If you were abused in a church or state run school or other institution it is quite possible that you will have entitlements to valuable lump sum compensation.
We have extensive expertise and experience in this specialised area of compensation law.
We have worked closely with victims support groups including those associated with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Childhood Sexual Abuse.
Few lawyers or law firms have particular expertise in handling these cases which require unique skills due to the vulnerability, suffering and issues with trust which is the common legacy of this type of abuse for its victims.
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Frequently Asked Questions – Church and Institutional Abuse
If you were physically and/or sexually abused while in the care of others and particularly if it was an institution such as a State Government Agency or Church and assuming the abuse has had a significant impact on your life, you will be entitled to seek and recover compensation for your pain and suffering, loss of wages, past and future medical needs and rehabilitation.
You will also be entitled to claim a significant amount of your legal costs for pursuing the claim against the institution or church. A claims process exists which allows to you seek compensation against the institution or church responsible for the abuse and the limitation period has now been abolished in Queensland which is very helpful for victims of institutional or church sexual abuse. If the offender or abuser was a friend of the family or member of your family or some other person and the abuse did not occur while you were in the care of an institution like a school, church or Government agency then the claim may not be worthwhile to pursue unless the abuser has sufficient assets to pay the compensation.
No. The point of the exercise is to seek valuable compensation or damages for what you have endured and suffered. The claims process that we have created and pursue for our clients avoids any possibility of our clients having to meet or confront the person or persons who committed the abuse.
An option that exists for our clients is to invite the institution or church to provide a meaningful and unreserved apology for the abuse and the impact the abuse has had on your life. This is entirely optional for our clients. Many of our clients find the provision of a sincere and meaningful apology helpful as part of the healing and obtaining some closure process.
Firstly, it is highly unlikely that your claim will proceed to an actual court hearing in front of a judge. There is every likelihood that your claim will be resolved by a negotiated settlement well before that occurs. In fact, it may be that there will be no need to file a court claim for you at all, as we will use the pre-court process under the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act, including:
- the notification of a claim to the church or other entity;
- the provision of medical and other documents in support of the claim;
- the making of an initial offer of settlement on your behalf (with your prior approval) and,
- finally, the holding of a settlement conference between the parties and their legal representatives to see if a negotiated outcome can be reached.
We are finding this process to be very successful in resolving these claims to our clients’ satisfaction before the commencement of court proceedings is necessary.
Even if this process is unsuccessful in bringing about a resolution and you then decide (with our advice and support) to commence a court claim, there will still be further opportunities to negotiate an outcome in your claim, making an actual court hearing very unlikely.
No. The Royal Commission has no power to award compensation and it is not a requirement that you give evidence at the Commission before making a compensation claim. That said, the Commission has performed and continues to perform a valuable role in allowing victims to finally give voice to their personal histories in a supportive environment while going about the task of exposing abuse in various churches and institutions.
Put simply, whether or not you have given evidence at the Commission, if we can establish that the abuse you suffered was caused or contributed to by a breach of the duty of care owed to you by a church or public institution, you will very likely have a valuable claim for common law damages compensation.
In some circumstances and despite our best efforts, it may be that a common law damages claim will not be possible in your particular case. In those cases compensation may still be available via Government Redress Schemes that are currently under consideration in a number of Australian jurisdictions, thanks largely to the work of the Royal Commission. We are closely monitoring these developments. In such matters we will maintain your details and keep you informed or any progress in the establishment of those schemes, at no cost to you.
In all of these cases our first priority is however to see whether an entitlement to common law damages can be established based on a breach of duty of care.
For many years our clients have not only had to live with the memory of what happened to them, they have also had suffer the frustration and anxiety that no-one would believe them in the face of denial and obstruction by church and state run institutions. Thankfully, if far too late, recent times have seen a wider acceptance of the reality and tragedy of institutional abuse and a much more receptive approach to victims. The legal system reflects this trend. Those who have had contact with the Royal Commission have hopefully found it to be a receptive and supportive environment in which to have their voice heard.
And similarly within the broader legal compensation process you will find a much greater acceptance and less scepticism about the truth of what is alleged. Fortunately, these days legal argument is more concerned with what responsibility the church or institution has for the abuse and the appropriate compensation to be paid, rather than questioning the fact of the abuse itself. This means that you can tell your story with confidence, secure in the knowledge that you will be believed, leaving us as your expert representatives to ensure that the legal issues are strongly argued in your favour so you obtain the best possible compensation result.
Time limits or limitation periods were another well known barrier to claimants seeking compensation for abuse in both church and state run institutions. Fortunately this time limit has now been abolished in most Australian States and Territories including Queensland.
Even in the rare cases where a time limit remains a concern, there will probably be a legal basis to extend it, so you should never hesitate to seek legal advice simply because you believe or suspect that your claim might be time barred. Besides, it will cost you nothing and require no commitment whatsoever to at least have an initial discussion with us about how we might be able to assist you and address any time period concerns you have.
Where we can bring a claim on your behalf for abuse that has occurred as a result of a breach of duty of care by a church or state run institution, damages in accordance with the usual categories of injury compensation are available, including
- Pain and suffering
- Medical expenses, past and future
- Loss of income, past and future
In these matters we often find that claims for loss of income can be very substantial, because abuse suffered at a young age can be a significant impediment to a productive and fulfilling life and career, so that we are able to recover lost income, often across periods of many years, based on the career and working life our client could reasonably have had if the abuse had not occurred.
But even where there is no claim for lost income, there may still be a substantial claim for the remaining categories of damages compensation, especially pain and suffering.
In these matters as well as the payment of monetary compensation, churches and other entities may be prepared to offer additional measures, such as an apology, and funding for ongoing counselling if required.
We are extremely conscious of the fact that in most cases our clients have waited a long time to have their voices heard and their history recognised. For this reason we are completely focussed on ensuring that claims are resolved as soon as possible. It is unavoidable that some time has to be spent on making sure a full history is taken, ensuring that the best possible expert evidence is obtained in your case and that the claim documents we submit perfectly represent the case we wish to put on your behalf. But even with those necessary efforts, we always endeavour to be in a position to negotiate a settlement of your claim within 6-12 months from the date we commence acting on your behalf.
Firstly, there are no up front charges at all. Upon initial contact with you we will carefully review your situation and advise you if we consider you can bring a claim. If we think you can bring a claim, we will make a proposal to act on your behalf in the claim. If we consider a claim on your behalf is not possible, or even if we propose to act for you but you choose not to proceed, you will not be charged a cent for any work we have done in investigating your claim. Our proposal to you will be a “no win no fee” agreement, meaning you will not pay us anything unless and until you recover compensation in your claim. In that case the impact of costs on your compensation amount will be minimal because:
1. We simply do not charge as much as competitor law firms;
2. Generally, most of your costs (usually 60-70%) will be paid by the institution we are bringing the claim against, leaving you to pay a relatively small amount from your damages;
3. At most you will pay no more than 30% of your claim towards professional fees after deduction of statutory refunds and outlays – our self imposed fee cap that is much more restrictive than the 50% limit allowed by government regulation.
As with all of the matters we handle, in any claim on your behalf you will find we very much live by our slogan “Pay Less. Get More.”