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Recovery For Sexual Abuse

Understanding Financial Compensation in Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Sexual abuse can have a significant and life-altering impact on survivors. Fortunately, civil claims provide an opportunity for survivors to hold at-fault parties accountable and recover financial compensation for their losses through legal means.

Levy Konigsberg is a nationally recognized trial firm with a reputation for representing victims in high-stakes and high-profile sexual abuse lawsuits across the country. We understand the tremendous toll sexual abuse can take on a person’s wellbeing and have the experience to take on even the most powerful institutions that enabled or failed to prevent abuse.

As attorneys who litigate complex cases, we’ve made it our mission to help survivors pursue the sense of justice and financial compensation that can aid in their recovery journeys. Learn how we can help you by calling (800) 315-3806 or contacting us online for a FREE and confidential consultation.

Who Can Be Sued for Sexual Assault?

Although the individual who committed an assault is the most obvious defendant in a civil action, the perpetrator is not the only party who may be liable. Many sexual assault cases that have dominated the news involve perpetrators who were employed by, or under the supervision of, entities and institutions.

There are two primary reasons for bringing sex abuse lawsuits against entities that employed or supervised offenders:

  1. Accountability. Hospitals, churches, universities, youth groups, and other intuitions have a duty to exercise diligence in their hiring procedures, properly supervise their staff and volunteers, and take timely corrective action to respond to claims of sexual abuse. Failure to properly supervise, appropriately investigate abuse allegations, and take corrective action can serve as the basis for liability in many instances. Holding institutions accountable can also prompt needed changes that prevent abuse from happening to other victims in the future.
  2. Compensation. In addition to ensuring that all responsible parties are held accountable, bringing claims against institutions can better position victims to recover the compensation they deserve. That’s because institutions generally have greater financial resources and insurance coverage than individuals who may never have the means to pay their victims, even when judgments are entered against them.

Monetary Damages in Sexual Abuse Cases

The value of a sexual abuse lawsuit is influenced by many factors, including the severity of the conduct and the impact of the abuse on the survivor. In general, plaintiffs in civil lawsuits are eligible to recover compensation for:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Anguish and emotional injuries
  • Medical bills and lost income
  • Costs of therapy and psychological counseling
  • Future medical and mental health expenses
  • Other economic and non-economic damages

Civil Lawsuits vs. Criminal Cases for Sexual Abuse

It is important to note that the damages above are awarded in civil sexual abuse lawsuits – not criminal cases. This is an important distinction for several reasons:

  1. Case Focus. Criminal cases are brought by the government and concern only a defendant’s guilt and what penalties they face if they are found guilty. Civil lawsuits, which are brought by the actual victims, concern whether a defendant is liable for a victim’s damages and how much those damages are worth.
  2. Standard of Proof. Criminal cases employ the highest burden of proof in our judicial system, whereas plaintiffs in civil cases prove liability using a lower standard. The standard of proof used in criminal cases is beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas civil claims use a standard called preponderance of the evidence, which means “more likely than not.”
  3. Separate Proceedings. Criminal and civil cases, even if they concern the same incident or events, are entirely separate proceedings.This means that criminal cases have no impact on whether survivors can bring or even prevail in a civil suit. In fact, abuse survivors may still win a civil suit if their alleged offenders are found innocent in criminal court, or never charged at all.
  4. Compensation. While criminal cases may offer victims opportunities to receive court-ordered restitution, they are not a meaningful source of compensation. That’s because criminal restitution allows only for the return of very limited losses, and because criminal prosecutors don’t represent victims or their interests; they represent the government and its goal to secure a conviction. Civil lawsuits, on the other hand, allow victims to pursue a much broader recovery of their damages, including damages that are not available through criminal restitution, with the help of advocates who solely represents their interests.

At Levy Konigsberg, we represent sex abuse survivors in civil legal actions. Our role in these cases is similar to that of a prosecutor in a criminal matter – we structure claims and gather the evidence to prove them, sometimes by prosecuting the case before a jury. Our focus, however, is not on finding a defendant guilty, but on ensuring that our clients – the victims – are fully and fairly compensated.

Seeking a Recovery: Non-Economic Damages in Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

While sexual abuse lawsuits are civil claims similar to personal injury lawsuits, they tend to focus more on the recovery of non-economic damages, rather than the recovery of large medical bills that result from physical injuries.

But while sex abuse lawsuits may not involve physical injuries in the way that personal injury claims do, they certainly involve profound emotional and psychological injuries that have the power to radiate through every aspect of a survivor’s life. These effects of sexual abuse may warrant years or a lifetime of therapy and counseling, which have tangible costs that are easy enough to compute. However, they also result in complex emotional suffering and anguish that are not as easy to translate into monetary sums.

For these reasons, it’s difficult to determine the value of a sexual abuse lawsuit, as it requires putting a price on a person’s emotional suffering. It can be as equally challenging to convey the scope of that suffering to a jury that decides a financial award or the institutions and insurers that negotiate settlements. As experienced sex abuse attorneys, we know how to do that.

At Levy Konigsberg, our attorneys have the resources needed to effectively illustrate the scope of our clients’ damages. Some of these resources include:

  • A detailed understanding of current research and scientific literature on sexual abuse and its impact on survivors.
  • Investigatory resources that allow us to evaluate the scope and severity of abuse, as well as any related retaliation, intimidation, or harassment experienced by survivors.
  • Connections with medical and mental health professionals who provide testimony about abuse, its impact on a victim, and needed future care.
  • A network of experts, including vocational and economic experts, whose insight can assist in painting a full picture of a victim’s damages.

As a leader in sex abuse litigation, Levy Konigsberg has access to trusted experts, mental health professionals, and investigatory resources that aid us in our efforts to help clients maximize their recoveries. To learn how these resources may be of benefit to you, please call to speak with a lawyer.

Examples of High-Profile Sex Abuse Recoveries

Sexual abuse litigation has produced many remarkable legal victories in recent years. And while every case is different, these matters illustrate our society’s growing understanding of the consequences of abuse and the willingness of juries to award meaningful verdicts. For example:

  • In the case of Larry Nassar, the head athletic doctor accused of sexually abusing hundreds of young women at Michigan State University (MSU), a $500 million settlement was reached - the largest known settlement over sexual abuse at a university. Under the terms of the settlement, $425 million was allocated among 330 claimants and the remaining $75 million was reserved for victims who come forward after December 6, 2017.
  • A non-profit group that tracks sexual abuse by the clergy reported that the Catholic Church has paid out nearly $4 billion in sexual abuse lawsuits dating back to the 1980s. According to the group, the largest known payout amounted to over $600 million dollars in 2007 on behalf of 221 clergy for victimizing over 500 young adults and children.
  • The Boy Scouts of America has settled dozens of lawsuits after it was revealed that it kept files on scout masters who were accused of sexual abuse, which was not disclosed to parents or authorities. In 2010, a jury in Oregon awarded $18.5 million damages to a single victim, the largest punitive damage award against the organization at that time. Since then, evidence has revealed that the scope of scout leader abuse was considerably larger than the original files had indicated, thereby paving the way for substantial future awards for victims.

Levy Konigsberg LLP is a nationally recognized law firm with an active sexual abuse litigation practice. If you or a member of your family has been the victim of sexual abuse, please contact our lawyers for a FREE and confidential consultation.


Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced lawyers via our 24/7 toll-free hotline or by submitting an email inquiry. Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.

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