Receiving Compensation From the Independent Compensation Program

The Independent Compensation Program began accepting claims on September 16th, 2019 and will continue doing so until March 31st, 2020. Six California Catholic dioceses came together to create the program in the spirit of honesty, transparency and recompense for survivors. Diocesan leaders involved in the program have stated that while financial compensation will not make up for the trauma survivors have suffered, they hope it will allow them to focus on healing in peace. If you are eligible to file a claim with the Independent Compensation Program, find out what to expect from the compensation process.

How Will Compensation Amounts Be Determined?

The Independent Compensation Program uses two unbiased third-party administrators: Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille Biros. Mr. Feinberg is a mediation attorney who also served as Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Ms. Biros is his longtime associate, also with years as a private compensation program administrator. These administrators will oversee all claims to the Independent Compensation Program and determine appropriate compensation amounts for eligible claimants.

The factors the claims administrators will use to evaluate a particular claim vary. They will analyze the summary of events as detailed by the claimant, any supporting documents presented and a voluntary statement from the claimant or his or her legal representative. Then, they will use factors such as the nature and extent of the claimant’s harm, physical injuries and/or psychological damage from clergy sexual abuse. The ongoing effects of abuse as well as documented medical care, counseling or medications can all impact the value of a claim.

What Happens After a Claim Is Filed?

Upon filing a claim, the administrators will review it and process any supporting documents. The two administrators have the right to involve additional staff members as needed to thoroughly evaluate claims. They will first evaluate the claim for validity. If the claim is incomplete, the administrators will contact the claimant to request additional information. 

If the administrators believe a claim is fraudulent, they will forward it to law enforcement agencies for investigation and possible prosecution. If the administrators successfully validate the claim and believe the claimant deserves compensation, they will determine an appropriate amount based on the facts of the case. The administrators have sole discretion over the amount of compensation offered.

When Will Claimants Receive Payment?

If the administrators accept a claim and wish to offer a settlement, they will notify the claimant in writing of their decision. The written notice will include the amount of compensation offered along with a release the claimant must sign if he or she wishes to accept the offer. Upon signing the release, the claimant will forfeit all future rights to file a lawsuit against the diocese for the same incident of sexual abuse. The claimant has 60 days to respond in writing to the administrators’ offer before it will expire.

How Will Payments Be Made?

Before signing the release, the claimant must use an attorney (either a private lawyer or one the program provides) to review the terms of the release. Accepting the administrators’ offer and sending in the signed release will trigger the payment process. The administrators will authorize payment of the agreed-upon amount through a check or electronic funds transfer to the claimant. Checks will come via overnight courier. The program’s website states that administrators will pay an eligible claim within about two weeks from the time they receive the claimant’s release form. A successful claim from start to finish will take an estimated 90 days.

Are There Other Options for Compensation for Survivors?

The Independent Compensation Program can be a good choice for claimants who have surpassed their statutes of limitations on civil lawsuits. It may not, however, be the right move for you if you are still within the time limit to bring a civil claim. A lawsuit against the Diocese and/or other parties could result in a much higher compensation award than what the administrators are likely to grant through the Independent Compensation Fund. Discuss all your potential options for compensation with one of the CA sex abuse attorneys at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi today. Call (855) 944-0710 for a free clergy abuse case review.