A Change in the New Jersey Law
Sexual abuse can have a profound effect on victims’ physical and psychological health, creating problems ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to drug and alcohol addiction. Often survivors grapple with underlying issues which makes their daily life a struggle.
On May 13, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill that will make it easier for survivors of sexual abuse to bring civil claims against their attackers or from institutions – like the church or the boy scouts– which shielded their abuse. New Jersey is the 11th state to pass such a statute of limitations bill, and the reform is pending in several other states. New Jersey’s law is unique because it includes a window for those who were sexually assaulted as adults to file lawsuits.
Currently, New Jersey law allows survivors of sexual abuse only two years to pursue litigation and allows victims of child sexual abuse until age 20 to pursue civil claims. The law takes effect on December 1, 2019 and targets the individuals who commit the sexual assault and the nonprofits like churches, athletic organizations, schools and community organizations for whom they worked.
The new law (S477) offers victims of child sexual abuse the ability to sue their abusers up until they turn 55, or within seven years of their realization that the abuse caused them harm. Further, the new law gives all abuse survivors who were once barred from bringing claims because of the small statute of limitations, two years to file a claim for the abuse they suffered, regardless of their current age. The clock would begin December 1, 2019 and close November 30, 2021.
Common Examples of Sexual Abuse and Assault
Sadly, minors are often taken advantage of by those they trust and who have some level of power over them. Perpetrators of abuse often include but are not limited to:
- Religious figurehead (i.e. priest/pastor)
- Foster parent(s)
- Law enforcement officer(s)
- Medical professional(s)
As previously mentioned, what constitutes sexual abuse depends on a number of factors, but generally falls under two broad categories:
Victims who are considering filing a claim under the newly authorized statute should note that even if their victimizer was acquitted in a criminal court, they still have the ability to file a civil lawsuit. The standard of evidence in a civil lawsuit, which is known as the “preponderance of the evidence,” is often much easier to prove, and thus, the survivor has an increased likelihood of obtaining some form of recovery for their pain and suffering.
Who Can Be Held Responsible
The Catholic Church in New Jersey released a list of almost 200 priests and others who it concluded have been the subject of credible allegations of child sexual abuse. The list was released individually by the state’s five dioceses and included priests who were taken out of ministry after a scandal that led to changes in the way the church dealt with child abuse. The list is continually being updated. It has been widely speculated that most of the priests on the list were deceased. So is all hope lost for a survivor? Not necessarily.
Alongside the perpetrators who committed the actual crime, there are third parties that can be held liable for their failure to protect the victim or for their negligent behavior. These third parties can include but are not limited to:
- Institutions, organizations, and/or employers who are responsible for the actions of their employees including:
- Religious Institutions (i.e., Catholic church, Mormon church, etc.)
- Youth Organizations (i.e., Boy Scouts, YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, etc.)
- Schools and/or Academies
- Salvation Army
Compensation Survivors May Receive
Your New Jersey sexual abuse lawyers at Hach & Rose, LLP recognize that no amount of monetary compensation can ever make up for the adversity and anguish you have had to endure as the victim of sexual abuse or a sexual assault crime. We only hope that our representation is able to provide you with some measure of closure and help you to begin the healing process.
Our experienced New Jersey attorneys will fight for you or your loved one in order to recover compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of income due to injury
- Stolen or damaged property
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages
Our team will do a thorough analysis of all available resources and avenues for compensation so that you receive all recovery that is rightfully yours.