Recovering Damages for Sexual Abuse in Oregon
If you are a sexual abuse survivor, you are well aware that no amount of money can compensate you for what you have overcome. Pursuing compensation from your abuser or the institutions that enabled the abuse, however, can assist you in moving forward and create accountability that prevents others from being victimized in the future.
Criminal Prosecution vs. Civil Litigation
Oregon criminal laws prohibit a wide range of sex-related offenses, ranging in severity from fourth-degree to first-degree crimes. The district attorney determines whether there is enough evidence to charge a person with one of these crimes and, if so, files criminal charges and pursues a case against them. If the suspect is convicted, they may be sentenced to jail time or fined. Although the person who was abused might receive some compensation in the form of restitution, which often is minimal, the main purpose of a criminal prosecution is to punish the offender and to protect the public.
On the other hand, a civil legal action against an abuser or other responsible party, asks for compensation for the harm the survivor has suffered, be it emotionally, physically, or economically. You can sue your abuser for damages, even if they were never arrested or charged with a crime.
Kinds of Civil Actions for Sexual Abuse in Oregon
Like other personal injury cases, a lawsuit for damages against an abuser must allege that the abuser violated the rights of the person bringing the suit. This can include claims for battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, abuse of a vulnerable person, professional misconduct, vicarious liability for the acts of others, and more.
It may be possible (and advisable) to file suit against other people or organizations that share responsibility or legal liability for the abuse. A survivor of abuse may be able to bring claims like:
- Negligence against an organization, such as a church or school, that knew of ongoing abuse and failed to report or prevent it.
- Negligent hiring or supervision against an employer for abuse by their employee.
- Negligence or premises liability claims against a property owner or business that failed to provide adequate security or protection for guests or patrons.
- Violation of civil rights against a government actor such as the police or Department of Human Services.
Proving Liability in a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
The “standard of proof” is lower in a civil case than a criminal case, where a judge or jury must find a defendant guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil lawsuit, a plaintiff only needs to show that it is more likely than not that the facts alleged in the plaintiff’s lawsuit are true. If the abuser was convicted of a crime related to the abuse, it may make it easier to prove liability against them in a civil case. However, it is not necessary.
Proving that an institution is liable for damages requires that a plaintiff prove the elements of each legal claim. In a suit against an organization based on a theory of negligence, for example, a plaintiff must prove that:
- The organization had a legal duty to the plaintiff,
- The organization breached that duty,
- The plaintiff suffered damages, and
- The plaintiff’s damages were caused by the organization’s breach of its duty.
Other bases for liability, such as battery or premises liability, have different elements of proof. An experienced attorney can help you determine what claims you may have and how to pursue them.
Damages Available for Oregon Abuse Survivors
The financial and non-financial costs of sexual abuse can be substantial. The Center for Disease Control estimates that the total economic cost of sexual abuse and assault is approximately 3.1 trillion dollars in the United States. Survivors suffer direct out-of-pocket costs like medical bills, long-term financial losses such as loss of income, and a myriad of other additional expenses. They also sustain non-economic damages such as pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
A civil lawsuit can allow survivors to pursue claims for all of these different types of damages against their abuser, and the organizations that enabled them, or contributed to the abuse. Many entities have insurance that may cover sexual abuse claims. It is often possible to negotiate a settlement or use alternative dispute resolution methods to resolve your case. However, it may be necessary to pursue your case through trial before a judge or jury.
Time Limits on Oregon Sexual Abuse Claims
Like other kinds of civil lawsuits, civil actions related to sexual abuse must be filed within a certain amount of time after the abuse occurs. These are called “statutes of limitations.” Oregon law provides extra protection for survivors of child sexual abuse, allowing survivors to file claims until their 40th birthday, or even after age 40 if they file the claim within five years of making the connection between the child abuse and “the injury” under ORS 12.117. This extended statute of limitations applies to claims against anyone that knowingly allowed, permitted or encouraged the abuse. Statute of limitations issues are complicated, and not all claims fall under ORS 12.117. Moreover, special considerations apply to claims against government actors. For more information, see Children Need Lawyers: Tort Claims and the Juvenile Dependency Lawyer.
If you have been abused, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible. A compassionate, knowledgeable lawyer will help you understand your options and pursue a civil claim or claims for damages. They will act as your advocate, helping you pursue the compensation you deserve.
As an experienced sexual abuse attorney, Rob Kline understands the difficulty of coming forward against your abuser and taking action to pursue claims for sexual abuse. He prioritizes reducing the time, stress, and inconvenience of the legal process for his clients, utilizing technology like video-conferencing and email to make attorney-client communication convenient and easy. He will advocate for your rights in communications and negotiations with insurance companies and minimize your contact with your abuser, helping you obtain legal protection during the process if necessary. Contact him today to discuss the facts of your situation and your options for recovering damages.
Mr. Kline is very helpful, easy to talk with, non-judgmental, efficient and competent. He makes you feel listened to, gives helpful advice and resolves matters quickly where possible. He is good at hand-holding in what can be a potentially stressful situation. He resolved my matter with a very satisfactory outcome despite some challenges inherent in the situation. I recommend him without hesitation.
Let Rob Kline Help You
If you or a loved one are suffering from the effects of sexual abuse, the civil justice system may provide answers, accountability and compensation. Rob Kline is a highly experienced Portland personal injury attorney. Call today to get a free, confidential case evaluation.