Yes, survivors of child sexual abuse can sue under the Child Victims Act of 2023. The state passed the Act to make it easier for child sexual abuse survivors to receive justice and appropriate damages from all the parties who contributed to their suffering.
What the Child Victims Act of 2023 Says
According to the Maryland General Assembly, the Child Victim Act of 2023 changes state law regarding the definition of abuse and the length of time a survivor has to file a case against their abuser(s).
The Act goes into effect on October 1, 2023. In the meantime, you can consult an attorney with experience handling cases involving child abuse and/or clergy abuse in Maryland. They can tell you more about the measure and how it affects your legal rights.
How the Child Victims Act of 2023 Defines Abuse
Before the Act’s passage, Maryland defined an abuser as an individual close to and with “authority over the child.” It did not mention institutions’ role in allowing or perpetuating abuse.
Because of this new law, child sexual abuse survivors have more power to hold these abusive institutions accountable. For example, if a teacher or a clergyman at a Catholic school or church abused you, you could take legal action against the school or church if:
- Evidence shows the church knew about the abuse for years and did nothing.
- The church’s failure to act caused many children to suffer unnecessarily.
- By holding the institution accountable, you alert other parents to their exploitative behavior—and possibly even help to spark systemic change.
When to Sue Under the Child Victims Act of 2023
Before Maryland lawmakers passed the Act, child sexual abuse survivors had a set time to take legal action: just seven years from the date they came of age, according to Md. Cts. and Jud. Proc. § 5-117. You could sue up to 20 years after coming of age, but the law made it harder to do this.
Because of the Child Victims Act of 2023, you may now have a second chance to sue your abusers, even if the abuse occurred decades ago. The Act eliminated the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse, so you can file whenever you feel ready to. You do not need to worry about a time limit. A personal injury attorney who handles child sex abuse cases can help you explore your options.
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How to Sue Under the Child Victims Act of 2023
To pursue compensation under the Act, you must prove you are eligible to do so. This involves establishing the following four points:
- Your abuser was responsible for your well-being and should have taken reasonable action (e.g., firing abusive clergy) to protect you.
- Your abuser failed to live up to this responsibility.
- Because your abuser failed to act, you suffered sexual abuse during childhood.
- Childhood sexual abuse has negatively affected your life. This could include emotional trauma, financial or professional setbacks, and physical distress.
A sexual abuse lawyer can help you prove these points and walk you through the legal process. The steps for filing a lawsuit under the Child Victims Act may vary from case to case, but they involve the following:
- Investigating the abuse and collecting evidence to prove who the responsible individual(s) and institution(s) are
- Informing the liable parties about your lawsuit and asking them to pay you compensation
- Negotiating directly with the liable party and/or their attorneys to try to get you a fair settlement
- Taking the responsible parties to court if you and your lawyer agree that that is the best way to handle your case (instead of or in addition to negotiating a settlement)
- Working with you to resolve your case, whether that means preparing a settlement agreement or fighting in court for a jury award
You should be aware that while survivors of child sexual abuse can sue under the Child Victims Act of 2023—and the Act makes it easier than ever to do so—your legal action could still take a long time. It is not unusual for lawsuits to take months or even years to resolve.
You do not have to let that stop you from seeking justice under the Act. Your attorney can handle all matters related to the lawsuit, big and small.
Your Damages for Child Sexual Abuse
You know better than anyone how much the abuse affected your life, both at the time and in the years since. What you may not know is:
- The legal terminology for what you suffered
- What you can recover
- How to get the money you need and deserve
This is where hiring a sexual abuse attorney can help you. To start, they could talk to you about what you have gone through and determine the compensation you qualify for. This could include money for:
- Pain and suffering (physical and emotional)
- Medical and rehabilitation expenses
- Impaired quality of life
- Lost earning capacity
- Disability (physical and mental, which includes serious mental illness)
- Loss of employment
- Loss of consortium
Then your lawyer can calculate how much money you deserve. They can determine this amount based on available evidence, how much you have suffered in the past, and how much you may continue to suffer.
Finally, your lawyer would confront the liable parties on your behalf. They know the tactics defendants can use to get out of financially compensating their victims. Your attorney can stop them from successfully deploying those tactics and fight hard for the money you deserve under the Child Victims Act of 2023.
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Filing a Lawsuit Under the Child Victims Act of 2023
Survivors of child sexual abuse can sue under the Child Victims Act of 2023, but the process may not be easy to do alone. Jenner Law can help you hold everyone responsible for your abuse accountable and seek fair compensation for the harm you suffered. To learn more, call us today for a free and confidential consultation.