What if the Person Who Sexually Abused Me is Dead?

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Childhood sexual abuse can take a long time to come to terms with.  Many people might not even realize consciously what happened to them as children, and it is only years later as an adult that they begin to understand and want to seek justice for their sexual abuse.  In some cases, seeking justice can be difficult if the individual who abused you as a child has since passed away.  In many cases, there are still ways to seek compensation for the trauma you survived and the abuse you endured.  The Law Office of Andrew Shubin’s institutional sexual abuse lawyer explains how there are often other defendants to hold responsible and how you can still sue someone who has passed away for sexual abuse.

Suing an Institution for Sexual Abuse After the Abuser Dies

In many cases of sexual abuse involving children, the abuse is committed by someone in a position of trust.  That could be a scout leader, a priest, a camp counselor, a teacher, or even a doctor who sexually abused you.  The common thread through these cases is often that the individual abuser was part of a larger organization or institution, such as in cases of sexual abuse in scouting, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, or sexual abuse at a camp, a school, hospital, or another place.  In many cases, these institutions can be held liable in a few different ways – which means that even if the individual who abused you has died, you might still be able to sue the institution for their share of the fault.

Some institutions can be held liable for abuses their employees committed simply because they were the employer at the time.  For instance, a school whose teacher commits acts of sexual abuse at school during school hours could likely be held liable because the teacher was working for them when the abuse occurred.

Other times, institutions share their own blame in allowing abuse to happen or continue.  The Catholic Church is often accused of moving priests to hide sexual abuse allegations.  This means that known predators have historically been moved into new communities without warning, and they have continued to abuse new victims in those new communities.  Similarly, many schools and other organizations fail to properly respond to claims of sexual abuse and sexual harassment in school, so their investigations do not uncover the problems.  Many times, the abusive workers are permitted to continue their abuse.  Whether the institution is complicit and actively acts to cover up abuse or it is simply negligent in allowing abuse to continue, the institution can be held liable for its own fault.

In cases where the institution is held responsible as the abuser’s employer, they can likely be held liable for the full amount of compensation the individual would have paid.  If the institution or organization is held liable for their own mistakes and abuses, they can usually only be held responsible for their portion of the damages; the individual abuser would be responsible for their own share of damages.

In some cases, courts are willing to declare the defendants are each fully at-fault, then it is up to the defendants to figure out who pays you.  This is called “joint and several liability” and might help you get compensation in cases where the individual abuser is not available to sue because the court can have the institution pay all the damages.  This is not available in some states and might not be available in every case.

Suing the Estate of a Deceased Sexual Abuser

In most cases, the death of an individual does not prevent you from holding them legally responsible.  Courts can still hold dead people responsible for injuries, assault, sexual abuse, fraud, and other tortious or malicious conduct.  Instead of filing a lawsuit against the dead person, the lawsuit is filed against their estate.

The “estate” of a deceased person is the sum-total of their money, assets, and other property.  It is usually administered by a particular person named in their will or appointed by the state.  The estate and the descendants of a deceased abuser can be held to answer for the deceased’s abuse, and if you win a claim, the damages are paid out of the estate.

If you recently found out that your abuser died, you might be able to sue their estate for the abuse you suffered if you are still within the statute of limitations.

In cases where there is an organization or institution that shared responsibility, this might mean that you could sue both the estate and the institution, and any damages that the court cannot attribute to the institution could be paid by the deceased abuser’s estate.

In many cases, suing the estate of a deceased person is difficult.  Some laws make it harder to use statements from a deceased individual as evidence, and the fact that the deceased person is not available to speak in their own defense might cloud some issues at trial.  However, most estates do not want cases like this to become public, so they are often willing to settle claims to prevent the public spread of information about the deceased’s bad actions.  This could allow you to avoid having to testify in open court while still getting you the compensation you need.

Call Our Institutional Sexual Abuse Lawyer for a Free Case Consultation

Our lawyers will negotiate your case and fight to get you compensation from any entities or individuals that shared responsibility for your abuse.  For help with your case and help understanding any legal hurdles involved in suing a deceased person for sexual abuse, call The Law Office of Andrew Shubin today.  Our sexual abuse victim attorneys offer free legal consultations in a confidential atmosphere where you can safely discuss your case.  For your free case consultation, call us at (814) 826-3586.


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