Children deserve to be protected, cared for and cherished. When children’s innocence and rights are violated and ripped away by sexual abuse or serious physical abuse, it can have devastating and life long impacts. It can lead to pain, physical or psychological suffering. It can interfere with your education and career options. It can also lead to the need for costly and ongoing treatment.
For years, people who were victims of childhood sexual or serious physical abuse had no where to turn. However, community expectations have changed. As a consequence of the community’s outrage around the breach of duty of care to children, governments in Australia have removed the main barrier to seeking compensation.
If an organisation or government body breached their duty of care to protect the child, then the survivor of the abuse can pursue a lump sum damages claim for negligence.
While no amount of money can every truly compensate someone for the horror of their childhood abuse, a claim can provide a sum of money to reflect the impact the injury has had on your life.
Suffering the impact of your childhood sexual abuse is distressing enough. Trying to find money to pay for lawyers to pursue your rights can also seem impossible for most.
But don’t feel like you have to take action alone. Insurers typically pay much less to people who don’t have lawyers. This is because gathering enough evidence to prove your case is complex and insurers are not likely to tell you what you should be claiming for. In short, if you go it alone, you could actually end up worse off.
We acknowledge that people during these times cannot afford to pay for a lawyer or for experts to provide medico-legal reports. So, to improve access to justice, we offer No Win No Fee cost arrangements. This means that if we obtain compensation on your behalf for your personal injury claim, then you don’t need to pay our professional fees.
We offer a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION to find out if you have a valid claim for compensation.
Also, unlike some other law firms who act for survivors of abuse, we do not charge an extra “uplift” on our fees. What we charge is clear at the start of your claim. So you don’t have to worry if the fees are going to jump by up to 25% due to an “uplift”.
The first step is to meet with us to tell us your story. We will calmly and compassionately assist you to record the details of your abuse. We acknowledge this is a tough step for you, but we help guide you through this process.
We will then start gathering evidence to help you prove where and when you were located at the time of the abuse. This can include requesting records from government departments, schools, institutions or medical providers. We will also gather evidence to prove the impact the abuse had on your educational outcomes and your job prospects. If you have documentation or information that can help prove your case, we will work with you to identify and secure that evidence.
If you still have them, keep any records that show your connection to the abuse or the institution or location where the abuse occurred (e.g. photos, school records etc.).
Keep your receipts for treatment, medication, travel to treatment providers. Keep a record of time taken off work or jobs knocked back because of the injury. It is also helpful to keep a diary recording the impact the abuse had and continues to have on your life and your work. This can all be used to prove your loss when it comes time to negotiate a settlement.
We understand that the prospect of legal action can be daunting – survivors often wonder if they will need to appear in an open court and tell their story or be cross examined. This rarely occurs. In fact, most states allow for an out of court settlement. We will help guide you through the appropriate process for your claim.
Gather all other relevant documentation and evidence to prove your loss and the impact of the that the abuse experience has had on you.
It is a necessary step that we arrange for an independent medical examination with a specialist who will provide expert opinion evidence about the impact the abuse experience has had on your life (both in the past and into the future). The specialists we use for cases such as yours are very experienced in abuse and trauma, so while the thought of speaking with a psychologist or psychiatrist may be confronting if you haven’t seen one in the past, rest assured you will be in the best of care.
Once all the supporting documentation and information has been gathered, negotiations commence with the relevant institution to settle your damages claim for a lump sum amount. This includes amounts for pain and suffering, treatment expenses (including future expenses), loss of income, future loss of earning capacity, future treatment and care costs. Sometimes the negottiations are held as a mediation.
If a satisfactory level of compensation is not achieved at an out-of-court mediation, the next step is to progress to the litigation phase. There is a possibility that the litigation phase will lead to a trial. However, very few matters get to a trial. But if it does, a court will assess a claim based on the evidence, expert reports and legal submissions.
Many States now have (or are introducing) new laws that may give you the right to pursue a claim even though you settled a claim for a small amount prior to the deadline being lifted. These types of settlements are typically referred to as ex-gratia; meaning that although you brought your claim before the law reform the respondent institution paid you a sum out of moral obligation. Therefore, don’t let the previous settlements stop you from exploring whether you have a further valid claim.
We can review your case and advise on whether a further claim should be pursued. This is a complex area of law and we recommend you get legal advice if you have any concerns.