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About 60,000 children are victims of “substantiated or indicated” sexual abuse each year in the United States. The statistics surrounding child sexual abuse in Washington are equally alarming, but behind the numbers, are the survivors who suffer the lifelong effects. Those harmed physically or emotionally from sexual abuse, deserve all the assistance to help them live a happy, healthy life moving forward.
Navigating the law when it’s not part of your daily life, coupled with the emotional weight of your trauma, can make winning your case feel impossible. A child sexual abuse attorney in Washington with the right experience can help. Whether you’re advocating for yourself or a child, let’s review why a civil claim for child sexual abuse is likely your best option.
Criminal vs Civil Cases
Sexual abuse is defined as unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent. In the state of Washington, sexual assault is a catchall phrase used to refer to certain sex crimes like rape or sexual misconduct with a minor.
To help make sense of what legal options are available to survivors of child sexual abuse and their advocates, first, it’s important to understand the two branches of the judicial system in Washington.
Why File a Civil Claim for Child Sexual Abuse?
There are two distinct justice systems in the state of Washington, the criminal justice system and the civil justice system. Washington Law Center and its attorneys engage in the civil law process, where the burden of proof for victims is far lower than in criminal matters.
In the criminal justice system, you have to prove your case “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which most people interpret as nearly 100%. In the civil justice system, attorneys must only prove your case is “more probable than not”, which is typically interpreted as 51%.
Even if criminal charges can’t be brought against your abuser, there is likely still time to proceed with a civil claim. The time for a victim to bring a cause of action, like filing a civil claim, is referred to as the statute of limitations.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse in Washington?
The statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse in Washington is broadly interpreted by our courts. It’s not the same as a criminal case, therefore it gives abuse survivors more time to make the connection between childhood sexual abuse and emotional harm or damage. Years and even decades can pass, and a civil claim for childhood sexual abuse can still be brought.
Even if you win your civil lawsuit for childhood sexual abuse, it doesn’t make the trauma go away. The only redress is typically monetary compensation for victims to help ease the burden and bring closure.
We encourage all victims of sexual abuse to call for a free consultation with one of our dedicated, experienced personal injury attorneys. It’s not too late to get justice.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Sexual Abuse Case?
Anyone who abused you or failed to prevent childhood sexual abuse should be held accountable. In Washington, abusers themselves can be held liable, and we’ve also filed many successful claims for victims where entities and institutions have failed children. This includes churches, the state (DSHS, CPS, DCYF), schools and administrators, Boy Scouts and other clubs, daycare, sports clubs—truly any entity that has care of children and fails to vet its employees and volunteers.
Not all law firms have the resources to pursue these claims but Washington Law Center attorneys do. We’re here to listen and take action.
How Do I Win a Civil Claim for Child Sexual Abuse?
Although a sexual assault incident in Washington can result in criminal charges (like jail time and fines), a civil lawsuit is usually the way for a victim to get monetary compensation for any harm suffered because of the abuse. This is also referred to as “damages”.
In this case, the purpose of a civil claim is to compensate victims for the lifelong effect of child sexual abuse. Even if it happened years ago, you can still get financial compensation for damages against your abuser or liable institutions. Damages may include emotional distress, pain and suffering, quality of life, and earning capacity.
Regardless if there were or were not criminal charges brought against your abuser, a victim can still find success in a civil lawsuit. Survivors of child sexual abuse may be comforted to know that civil law can work to their advantage.
We believe that having an attorney with the knowledge to explore all options at each stage will help you navigate the litigation and trial process in order to secure the best outcome.
Pay No Fee Until You Win
To help ease financial stress, Washington Law Center attorneys work for you on a contingency fee basis, meaning you pay no attorney fees while your case is open. In contrast to an hourly fee, contingent fee attorneys receive a percentage of the monetary amount their client receives when they settle a case. If no money is awarded to you at the end of your case, no fees are due.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ashton Dennis is a litigation and trial attorney at Washington Law Center focused on representing individuals and families who have suffered a serious personal injury or wrongful death. He was named one of the “Top 40 Under 40” by the National Trial Lawyers of Washington State and one of the “Premier 100” trial attorneys by the American Academy of Trial Lawyers in Washington. Click here to learn more about Ashton.