Sexual abuse by clergy members has received more scrutiny from lawyers and law enforcement over the last few decades. It has become clear that clergy sexual abuse was a bigger problem than most people realized for a long time. Victims continue to come forward and take legal action to hold clergy members accountable. Legal systems across the country, including in Alabama, have taken a tougher stance on clergy abuse and gave victims the support they need to take a stand.
Still, many victims have concerns about the potential problems of coming forward and reporting their abuse. Doing so can be difficult emotionally but can have multiple positive effects for victims and their loved ones. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has studied the impact of child abuse and neglect on victims. By speaking up, victims can help protect others from future abuse.
If you or a loved one is the victim of clergy sexual abuse, you can discuss your case with an Alabama clergy sexual abuse lawyer to see what legal options you have. You could qualify for compensation for the medical bills and emotional trauma you’ve endured because of abuse. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 219-9622 for a free case review with a team member.
Alabama Clergy Sexual Abuse Laws
Sexual abuse laws have changed across the country to give victims greater protection when coming forward. Many states have extended the time that victims must report abuse and changed who must report abuse when they learn about it. Unfortunately, Alabama still has mandatory reporting laws that do not include some people who will most likely find out about the abuse.
Alabama clergy members under AL Code § 26-14-3(f) do not have to report any abuse allegations discovered “solely in a confidential communication … privileged as protected by law.” This exception means that clergy members can find out about abuse through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and not take legal action, leaving many victims vulnerable to further abuse. Fortunately, many religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, have mandatory internal reporting rules so that higher-level officials can intervene and act immediately.
Liability in clergy abuse cases can become complicated under specific circumstances. You can hold the abuser liable for their actions. In some cases, this is the extent of the liability. However, past events have shown that religious organizations could also have legal liability for the abuse. In the past, dioceses covered up abuse in an extensive operation to protect themselves from the potential fallout of abuse charges. As a result, victims can hold these churches and diocese liable as well.
Liability extends to the religious organization itself if officials knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop abusers. Likewise, any attempt to cover up abuse also exposes them to liability. Many organizations receive training on spotting abuse and various methods to prevent and respond to different abuse types.
According to the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention, signs of possible sexual abuse include:
- Inappropriate displays of affection
- Being more sexually aware than kids their age
- Pain while urinating
- Difficulty walking or sitting
An Alabama clergy sexual abuse lawyer will investigate who could have known about the abuse to see if you can hold others besides the abuser responsible for your injuries. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today to learn more.
Possibly Recoverable Compensation
A personal injury lawsuit could recover compensation for a variety of different claims. For instance, if you have incurred medical bills related to visits to psychologists or therapists, you could receive awards to reimburse you for this expense.
Pain and suffering is another common claim in abuse cases since the abuse can profoundly impact your mental and emotional well-being. Many victims live for years with the trauma exacting a toll on every part of their lives. For example, you might struggle to maintain a steady job, making it harder to earn a living.
A clergy abuse lawyer can help you determine the full extent of your injuries and calculate how much you should claim in your suit.
Settlement vs. Trial
Abuse cases against religious organizations tend to result in settlement agreements. The liable parties will likely offer you a settlement as a means of ending the case before going to trial. You can reject the offer, and your case will continue until it goes to trial.
A settlement allows you to negotiate the amount of compensation you receive and any other terms that you consider essential to getting the justice and closure you deserve. You collect compensation to cover pressing bills and can focus on getting your life back on track.
Before you accept any offer, you might want to take the time to review the agreement thoroughly with your lawyer. You want to make sure that the amount of compensation offered will cover your immediate and long-term abuse-related expenses. Many victims forget to consider long-term care and other related costs when negotiating their settlements. This omission can leave you with long-term financial issues without the ability to take legal action to address them in the future.
Seeking Legal Action
If you plan on taking legal action against your abuser, start the process by discussing your case with an Alabama clergy sexual abuse lawyer. You have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit called the statute of limitations, and AL Code § 6-2-38 sets a two-year time limit on personal injury suits. When discussing your case with an attorney, you can determine if the statute of limitations has expired, and what changes in the legal system might provide additional time to start your case.
Speak to a Lawyer About Your Case
You might find it difficult to report sexual abuse, especially if a clergy member you trusted committed it. However, more victims come forward every day, taking legal action to hold their abusers accountable. With the help of an Alabama clergy sexual abuse lawyer, you could join the ranks of those seeking justice from their abuser.
If you or a loved one is the victim of clergy sexual abuse, you could receive compensation to address your pain and suffering. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 219-9622 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.