As a survivor of sexual abuse, you can likely hold the party or parties responsible for harming you via a lawsuit in Maryland.
Any victim of sexual abuse can sue an abuser in Maryland, albeit according to different filing deadlines. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have an unlimited time to bring litigation, while those abused during adulthood only have three years to sue. Sexual abuse can pertain to any unwanted sexual contact, including touching, rape, and non-physical actions. While individual abusers can be held liable for sexual abuse in Maryland, so can institutions in many circumstances. After submitting evidence of a defendant’s fault and successfully proving that they are responsible for the abuse you endured, you can recover compensation for the various damages you incurred because of the sexual abuse.
To schedule a free evaluation of your case with our compassionate Maryland sexual abuse lawyers, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291.
What Kinds of Victims Can Sue for Sexual Abuse in Maryland?
Unfortunately, there are many instances where a person might be victimized by another and experience sexual abuse. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, whether you were abused as a child or adult, you can likely file a lawsuit against your abuser.
Children are some of the most common victims of sexual abuse in Maryland. In these instances, the abuser is generally one who is admired by a child or has a certain authority over a child. It might be the child’s parent, step-parent, babysitter, teacher, older sibling, or church leader. Child victims have the ability to seek justice against their abusers, just like any other victim. That said, because minors cannot bring a lawsuit independently before they reach majority age, their parents must do so on their behalf. Once children victims of sexual abuse become adults, they can sue their abusers themselves. Maryland recently passed the Child Victims Act in April of 2023, which eliminated the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The Child Victims Act is retroactive, meaning if you were the victim of sexual abuse in your youth, and the statute of limitations had previously passed for you to file a lawsuit, you can now sue your abuser in Maryland.
Those sexually abused as adults, whether by a friend, spouse, or other person, can also sue to get justice in Maryland. Adult sexual abuse commonly happens within romantic relationships. Adult victims must follow a different filing deadline than child victims unless they were abused in their youth. If you were sexually abused after you reached majority age, you will only have three years to file a lawsuit. Because this is significantly less time to sue, it is important that adult victims contact our Maryland personal injury lawyers to begin building their cases as soon as possible. Various actions can constitute sexual abuse. If you are unsure whether or not you have been sexually abused in your adulthood, ask our lawyers for clarification.
Common Kinds of Sexual Abuse Experienced by Victims in Maryland
In short, sexual abuse is unwanted sexual contact. This could be physical contact or non-physical contact. Learning about various examples of sexual abuse can help victims understand that what they have experienced is not okay and warrants litigation.
If someone has approached you in a sexual nature, and those advances were unwanted or forced, that could constitute sexual abuse. Often, sexual abuse occurs across several instances from the same abuser. This tends to be someone known to a victim and in a position of authority over them.
For example, institutional sexual abuse is relatively common because of the relationships between the victims and abusers. This type of abuse happens in institutional settings, such as nursing homes, prisons, juvenile detention facilities, hospitals, and mental health facilities, among other similar settings. Speaking out about institutional sexual abuse is exceedingly difficult for victims, as they might not be believed nor have the resources to report their abusers for some time. When victims are incapacitated, reporting institutional sexual abuse can be even more challenging.
Sexual abuse in church settings is also very common. Recently, a report from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office was released, exposing Catholic priests within the Archdiocese of Baltimore as having sexually abused more than 600 children over 80 years. Children often admire church leaders and see them as being good people, which is why they might be more likely to be victimized by such abusers.
Sexual abuse can include various activities, such as unwanted physical touch, sexual advances, rape, and even non-physical activities, such as forcibly making a victim watch pornography or sending or eliciting sexual images from a victim. Sexual abuse might happen in any setting, from the workplace to a classroom.
What to Do Before Filing a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit in Maryland
If you are a victim of any kind of sexual abuse, and you wish to hold an at-fault party responsible, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of success in Maryland.
Begin by reporting your abuse. This can be very challenging for all victims, but especially child victims. Our lawyers can help you report your abuse to the necessary agencies so that there is documentation of your experience. If your abuse happened in your childhood and you are now an adult, it is still wise to report it, even if many years have passed.
Some types of sexual abuse can leave victims with physical injuries. While getting assessed for such injuries can be re-traumatizing, doing so is important so that you have medical evidence that suggests sexual abuse. During this time, it is helpful for victims to have close friends and family surrounding them to provide emotional support.
Our lawyers will then investigate your case to uncover additional evidence against the party or parties that are responsible for your abuse. If you were sexually abused as an adult, acting relatively quickly will be important as you will only have three years to sue in Maryland. Again, victims of childhood sexual abuse have unlimited time to bring a lawsuit against an abuser.
