Survivors of sexual abuse are legally entitled to compensation for the resulting harms. Unfortunately, most abusers do not have the financial capacity to fully compensate their victims. The law recognizes the unfairness of this and has imposed the doctrine of vicarious liability to help ensure that sexual abuse survivors can be fairly compensated. In appropriate circumstances, vicarious liability allows for abuse survivors to seek recovery from their abuser’s employer or that employer’s insurance company.
Experts are virtually unanimous in recognizing that childhood sexual abuse will, in almost all cases, leave lasting harms. While not able to erase the abuse, the law provides a financial remedy for these harms. In addition to compensation for “pain and suffering”, where the psychological trauma has resulted in things lie dropping out of school early, or difficulties with employment, the law provides for a significant amount of loss of income compensation. It is also common for abuse survivors to be granted compensation for psychological care may need to help recover.
Many abuse survivors are reluctant to pursue compensation for their harms given the stigma and feelings of embarrassment that often felt. Fortunately, there are several ways to ensure that a survivor’s confidentiality is protected. For example, the Court allows survivors of sexual abuse to file a lawsuit using their initials. In many cases, an experienced sexual abuse lawyer will be able to help a survivor get compensation without the need to file a lawsuit (keeping it entirely private and confidential).
The onus of proof for a survivor of sexual abuse in a civil claim is must lower than it is in a criminal case. In a civil suit, a survivor has to establish that it more likely than not that he or she is telling the truth about the abuse (something called “balance of probabilities”). In a criminal case, the abuse has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Because of its lower burden of proof, many survivors are able to bring a successful civil claim even though criminal charges may never have been filed.
A contingency fee means that you only have to pay your lawyer if you win your case, and only after you have received compensation. You do not have to fear receiving any monthly legal bills, or be concerned about being charged for every call and email to/from your lawyer. The big benefit of having a lawyer willing to work for you on a contingency fee basis is that it allows you to afford to hire a lawyer now without having to worry about the costs.
Limitation periods are set by legislation. The impose a deadline by which an injured person must file a lawsuit. For injury claims in Nova Scotia, the general limitation period is 2 years from the date of your injury. There are some important exceptions however; discoverability applies (meaning that the clock doesn’t start ticking until after you reasonably know that you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence). Also, in Nova Scotia there is no limitation period for sexual abuse claims.
Discovery examinations are an important part of the litigation process. They typically happen after you have filed a lawsuit, the defendant has filed a defence to your lawsuit and the parties have exchanged the relevant documents about the case. Discoveries allow the parties an opportunity to ask questions to the other side about the case and to assess the credibility of witnesses.