The subject of personal injury claims as a consequence of child abuse is very emotive and can be extremely controversial. In many of the high profile child abuse cases in recent years, a number of victims have come forward at a later date. It is very hard to strip away the uncomfortable subject of child abuse and compensation to look at the pure and simple means of taking action and securing recompense. However, the legal system is very black and white and therefore there are procedures to follow and issues to be addressed when making a child abuse compensation claim.
Types of child abuse
It is no surprise that child abuse of a sexual/physical nature is one which predominately catches the attention of media as this can make for eye-catching headlines. The use of the media does often serve a purpose in bringing other victims forward there are also many other types of child abuses that compensation could be claimed for, such as:
- Physical abuse of a nonsexual nature
- Mental torture
- Restricted access to medical attention
- Unhealthy lifestyle
These are subjects that can often be very difficult to talk about and unfortunately, many of those suspecting such activities tend to bury their head in the sand. In many ways, it is easier to assume that individuals are not capable of inflicting such physical and mental pain on others than actually taking action. It also has to be said that those found guilty of child abuse in years gone by have been shown to be extremely competent liars and will very often cover their tracks with threats and intimidation. This is part of the reason why many instances of child abuse are not revealed until the victims later years – when they are free from the aggressors.
Common types of child abuse cases
When you dig a little deeper into this very challenging and very difficult subject, there are a number of common types of child abuse cases. The environment, timing, repetitive nature and the type of abuse can vary. Some of the more common types of child abuse cases include:
Child abuse at the hands of local authority/foster care
In years gone by local authority/foster care for children appears not to have been regulated to the extent we see today. There have been rumours and counter rumours for many years regarding various individuals and groups of people. Some child abuse victims have come to the fore bringing about the prosecution and imprisonment of many high-profile individuals. It is difficult to understand how the level of alleged abuse in these scenarios appeared to go “unchecked” in many cases and continue on for years. However, what we do know is that local authority/foster care institutions have a basic legal obligation to ensure the well-being of the children they are caring for.
Again, it is difficult to strip away various elements of child abuse because it is extremely emotive and controversial. If we try to do so, each local authority and foster care institution charged with looking after children has a legal obligation for not only their physical but also their mental well-being. As a consequence, over the years we have seen many local authority/foster care institutions taken to court and forced to pay out millions of pounds in compensation.
Failure of social services
Unfortunately, reporting of child abuse in its many different forms seems to have grown dramatically in recent years. In many ways, this has overwhelmed the social services system in the UK which is often charged with finding refuge for children who have been the victim of abuse. There appear to be two different problems in this area, the difficult decision of when to react and when not to react to circumstantial or relatively light evidence of abuse. Then we have the failure of social services to find an appropriate safe living environment for those who have been pulled out of homes as a consequence of child abuse.
While many of the cases we come across today involving social services and allegations of child abuse are historic, there is evidence to suggest it is still ongoing. Government after government have announced enquiries and tightened regulations but unfortunately, some victims have fallen through the net. There is also the issue of being overzealous, on relatively light evidence, with particular groups of society and the huge backlash this can cause. Finding a balance is near impossible.
Child abuse by a person in a position of trust
Who would have thought 20 or 30 years ago we would have been prosecuting teachers, priests and even football coaches for child abuse, in years gone by? As a society, we tend to have an underlying trust of such individuals especially when it comes to teaching and religion. Unfortunately, in many situations, these occupations have been tarred by a minority who have carried out such unthinkable acts. While there is obviously a need to take action where appropriate it is also sensible to appreciate the vast majority of individuals in these occupations have not undertaken such actions.
In recent times we have seen sporting clubs taken to court as a consequence of their previous employees carrying out varying levels of child abuse – often for many years on many children.
Child abuse within the family
To the majority of people, it is unthinkable that a neighbour or somebody in your social circle could carry out any form of child abuse on their relatives. It is important to state that these actions are still rare but historic child abuse within family circles (often extended family circles) has been common with many cases in years gone by. As with other types of abuse, intimidation and violence are often used to “silence victims”. For many, it is only when they escape these family circles in years to come that they are able to address these issues and take the appropriate action.
Starting a child abuse compensation claim
As allegations of child abuse can be reported many years down the line the usual three-year time limit to start a compensation claim is not always relevant. For example, if the abuse took place when the victim was under 18 then they would normally have three years after turning 18 to seek compensation. Alternatively, an adult third party could be appointed to seek child abuse compensation if they wanted to start a claim while they were under-18 years of age. The courts also tend to be more lenient with regards to such sensitive child abuse compensation claims in the knowledge that sometimes they are not reported until many years down the line. So, with the consent of the courts, it may still be possible to pursue compensation for child abuse many years down the line, although it is always best to start a claim as early as possible.
When it comes to gathering evidence for a child abuse compensation claim, there are often various starting points such as:
- Social service records
- Police reports
- Medical examinations
- Witness statements
- School records
What you might find when it comes to evidence gathering is that these individual records in their own are not strong enough to prosecute the alleged child abuser. That said; the cumulative impact of social services records, police reports, medical examinations, witness statements and school records can be damning for the accused. It is also worth noting that the individual does not need to have been charged with a criminal act for you to pursue compensation for child abuse. Indeed, there is a difference between evidence required for a criminal conviction and that of a civil conviction, i.e. pursuing compensation.
What could you claim compensation for?
While the type and degree of child abuse will vary between each victim, there are two types of compensation available, general damages and special damages. General damages relate to factors such as:
- Physical injury
- Mental injury
- Pain and suffering
- Impact on family members
- Impact on family life
We then have the issue of special damages which can be extremely varied and relate to expenses and costs such as:
- Loss of earnings
- Medical treatment costs
- Psychological treatment costs
- Impact on career earnings
The sad truth is that child abuse can and does have an impact on all areas of life for victims.
Child Abuse Compensation Claims Solicitors
While the subject of child abuse is extremely important and one which must never be ignored, it can be a difficult one to discuss. Thankfully, there are specialist solicitors with experience in this area who can help victims to claim compensation for child abuse. If you have been a victim of child abuse and would like to discuss a child abuse compensation claim with a solicitor please call us on 0800 652 1345, or you can arrange a free consultation here at a time that suits you.