Parties that Can Be Sued for Sexual Abuse in Maryland
There are two main types of defendants in sexual abuse lawsuits in Maryland: individual abusers and the institutions that failed to stop the abuse a victim experienced. Depending on the specifics of your case, either party may be liable for your abuse.
The main parties responsible for the sexual abuse endured by victims are individual abusers. Regardless of who this person is in relation to you, you can sue them in Maryland. Because abusers are generally known to victims, it can be even more difficult to file a lawsuit against them. However, suing the individual that is directly responsible for your abuse is often the best way for victims to recover damages for their experiences.
Often, institutions are responsible for ensuring their staff do not harm those entrusted to their care. For example, schools should run background checks on teachers to catch warning signs of abuse. The same is true for prisons, juvenile facilities, and nursing homes. This is part of the duty of care institutions owe to those they serve. Institutions should also take any reports of sexual abuse seriously and inform the necessary law enforcement agencies. They should make reporting sexual abuse easier for victims and not intimidate or ignore victims when they speak out. If an institution ignored reports of sexual abuse or failed to train or monitor employees, leading to sexual abuse, they could be held accountable by victims in Maryland. If, after learning of your abuse, an institution attempted to threaten or intimidate you, tell our attorneys. The recently passed Maryland Child Victims Act confirms that institutions can be held liable for childhood sexual abuse in the same way that individual abusers can.
What Kinds of Evidence Do Sexual Abuse Victims Need to Sue in Maryland?
If, after coming to terms with the sexual abuse you have experienced, you plan on suing an abuser to hold them accountable, you will need to provide evidence of sexual abuse in Maryland.
In civil litigation, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. This means that it is the victim’s responsibility to prove that the defendant is responsible for the abuse the victim has experienced. Fortunately, the burden of proof for civil cases is lower than that of criminal cases, and you will only have to prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant sexually abused you or was otherwise liable for the abuse.
Still, you will require evidence. If there is physical evidence of sexual abuse, our attorneys can use that in your case. We will also investigate to uncover possible correspondence from a defendant that shows them admitting to sexually abusing you or speaking in an inappropriate or sexual manner. Our Baltimore personal injury lawyers will also look for any reports you made in the past regarding the sexual abuse. For example, if you were abused in school or in the workplace, you or your parents might have reported the abuse several times.
Witness testimony is often essential evidence in sexual abuse lawsuits. If others knew of your abuse, they can provide statements that corroborate other evidence. Your statement might be even more compelling as a survivor, especially if your case goes to court.
Facing your abuser in court can be an emotional and traumatizing process. Our lawyers can prepare you for what it might be like to take your lawsuit to trial so that you know what to expect from the process.
What Kinds of Damages Can Sexual Abuse Victims Recover in Maryland?
Suppose you successfully prove that a defendant was responsible for your experience of sexual abuse. In that case, you can recover damages to compensate you for the losses you have incurred because of that abuse.
Several types of damages are available to all kinds of sexual abuse victims in Maryland, such as economic damages. Economic damages will compensate you for any financial losses you have sustained because of the abuse you endured. This might include medical costs if you were physically injured because of the defendant’s actions. Sexual abuse can cause severe trauma to victims, requiring them to seek care from therapists for the rest of their lives. Victims might also develop various mental disorders, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. To cope with these difficulties, victims might require prescription medication. Because of the horrors they have experienced, victims might have difficulty maintaining a job and earning an income. Because all of these financial losses can be traced back to a defendant’s actions, a victim can likely recover compensation for them in Maryland.
The pain and suffering all victims of sexual abuse experience is hard to comprehend. Because victims are likely to struggle with the ramifications of sexual abuse for the rest of their lives, they are entitled to recovery of non-economic damages. If your case goes to trial, a judge or jury will award compensation for non-economic damages. These damages do not come with a price tag, so victims must submit proof of damages to calculate the appropriate compensation. This might include testimony from therapists, friends, family, and victims themselves.
When a defendant acted grossly negligent in causing a victim’s suffering, a victim can be awarded punitive damages in Maryland. These damages are only available when sexual abuse cases go to court. Punitive damages are used as a device to punish defendants and warn others of engaging in similar activity. Victims are more likely to recover punitive damages when they sue institutions for sexual abuse. Maryland does not limit the punitive damages available to survivors of sexual abuse, regardless of their age at the time of the abuse.
Call Our Maryland Lawyers About Your Sexual Abuse Case Today
Survivors can call our Ocean City personal injury lawyers at (410) 694-7291 to get a free case assessment from Rice, Murtha & Psoras.