If a child has become a victim of sexual abuse, they may be entitled to financial compensation from the responsible party. You can file a lawsuit against them in court to get the money that you deserve. Although money does not erase, or even ease, the harm that you have endured, it is a small consolation and measure of accountability. First, you should contact a lawyer for child sexual abuse victims at our firm in Abbeville, SC, to help you file the lawsuit on your behalf.
The Processes in a Civil and Criminal Sex Abuse Case
In a civil sex abuse lawsuit, you will initiate the legal process when you file a case against the defendant. You may seek compensation from the organization that employed the defendant, such as when you file a lawsuit against a group home, institution, church or a school. You would initiate the legal process by filing a complaint and serving the papers on the defendant. Then, the court would control the legal process moving forward through various deadlines and scheduling orders.
In a criminal sexual assault case, the prosecutor would file charges against the defendant, and they would be taken into custody. The defendant would then go through the criminal justice process. The prosecutor could ultimately offer the defendant a plea agreement, as often happens in a criminal case.
The Burden of Proof in a Civil and Criminal Case
Thankfully, you have a lower burden of proof in a civil case than a prosecutor would need to meet in a criminal action. To win a conviction, the prosecutor would need to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The legal meaning of this term is there is no other reasonable explanation for what occurred other than the defendant’s guilt.
IIn a civil case, you must prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that it is more likely than not that the defendant did what was alleged. This standard means that your case is more likely than not to be true, which is a 51% chance. In other words, it is easier to win a civil case than it is for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction in a criminal case.
Statutes of Limitations in a Sex Abuse Case
In South Carolina, the statute of limitations in a civil sex abuse case is either:
- Six years after the plaintiff turns 21
- Three years after the discovery of your abuse
You may have difficulty obtaining financial compensation if you do not act quickly. The longer you wait the harder it may be to find evidence to support your case.
In a criminal case, there are no statutes of limitations for sex abuse cases. Prosecutors can still file charges decades later, and they often do so when victims come forward later in time. Many people have experienced abuse as a child, but they were unable to talk about the abuse. No matter when, a prosecutor can always try a suspect for a sex abuse case, regardless of whether the victim was a child or an adult.
How the Criminal Case May Affect Your Civil Case
A guilty plea in a criminal case can be used as evidence in a civil case. If the defendant pleads guilty, it usually means that they would be practically automatically liable in your civil case. If the prosecutor tries the defendant and wins a conviction, it will not mean that you can automatically win your case. However, if the prosecutor has obtained a conviction with a much higher burden of proof, you stand a good chance of winning your own case with a lower standard.
On the flip side, if the criminal defendant is not convicted, there is still a possibility that you can win your own case. There are many instances in which sex abuse victims still received a settlement, even when the defendant was not convicted. You just need to meet your own burden of proof in front of a jury.
In many cases, the defendant may reach a settlement agreement in your case because they are afraid of the potential legal liability if your case goes to a jury. Your attorney could help you negotiate an agreement that fairly compensates you while handling your case with the compassion you deserve when dealing with a traumatic episode in your life.
Contact Our Attorneys to File a Civil Lawsuit for Child Sexual Abuse in South Carolina
With a winning reputation for advocating for the rights of child sexual abuse victims throughout South Carolina, trust Hite Law Firm. Our compassionate attorneys can hear about your case today. Call us or submit our online form to request a consultation.