How to Pursue Child Sexual Abuse Litigation in California

The time is now. Whether you’re a parent who has just learned of sexual abuse involving your child or you’re an adult survivor ready to come forward and pursue justice, someone is here to listen at Lewis & Llewellyn, a boutique law firm located in San Francisco. We specialize in child sexual abuse litigation in California. Regardless if the reporting is immediate or delayed, we have the resources to craft a strong legal argument, investigate, and pursue maximum compensation for survivors.

Deciding to take action is often the hardest part of pursuing justice. It is estimated 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be survivors of sexual abuse over the course of a lifetime. However, it can take upwards of 20 years for many people to come forward about the abuse they’ve suffered. These cases can prove challenging for lawyers who don’t possess the necessary experience, but the attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn have the expertise and passion needed to bring justice to survivors of child sexual abuse.

Are You Seeking Child Sexual Abuse
Litigation in California?

child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome

This guide will take you step-by-step through the process of seeking child sexual abuse litigation in California to hold those accountable for their actions or inactions.

1. Call a Civil Attorney for a Free Consultation

When seeking litigation, you want to work with an attorney you can trust, one who believes you and has the expertise and resources to represent your interests. At Lewis & Llewellyn, you can contact us online or by phone. A representative from our team will respond to your inquiry to set up a free consultation. We understand it can be difficult to talk about what happened so we want you to be as comfortable as possible.

During this free, initial consultation, we’ll want to know a few basic facts:

  • when and where the injury occurred
  • the type of physical, mental, and/or emotional injuries sustained
  • the names of your physical and mental health care providers
  • the type of treatment you had or are still receiving
  • the identity of the perpetrator, if known
  • whether you filed a police report, told anyone, or know of any witnesses
  • whether you collected physical evidence (such as a rape kit)

Should you decide to work with us as your legal advocates, we take care of everything for you. We cover all upfront costs of investigation, file paperwork, liaison with the defense counsel and local police departments, and calculate an appropriate settlement. If necessary, we prepare your case for trial and represent your interests before the judge and jury. Testifying in person is not always absolutely necessary, though it can have a powerful impact in court. We inform you every step of the way.

2. Determine if you would like to pursue a civil lawsuit

Our primary area of expertise is in preparing civil lawsuits. The goal is to: 

  • bring justice to the plaintiff
  • prevent others from having to suffer abuse 
  • compensate the plaintiff for economic losses like medical expenses, the cost of psychological counseling, behavioral therapy, the cost of substance abuse treatment, lost wages, support services, and long-term disability.
  • compensate the plaintiff for non-economic losses like pain and suffering, mental anguish, PTSD, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment in life.
  • compensate the plaintiff for estimated future costs such as increased medical care, the need for ongoing counseling, and lost productivity.
  • in cases where third-party liability can be established, to financially punish defendants for negligent, reckless, or willful misconduct.  

Decisions in civil court are based on “a preponderance of the evidence.” This means the judge and jury must believe that your story is “51% or more likely to be true.” Standards of evidence in criminal court require you to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt,” meaning that all 12 jurors must be 100% convinced of the defendant’s guilt in order to secure a criminal conviction.

If you would like to file a civil lawsuit, there are statute of limitations to keep in mind. With the passage of AB-218, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020, plaintiffs have until age 40 (or within five years of the discovery of harm) to pursue a civil lawsuit. 

3. Consider Who Is Liable for Your Suffering

There is an expanded scope of liability. It’s not just one person who wronged you; the entire organization or institution could be held liable. Children rely upon the adults and institutions in their lives to protect them, whether that’s a school, daycare, sports organization, church, or scout group. These larger institutions can be held liable for failures in hiring, staffing, training, and supervising. Further, California has made it a crime for any adult working with a child to conceal knowledge or suspicion of child abuse.   

Civil lawsuit defendants may include:

  • youth programs and organizations
  • foster care agencies when the abusers are foster parents
  • public and private schools for abuse by teachers, coaches, or contractors
  • daycare centers and owners for abuse committed by staff members
  • religious institutions for assaults by priests, nuns, ministers, or other clergy members
  • businesses for employing known sex offenders or mishandling complaints

4. Decide if You Would Also Like to Press Criminal Charges

It is possible to both file a civil lawsuit and press criminal charges. Some victims feel re-traumatized after talking to officers who brush them off or do not respond to their needs, which is why it may be helpful to have a legal advocate representing you before you walk into the police station. When children are involved, we work with CALICO and the Children’s Interview Center.  

In September 2016, California state legislature voted to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape and child molestation. However, the law was not retroactive. So if your abuse occurred on or after September 2016, you can confidently bring your case to the police at any time in the future. However, if your case is older than that, then you may have until your 40th birthday to pursue a claim in criminal court.

5. Get Support to Help You Cope With the Ups and Downs

No matter which path you choose, it can be difficult to deal with the emotional aspects of pursuing justice. We recommend that you work with a registered, licensed therapist or mental health practitioner while going through the phases of settlement, trial, or conviction. You may also find it empowering to work with other reform advocates who are looking to enact change in society at large to prevent future instances of child sexual abuse. If you need a referral to an individual therapist, support group, substance abuse counselors, advocacy centers, or another form of assistance, we are more than happy to help. Be sure to read our 8 Tips For How To Cope With Sexual Abuse for more in-depth advice on getting through this challenging time.

Due to the nature of sexual abuse litigation in California, it could take several years to resolve your case. However, the track record of settlements exceeding $1 million created by the attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn proves that it’s worth the wait. Contact our team online for support and guidance to see you through this emotional time, or call +1 (415) 800-0590 to schedule an appointment with an advocate today.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this blog or on this website should be construed as legal advice from Lewis & Llewellyn LLP. Neither your receipt of information from this website, nor your use of this website to contact Lewis & Llewellyn LLP creates an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm or any of its lawyers. No reader of this website should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this website without seeking the appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s jurisdiction.