An Attorney for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse in New York
We are honored to fight hard for justice for victims.
In 2020, New York State enacted the Child Victims Act. Sexual abuse victims who were once unable to file civil claims now have the option to file civil suit and seek justice under the law.
The amount of monetary compensation a victim will receive for their legal action is directly related to provable and admissible evidence of damages, such as past and future financial loss and past and future pain and suffering. To see your case through and advocate for full compensation for the abuse you suffered, the lawyer you choose will make all the difference. Keogh Crispi, P.C. knows New York’s legal system well, and we have a proven track record fighting for the injured in court.
What does the Child Victims Act do?
This law extends the limitations period to age 55 for victims to bring claims of childhood sexual abuse against their abusers. This also includes claims against an institution that negligently hires, retains and/or supervises the alleged abuser. Regardless of how long ago you were sexually abused or assaulted, you can file a civil lawsuit within the “lookback window” provided by the law. This window was extended in early 2021 and currently expires on August 14, 2021.
Hundreds of lawsuits have already been filed against major institutions, such as the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America, as well as other religious and youth organizations. Child sex abuse survivors have a right to recover monetary compensation against these institutions by whom the abuser was employed or affiliated.
You have recourse under the law.
In civil lawsuits for monetary damages, there are numerous types of perpetrators. The stereotypical sex offender who lurks on the fringes of society is usually the first to come to mind, but that is not the only type of perpetrator. Many abusers are seemingly upstanding members of society who abused their position of power and trust to gain access to victims.
There are also the institutions which should be deeply concerned with protecting children and their safety, such as schools, daycares, churches and youth organizations. While these institutions have “mandatory reporting” requirements, they are often ignored, or the institutions fail to properly train their employees about the proper reporting requirements.
You may have a claim for intentional misconduct against an individual abuser. You may also have a claim for negligence against the institution which employed the molester or allowed the molestation to occur.
The risk of sexual abuse to our children cannot be properly minimized until all third-party organizations are held accountable for screening, training and supervising the adults they hire. These people have access to our children. If an institution has failed to train their employees to respond properly to sexual abuse claims and it resulted in harm to you or your child, please contact us today. Speak to our experienced sexual abuse lawyers who can help you to secure the damages you deserve.
Criminal cases are based on violations of penal codes, which are different from state to state. If the perpetrator is convicted, they can be given a prison sentence and may also have to pay a fine. The perpetrator may also be registered as a sexual offender if they are convicted.
You may be called as a witness in a criminal case. It is up to you to decide whether you want to press charges. The district attorney decides whether the case goes to trial or not, since it is the state that will be prosecuting the perpetrator.
If a criminal case is not the best way to bring your perpetrator to court, another option is a civil lawsuit. In civil suits, the person bringing the suit is named as a party to the action, or a plaintiff, and the perpetrator is the defendant.
The plaintiff files a complaint in civil court and asks the court (the jury) to award you damages (money). The damages can be for therapy, lost work, long term consequences of the assault, earning capacity, pain and suffering, and punitive damages to punish the perpetrator.
You may also be able to sue the perpetrator’s employer or other third parties who knew or should have been aware of the perpetrator. These third parties include school districts, daycare centers, churches, social groups and other organizations which should be screening and supervising adults who might potentially abuse children.
Many of these groups involved in civil suits choose to settle before they even reach trial. The amount of money that the plaintiff may receive depends on numerous factors. These may include evidence, how strong the statute of limitations defense will be, the nature of the abuse, and the ability of the perpetrator to pay.
Are you prepared to bring a claim?
The first step is to understand why you want to bring a claim. If you know that your abuser or their employer still has access to children, consider calling Child Protective Services to report your abuse. It doesn’t matter if it’s many years later. The more specific information you can provide about the perpetrator and their access to children now, the better the chance that CPS will be able to investigate.
Survivors who initiate a civil suit leverage the entire legal system to hold their perpetrators responsible for their crimes. The goal of a civil suit is to secure money for the victim. Therefore, if you are not interested in money, a civil lawsuit may not be the best option for you. However, if you are interested in receiving money, initiating a lawsuit can provide you with the sense of justice that you have been waiting for.
If a lawsuit and the consequent possibility of a monetary return appeals to you, it is important to consider four main factors to determine how winnable a case may be:
- Statute of Limitations: You must be within the timeframe allowed for bringing a suit. This varies widely between states. Many states, including New York, have extended the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse or carved out specific windows of time in which survivors can make claims. Many survivors block out memories or realize the profound effects of the abuse on their lives many decades after the abusive event.
- Evidence: What evidence can you provide? People you may have told about the abuse at the time, others who were also abused by the same person, medical records, people who observed changes in your behavior, and direct witnesses to the abuse can all help build a case. But even if your only evidence is your own memory, you should still consider your options.
- Assets: The perpetrator must possess the assets necessary to fulfill a settlement or satisfy a judgment. Assets can include houses, rental properties, stocks and bonds, bank accounts, boats and RVs, and other valuable items. Where third parties are involved, additional assets or even insurance may be available to cover the claims of negligence in placing children at risk. This is why so many sexual abuse claims involve institutions, such as universities and religious organizations, in addition to individual perpetrators.
- Are You Mentally Ready? A civil suit is a stressful process. It is important to be self-aware about whether you’re ready at this moment to initiate a case. We consider what stage of healing you are in, your support network, whether you are in counseling, and if you are ultimately ready to start this process.
Here's what you can expect.
Before we take a case, we investigate potential witnesses, research the perpetrator’s assets, speak with the victim’s therapist, and make a thorough assessment of the situation. We then send a letter to the perpetrator.
This letter introduces Keogh Crispi, P.C. as the firm representing you. We also summarize the facts of the claim, define the legal basis for the lawsuit, and inform the perpetrator that a jury could award you a substantial damage award. In the letter, we give the perpetrator the option to avoid a lawsuit by responding quickly to the letter, and instruct them to avoid contacting you, the victim.
If this does not cause the perpetrator to settle, we file and serve the lawsuit. This initiates the “discovery” phase of the litigation process. As the victim, you may be asked to answer questions in writing (interrogatories) or produce records of your therapy bills. In some cases, your therapy records can be “discovered.”
We do our best to protect portions of your records from being “discovered” if we know that they are irrelevant to the case. Specifically, we try to keep discreet elements of your sexual history (aside from that with the perpetrator). However, your claim for damages for psychological injury places particular parts of your past in jeopardy of being “discovered.”
You may be required to give a deposition. In this process, the perpetrator’s attorney will ask you questions, which you answer under oath. Your answers are recorded by a court reporter. Your attorney will be there to closely supervise the situation and protect you from the other attorney, who may attempt to ask inappropriate questions. You have the right to stop the proceeding at any point.
Additionally, the process may require you to participate in an independent medical examination. In this process, the other side chooses a psychologist or psychiatrist to conduct an interview with you, which may include tests. You still have the right to respectful treatment.
You have the right to make a voice recording of this interview, and you may refuse inappropriate questions. At any point you have the right to stop the interview if you feel that the doctor is confusing or harassing you.
If the case has not settled by this point, it then goes to trial. It is rare for a civil case to get to this point, but you must be prepared for a public trial in which your story and the perpetrator’s stories will be told.
We’d be honored to listen to your story.
As a survivor of sexual abuse, you’re in control of what happens next. If you’re considering taking legal action, we would be honored to meet with you for a free and fully confidential consultation. There’s absolutely no pressure to take legal action. You’ll get candid answers about your legal options and what the process may look like if you exercise those options. Contact us online or give us a call today to speak with attorney Pat James Crispi.