Our Principal Lawyer, Kim Breda is very experienced in claims relating to sexual and institutional abuse. Kim has a special interest in these matters and has represented clients in cases against the Trustees of the Catholic Church, Trustees of the Marist Brothers, Department of Education, Department of Community Services (DOCS), various private schools, long daycare centres, Anglicare, Parramatta Girls Home, and other government and privately run homes and institutions. Kim has also undertaken training through the Rape Crisis Centre in order to provide a trauma informed approach to her work.
It can be difficult for survivors of abuse to gather the courage to come forward and tell others their story. However, with the aide of the Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse more and more survivors are being given the opportunity to do this. Many survivors are unaware of their civil rights to bring a claim for damages against an offender personally, but also against Institutions, who more often than not concealed the abuse that took place.
It is saddening to know that such claims exist, however, we are committed to the empowerment of the survivors. The legal process can be challenging, but it also presents an opportunity for survivors to regain control taken from them as a result of abuse. We should point out that we are realistic with these goals. There is no amount of financial compensation that can restore a person to how they were before the abuse took place, but financial compensation does make life easier.
In some circumstances we can also seek “non-monetary” forms of restitution such as:
- An acknowledgement that the abuse occurred, and should not have;
- An apology for the abuse and harm caused
- Assistance with medical bills such as counselling etc
- Assurances and details about changes that have been made to prevent further abuse.
We take a trauma informed approach to work in this area. We are happy to work closely with your treating counsellors and psychologists to determine the best way to obtain information from you. We understand it is a very difficult and often slow process. We are prepared for this and we will take any steps required to make things as easy as they can be.
How to make a Claim/What can be claimed?
In our experience awards for damages in these civil claims can be substantial. This is due to large awards for pain and suffering (non-economic loss) and also the availability of exemplary damages in some cases. Exemplary damages are awarded in situations where it is appropriate to punish a defendant for their actions.
Damages can be claimed in these matters as follows:
- Pain and Suffering (non-economic loss)
- Exemplary damages (in some cases)
- Economic Loss, including loss of wages (past and future)
- Loss of Superannuation benefits
- Treatment expenses (past and future)
- Domestic assistance, including assistance provided gratuitously (past and future)
- Funds management (if applicable)
If you are survivor of abuse please contact our offices to discuss the process of bringing a claim. Of course all discussions of this (and any) nature are kept confidential.
Traditionally statutory time limits were imposed on civil claims in respect of abuse. This is despite the fact that in the majority of circumstances it takes many years for survivors to come to terms with and report abuse.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse found that ‘limitation periods are a significant, sometimes insurmountable, barrier to survivors pursuing civil litigation.’ It is well documented that many survivors of child sexual abuse do not disclose their experiences or act on them until decades after the abuse, if ever. According to the Royal Commission’s Interim Report, the average time for a victim to disclose sexual abuse was 22 years, with men taking longer than women.
We are pleased to report that the NSW government has now changed the legislation in relation to time limits and removed statutory time limits on claims relating to child abuse.
The changes to the legislation are retrospective. ‘Retrospective’ means the laws apply to past and future claims for child abuse. In other words, there is no limitation period, regardless of when the abuse occurred. This allows survivors of historical abuse to commence a claim for damages. The evidence shows limitation periods in civil claims for child abuse have been operating unfairly, due to the average length of time for a survivor to act on the abuse being considerably longer that the legal limitation periods.
The changes to NSW law treat all ‘child abuse’ claims equally, regardless of who perpetrated the abuse and when it occurred. The amendments apply to any action relating to death or personal injury resulting from ‘child abuse’, including actions against a perpetrator of the abuse or a negligent institution. It also covers actions that are continued by a victim’s estate after their death and actions brought by the dependants of a deceased victim.
The laws cover sexual abuse, serious physical abuse or other abuse perpetrated in connection with sexual or serious physical abuse against a person under 18. Where there is sexual or serious physical abuse of a child, the limitation periods no longer apply. Once that threshold is met, a court can consider any connected abuse. ‘Connected abuse’ is any abuse linked to the sexual or serious physical abuse, for example, minor physical abuse and psychological abuse. This ensures the court can consider all of the survivors’ experiences of abuse when determining a claim.
We act on a no win no fee basis in all personal injury and institutional abuse matters. We will also fund all necessary disbursements so you will never be out of pocket.
Please refer to the FAQ’s section of the website in relation to costs generally.