How Does Filing a Sexual Abuse Claim/Lawsuit Work? 

Filing a claim/lawsuit can involve several steps. Fortunately, our team is trained to make sure this process is as smooth and easy as possible for you. Filing a lawsuit starts with you contacting our firm for a free and confidential legal consultation. A trauma-informed advocate will discuss your legal options with you and learn about your experience of abuse and how it has impacted your life. Our team will then take some time to evaluate many aspects of your potential lawsuit. If, after evaluating your potential lawsuit, we determine there is a “good faith basis to file a claim”, we will discuss a representation agreement and a general timeline regarding filing a lawsuit on your behalf. When we file a lawsuit it is filed publicly in court and we are not able to change that. However, we can file a lawsuit under a pseudonym, like John or Jane Doe, instead of using your name. That way your identity can remain anonymous and confidential when we file a lawsuit on your behalf.

To learn more about this legal process and your legal options, contact us.

What is the Legal Process After I Sign Paperwork?

A legal case is initiated by a lawsuit or “complaint.” The complaint is filed in court. The filing of the complaint triggers numerous deadlines that the attorney has to meet to move the case forward. However, every case is different. If you decide to hire us as your attorneys, we will discuss a course of action that best suits you and your situation.

My Case is Filed. Then What Happens?

There are numerous deadlines that get triggered once a complaint (lawsuit) is filed. This may include your attorneys filing additional paperwork and you providing additional information to share with the other side. In some instances, an entity that gets sued in your complaint might file for bankruptcy. Your attorney and legal team will keep you apprised of the status of your case as it moves forward.

Who Will My Lawsuit be Against? Will the Person Who Abused Me be Sued?

An individual analysis is done in every case to determine who and what entity/entities to bring the lawsuit against. If you contact our firm and we decide to work together, an attorney will explain this to you and make sure you understand who your lawsuit will be filed against.

What Happens if the Diocese or the Religious Order Declares Bankruptcy?

First, it’s worth clarifying what declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy means. Unlike Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where the debtor liquidates business assets to pay its creditors (usually at the cost of maintaining business operations), Chapter 11 is a bankruptcy process in which the debtor maintains control of its business and property while the court supervises its restructuring and the implementation of a plan to repay creditors. In the vast majority of Catholic Chapter 11 bankruptcies, the diocese or religious order has declared bankruptcy on the eve of potentially embarrassing civil child sexual abuse trials or depositions.

If the diocese in which you were sexually abused files for bankruptcy, we will send you an email informing you of this update, as well as other information as to how this might impact your case. We will also be available to take phone calls if you have questions or wish to discuss the situation in more detail. Eventually, a claims bar date will be set. A claims bar date is the deadline set by the court by which all claims/lawsuits need to be submitted in bankruptcy court. Every bankruptcy case is different, but a sexual abuse survivor can anticipate the bankruptcy process will likely last multiple years before a resolution is officially reached.

We have decades of experience, exposing clergy child sexual abuse crimes and crimes in many other institutions such as in schools (public and private), camps, sports facilities, and Boy Scouts of America.  Contact us for a free confidential conversation about how we can hold perpetrators and institutions accountable, and create a safer world for children now and in the future.

How Long Does the Average Case Last?

We cannot predict how long a lawsuit will take to reach a resolution. The typical length of a lawsuit can last on average anywhere from two to five years.

Will I Have to Testify in Court or be Deposed?

It depends. In most civil lawsuits, the person filing the lawsuit (the “Plaintiff”) has their deposition taken by the other side. This process typically takes place in a conference room with your attorney present. Not in a courtroom. The legal process may be different if an entity that issued files for bankruptcy. Your legal team and attorney will discuss this with you well in advance of your testimony.

Are Class Action Lawsuits Bad for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse?

Every survivor has a unique experience, and no two survivors were impacted by the sexual abuse in the same way. Every survivor that we represent has his or her own individual case. Our law firm does not file class-action lawsuits.

What Does it Mean if My Case is “Coordinated?”

A case coordination allows all the lawsuits to be managed by one judge instead of multiple judges in different counties. This makes the litigation process more efficient and ensures uniform application of the law across all cases within the coordination. This approach has been and is currently being taken in California. If you have further questions about this process, please contact us and we can address your questions and concerns.

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