What Is a Civil Abuse Claim?
Basically, this means bringing a legal claim for monetary compensation in respect of sexual and/or physical abuse or assault either against an organisation or an individual.
What Is the Difference Between the Criminal and Civil Process?
Where an assault has happened or a pattern of abuse has occurred this is likely to also amount to a criminal offence. Crimes will be investigated by the police and prosecutions will be brought by the Crown Prosecution Service against the individual who committed the crime. The CPS are basically the lawyers and they will take the accused person to court. The criminal process has its own set of rules and procedures and cases are dealt with in the Magistrates court and the Crown Court. If an individual is convicted of a crime they will be sentenced. Sentences can include fines, community orders and imprisonment.
The civil claims process is very different. There are a separate set of rules that govern civil claims and the cases are dealt with in the County Court and the High Court. You as the Claimant in the case will bring the claim with the help of your lawyers. The claim will usually be brought against the organisation, company or authority that was responsible for the person who abused you. If your claim is successful you will be awarded compensation. It is possible to achieve other outcomes such as an apology.
Who Do I Bring My Civil Claim for Compensation Against?
We will advise you as to the most appropriate body or organisation to pursue your claim against. The opponent in your case will be known as the defendant. Civil law states that local authorities, companies and other organisations will be liable for abuse and assaults committed by their employees or persons in their control. Here are a few examples
- A local authority will be responsible for the actions of the staff in their children's homes
- A Catholic diocese will be responsible for the actions of its priests
- An NHS trust will be responsible for the actions of its doctors and nurses
- The Scout Association will be responsible for the actions of its Scout leaders
Not every case is straightforward. The law is constantly changing and developing and it is our job as your specialist solicitor to advise you and to ensure that we pursue your claim against the appropriate defendant. It is important that the defendant has the ability to pay you compensation. Most defendants will have insurance or sufficient assets, but some do not. We have the expertise required to gather all the necessary information and to ensure that your claim progresses as smoothly as possible and that you recover the compensation that you are entitled to.
What Can I Claim For?
In pursuing your civil claim for abuse or assault, we will be seeking damages. Damages is the term used to refer to a sum of money to compensate you not only for the sexual or physical abuse or assaults that you have suffered but also for the pain and suffering that this has caused you. The sum we will seek to recover will not only reflect the severity of the abuse, but also the effect upon your life, your mental health and your well-being. We know that people are affected in different ways by abuse and assault.
In some cases, we may also be able to claim for any financial losses that you have suffered as a direct result of the abuse such as loss of earnings or money you have spent on private counselling or treatment. We can also look to recover the costs of any future treatment you may need.
Many of our clients often want something more than monetary compensation and want an apology for what happened to them. This is something that we may also be able to obtain from the defendant as part of any settlement.
How Do You Work Out What Effect the Abuse Has Had on Me?
Our many years of experience in dealing with abuse compensation claims means that we are experts in assessing your claim and its potential value. We will gather evidence to demonstrate how you have been affected by the abuse. This will include not only your own account of how you feel but also copies of any relevant medical records. In most cases, we will also need to obtain a report from an independent medical expert who will prepare a report and give an opinion on how you have been affected and whether you have or are suffering from any recognised mental illness or psychological conditions caused by the abuse. The expert will also make recommendations for the future and will confirm whether you would benefit from any treatment or counselling in the future.
Will I Have To Go to Court?
Most likely not!
Civil claims for compensation for sexual and physical abuse can be and usually are dealt with outside the court process. The opponent in your claim will be given the opportunity to settle your claim without recourse to the courts. If the opponent is not willing to settle your claim or is not willing to pay you a sum that we consider fair and reasonable then we will advise you whether you should issue proceedings to start the court process.
Even where court proceedings have to be issued there is a very high chance that your claim would actually go to a final hearing. In our experience, less than 2% of our cases actually end up at a final court hearing.
Will I Have To Face My Abuser?
In the very small percentage of cases that do actually end up at a final court hearing, there is always the possibility that the abuser will be called as a witness. The abuser would not be present throughout the whole case and in fact, in most cases, the fact of the abuse itself is not disputed so there is no need for the abuser to be involved.
How Long Will My Claim Take?
We pride ourselves on progressing claims quickly and efficiently. There are some factors that are out of your solicitor's control and some types of abuse claims may take longer than others depending on the amount of evidence that needs to be gathered. We will give you our best estimate at the outset of your case and keep you updated. Generally, we expect cases to be completed in months not years!
Do I Have To Report the Abuse to the Police or Anyone Else?
If you have suffered from a sexual or physical assault it is likely that a crime has also been committed against you. We always encourage our clients to report matters to the police if they have not done so already. It can often be helpful to the civil claim if there has been a police report or if the abuser or perpetrator has been convicted as the police will often uncover useful evidence as part of their investigation. We can apply for and use that evidence in your civil case.
I Was in Care as a Child. Will You Be Able To Get My Social Care Records and Will I Be Able To Have a Copy?
Different local authorities have different retention policies when it comes to social care records. If your care records are relevant to your case and are available we will be able to obtain a copy. We often get asked by our clients if they can see their records. We usually advise that you wait until the end of your case to have your full set of records. We also encourage our clients to think carefully about whether they want to see them and if they do to make sure that they have support from a friend or family member to hand when they do look at them as the contents of childhood records can be upsetting and you may even discover information about yourself or your family that you were not aware of.
If we do not need your social care records as part of your civil case, we can also advise you on how to obtain these yourself.