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What Kinds Of Damages Can Sexual Abuse Survivors In Pennsylvania Pursue?

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Answered by: Evan Kelly

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Sexual abuse and assault survivors deserve justice, including compensation for the terrible events they have gone through. Those events have already changed their lives forever. If you or a loved one is a victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, you do have options for pursuing a civil lawsuit and recovering damages.

Many different types of claims can stem from an assault or abuse situation. Possible damages depend upon the type of claim and the defendants involved, but may be similar to personal injury damages. Typical damages include:

  • Medical bills
  • Therapy/rehabilitation bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages (meant to punish and deter others)

You generally must show that the defendant injured you, and the injury led to your damages. In cases against institutions that harbored the perpetrator — for example, churches, schools, day care centers and other organizations — you must prove that the institution’s negligence contributed to the assault or abuse.

In some cases, your injury may be mental, rather than physical, but those cases are more challenging to prove. You should always speak with an experienced attorney to find out what type of damages might apply to your situation.

Types of claims

Unfortunately, sexual predators have found many different ways to target victims. Whether you were attacked on your college campus or your child was abused by a coach, you can always sue the perpetrator. The perpetrator may have limited funds with which to pay your damages, however. Depending on your situation, you may have other options, as well. Possible claims may include the following:

  • Negligent security. This is a type of premises liability claim. Property owners in Pennsylvania have a duty of care toward visitors to the property, including guests, patrons and renters, to keep the property reasonably safe. If the property owner where you were attacked could have foreseen the danger and failed to take proper security measures, you may have a negligent security claim against the owner.
  • Title IX claim. You should be able to pursue your college education without fear of sexual assault. Unfortunately, assaults on campus happen all too frequently. Title IX protects the rights of sexual assault and harassment victims at any public school, including college campuses. The law provides victims with investigation, privacy and safety considerations, regardless of whether you filed criminal charges.
  • Negligent hiring. If an employer fails to check the background of an employee before they hire them, and that employee goes on to sexually assault or abuse another person in the workplace, the employer may be liable for negligent hiring. For example, if a church hires someone with a known history of abusing children, and the employee abuses more children at the church, the church could be liable.
  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). NIED claims can be tricky to prove. In Pennsylvania, there are a few categories of actions that may result in an NIED claim. For most of them, you must have been physically impacted or been “in the zone of impact” or witnessed a traumatic event happen to a loved one. The courts have recognized a newer type of claim where someone with a special duty to the victim, such as a caregiver, negligently harms the person, causing them increased emotional distress.

If you, your child or another loved one has been a victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse, talk to an attorney with the experience and compassion to deal with civil claims arising from these criminal acts. Only then can you be sure you have explored all your options for recovering the damages you deserve.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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