Can I File a Claim if There Were No Criminal Charges Filed Against My Abuser?
If you or a loved one is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, you have the right to pursue justice and financial compensation through the civil justice system in California. While it is up to you to bring a civil claim, it is not your responsibility to file criminal charges. Only your city’s prosecutors may bring a criminal case against an alleged abuser. You can, however, cooperate with local police to help them build a criminal case against an abuser within the clergy. Luckily, you can file your civil claim even if no one has yet filed criminal charges against the offender. Contact an attorney from Manly, Stewart & Finaldi to get started with your civil clergy abuse case today.
Criminal vs. Civil Charges in California
The criminal justice system exists entirely separately from the civil system. The goal of the criminal system is to convict an individual of a crime and bring a sentence against him or her for the wrongdoing the person committed. The goal of the civil justice system, on the other hand, is to bring justice, peace of mind and financial compensation to the victim(s) of the crime or action.
An individual does not need to face criminal charges to be civilly liable for damages, and vice versa. The two systems operate independently of one another, with neither kind of case relying on the existence of the other to succeed. You can, therefore, file a claim against your abuser even if the prosecution has not filed any criminal charges. The courts will review your civil claim by analyzing evidence your lawyer brings forward regarding the alleged abuse. They may award you monetary damages to make up for the economic and noneconomic losses you suffered.
A positive outcome during a civil case against an abuser does not mean the person is guilty of a crime in California. The civil courts do not have the power to convict anyone of criminal acts. A successful civil lawsuit simply means the courts agree based on a preponderance of evidence that the defendant’s act of negligence or intent to harm caused the plaintiff’s damages. The defendant will then have to pay the plaintiff a monetary award as restitution.
The only penalty against a defendant during a civil case is having to pay the plaintiff’s damages. In some civil cases, the defendant may also owe additional punitive damages as a form of punishment for grossly negligent or malicious acts, such as sexual abuse. The civil courts cannot, however, impose sentences against the defendant such as fines, jail time or mandatory registration on the Sex Offenders List. It will take a criminal case to achieve these outcomes against a sex abuser in California.
Statute of Limitations on Civil Sex Abuse Claims in California
If you wish to file a civil claim against your abuser for clergy sexual abuse, you must act within your deadline or statute of limitations. California recently extended its statute of limitations with Assembly Bill No. 218. This groundbreaking bill reformed the state’s previous sexual abuse laws in favor of plaintiffs in a few ways, including expanding the deadline from age 26 to age 40. Previously, plaintiffs had 8 years from the age of majority (18) to file their claims. Now, plaintiffs have 22 years from age 18 or five years from the date of discovery (whichever is longer).
AB 218 also expanded the definition of child sexual abuse to allow more people to file claims for their damages. It also enabled plaintiffs to obtain up to treble damages against certain defendants, as well as revive some cases that previously missed their statutes of limitations. Under specific circumstances, the courts will toll the deadline until after the completion of a criminal case against the defendant for the dame incident.
To avoid missing your statute of limitations, speak to an attorney from Manly, Stewart & Finaldi as soon as possible after realizing the psychological damages you currently suffer came from clergy abuse. A confidential consultation with our lead attorney could help you understand the myriad differences between a criminal and civil case, as well as your potential right to bring a civil claim. You do not have to wait until your abuser faces criminal charges to file a civil claim in California. Call (855) 944-0710 today.