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Child molestation is one of the most heinous sexual assault acts anyone could ever commit. It is a great breach of trust which carries lifelong consequences, especially since the perpetrator is often a person the child knows.
Sadly, the criminal justice system often fails these young victims just as it often fails adult victims. Here at the offices of Daniel P. Hartstein young victims and their caretakers take control and rebuild their lives and pursue other methods of punishing perpetrators with civil lawsuits.
Yes. The two are totally separate cases with completely different purposes, and you are free to pursue either or both. In addition, the outcome of one case has no bearing on the validity of the other.
A criminal case is meant to convict the perpetrator of the crime, resulting in jail time and other punishments.
The burden of proof is also very different. To convict the perpetrator, the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a defendant molested the child. The perpetrator is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It’s a much higher bar to clear, especially as child molesters excel at creating conditions of secrecy that can draw the facts of a case into question.
A civil case is meant to provide civil justice as well as to help make a victim of harm “whole” again, insofar as that is possible, by seeking damages from the one who has caused said harm. The money received from these cases can help cover counseling expenses and medical bills. They can help to compensate the child for the pain, suffering, and emotional trauma he or she has experienced. The perpetrator is not “punished,” per se, but he or she is held accountable and you are empowered.
The burden of proof in a civil child molestation case is lighter as well, because the presumption of innocence does not exist in civil court. The plaintiff need only show that the event is likely, by a preponderance of evidence, to have occurred. “Likely” is an easier case to make than “beyond all reasonable doubt.”
A civil trial offers fewer avenues for a perpetrator to craft a defense, as well. Most defenses are based upon the credibility of the victim and the perpetrator and whether the claim has been filed within the statute of limitations.
The perpetrator may be held accountable, but there may be other parties involved as well.
For example, if your child was molested by a daycare provider the daycare center itself may be liable for some of the damages, because they failed to put policies, procedures, and safeguards in place which might have prevented the act. The same holds true for hospitals, schools, clubs, and many other types of organizations.
Thus, a civil trial may offer a more complete route to justice than even a criminal trial may, as it allows you to deal with everyone who might have played a role in causing the harm.
No, some resources are available for plaintiffs who win criminal cases. Unfortunately, the amount of aid offered is often far less than is usually required to cover the loss and damages associated with a child molestation case.
Pennsylvania law does require every convicted felon to pay restitution to cover damages associated with their criminal acts. The court sets the amount and conditions of payment.
The Pennsylvania Crime Victim Compensation Assistance Program (VCAP) offers some assistance as well. If you’re going to seek help from VCAP, be sure to file your claim within two years. Child molestation victims may recover up to $35,000 for out-of-pocket expenses, including unpaid medical and counseling bills.
Until the victim turns 18, there is no statute of limitations. In some cases, the victim can file a lawsuit until they are up to age 20. In Pennsylvania, if the sexual assault occurs prior to 18 years old, the victim has until their 30th birthday to file a lawsuit. Call our offices for a consultation if you’re not sure whether the statute of limitations might prevent you from pursuing your lawsuit.
If you or someone you love has been a victim of child molestation, call the offices of Daniel P. Hartstein for a free, confidential consultation. You can count on receiving compassion, support, and the benefit of 22 years of experience handling cases just like yours. Payment is handled on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything out of pocket until and unless you receive a settlement or jury award.
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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create an attorney client relationship.
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