain and suffering award is how the abuse or assault affected the victim and whether there are any long-lasting effects.
Representation by a Former Sex Crimes Unit Prosecutor
To have your case evaluated by a former sex crimes unit prosecutor, please call the firm at Click To Call. Mr. Kent is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Illinois.
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