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Starting and Ending a Clergy Sexual Abuse Case


Washington was one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to abolish the statute of limitations in these cases, if the victim was under 16 at the time of the abuse. Lawmakers also extended the SOL in most other sexual abuse cases. The statute of limitations, which cuts off a victim’s right to obtain compensation after a certain number of years passes, might be the largest procedural obstacle to a sex abuse or other personal injury claim, especially a toxic exposure or other such injury claim, in Washington.

When a trusted preacher or other clergy member betrays the trust of a young child, the resulting abuse causes lifelong injuries. These victims often feel like they have nowhere to turn. But they can turn to a Seattle child sex abuse lawyer. Legal actions hold abusers, and the entities that employed them, responsible for sex abuse that happened so long ago. Perhaps more importantly, legal actions give victims the compensation they need to live their lives.

Important Questions When Building a Claim

Before building a claim, a Seattle personal injury lawyer must address an important question that jurors are sure to ask, at least in their own minds. Why didn’t the victim come forward earlier? The reasons usually boil down to fear and uncertainty.

People like church pastors, choir directors, and youth ministers are usually the most powerful adults children know. If they say or imply they’ll retaliate against children who come forward, the victim has every reason to take that threat seriously.

Fear of unbelief is a legitimate fear as well. If any matter comes down to the word of a small child against the word of a trusted adult, almost no one, not even family members, will believe the child.

Unbelief is more likely since, early on, the victim probably doesn’t recall the whole story. Our brains block traumatic memories. Fragmented or inconsistent testimony, even if true, is unreliable testimony, as far as most people and most courts are concerned.

Many children also aren’t sure if what happened to them was wrong. They’re unclear about sexual boundaries. They often, and naturally, assume that the abuser likewise wasn’t aware of these boundaries.

If a lawyer successfully addresses these issues, the remainder of the case-building process is often downhill. The burden of proof in a civil claim is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, if a child’s credible allegations match the alleged abuser’s employment history (e.g. the abuse coincided with work at a church), a jury can conclude that it’s more likely than not that these allegations are true.

Resolving a Claim

Most personal injury claims, including most clergy sex abuse claims, settle out of court. These resolutions benefit victim/plaintiffs.

For one thing, victims don’t have to confront their abusers. An attorney can usually arrange for safeguards and accommodations in this area, but the judge usually has the final word. Additionally, settlements avoid an emotional courtroom showdown and allow victims to move on with their lives sooner.

Frequently, if settlement negotiations stall, the parties will participate in a mediation. During mediation, both sides have a duty to negotiate in good faith. Mostly because of this rule, mediation is about 90 percent successful in civil cases.

Work With a Knowledgeable King County Lawyer

Child sex abuse victims have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Seattle, contact the Emerald Law Group.


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