Few forms of abuse are as despicable as child sexual abuse. Like abuse of the elderly and the disabled, child abuse involves the very worst forms of illegal acts performed on some of the most vulnerable individuals in society. When these acts are perpetrated by a member of the clergy–people held in high esteem and who are respected and revered in the community–the crime is especially despicable and disgraceful.
Clergy abuse is not new and has gone on for at least the last half-century or more. However, this serious issue just started receiving the attention it deserves. Contact our New Jersey clergy abuse lawyer if you or someone you know or love suffered abuse at the hands of a clergy member. Nothing can change the past, but by taking action today, you may be able to secure awards, civil damages, and even pursue a criminal case against your abuser. Call the Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 219-9622.
Abuse by the Clergy
Most instances of clergy abuse involve crimes committed against children who are under the age of 18. According to the Cleveland Clinic, child abuse can take different forms, such as sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. Such crimes result in personal injury and criminal violations. You may be able to seek justice not just from the clergy member or individuals who abused you but also from an organization or entity that facilitated the abuse, such as a church. Here are a few examples of how things might play out.
A Civil Action Against the Church
You may be able to sue a church or a diocese if you can prove that a district or an organization knew about the abuse but did nothing to prevent it or even enabled it and covered up for the predatory clergy member who abused you.
Vicarious liability means that even if an employer is not at fault, they may still hold accountability for the acts of their employees.
Technically, the clergy are employees of the church, but acts of abuse fall beyond the scope of what the church empowers its employees to do. As such, in some jurisdictions across the country, you cannot sue a church for a clergy member’s unlawful acts. You must connect acts of the church itself–such as turning a blind eye to abuse or not reporting it–to be able to hold the church accountable in some way.
For cases in which the rules of vicarious liability do not apply, you may be able to hold the church liable for failing to perform a background check on an abusive priest or covering up acts of abuse perpetrated by the priest at other churches or other dioceses. In such cases, you may have grounds to sue the church, seek awards, and press charges against the clergy member guilty of abuse.
Cases involving child abuse, sexual abuse, and abuse by the clergy are very sensitive, and understandably so. Some victims may prefer to settle out of court so that they can get the closure they need and the awards they deserve without having to fully reopen the wounds of the past in a setting as public as a court hearing. We understand these needs and can provide honest advice and guidance based on the law.
Our New Jersey clergy abuse lawyer can assess an initial settlement or represent you at trial if necessary.
Statutes of limitations refer to deadlines for filing lawsuits. For sex abuse or clergy abuse cases, missing a statute of limitations will make it difficult for you to pursue a case. To put it another way, statutes of limitations are windows of opportunity for legal action. Once the window is closed, you may lose your right to take the same legal actions.
§ 2C:24-4 of the New Jersey Statutes provides details on filing deadlines for various forms of abuse. If you miss a filing deadline, you risk your chance of recovering awards or taking a case of clergy abuse to civil or criminal court.
The statutes of limitations vary from state to state and from case to case. For example, some medical injury statutes are between two and six years. The same applies to some car accident claims. For sexual abuse and the abuse of minors, some states have set the time limit to any time before the victim reaches the age of 55, and other states have no limit.
Filing and Compensation
Only a parent or legal guardian of a minor can file a claim or lawsuit on their child’s behalf. If you suffered abuse yourself but are now an adult, you can file a claim on your own.
The types of compensation you may be entitled to include compensation for pain and suffering, lost income, therapy and treatment costs, and punitive damages against your abuser. Other medical treatment costs, including medications and various forms of care, may also apply to your case.
Every case is unique. We can investigate the circumstances surrounding your claim and collect evidence to put forward a formal claim with the right courts. This can allow us to initiate the process of seeking the awards. Some awards may apply to one case but not another, so we can quantify the value of your claim, add any expenses–both economic as well as noneconomic–and file your claim after determining the correct statutes of limitations that we must meet.
Our New Jersey clergy abuse lawyer is here to help every step of the way, so call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm for help with abuse of any kind. Please call us for a free, no-obligation case evaluation by dialing (800) 219-9622.