If you have suffered abuse as a child may have rights for compensation and redress from a variety of sources, including:
- a common law claim for damages
- an application under victims of crime legislation
- (from 2018) an application on the Commonwealth Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse
- internal redress schemes operated by some institutions.
The individual facts of your matter will determine which form(s) of compensation is most appropriate for you.
Common law claims?
A common law claim is a claim made by you in a court (either alone, or where appropriate as part of a class action) in which you allege an individual and/or institution owed you a duty of care to protect you from harm and failed to discharge that duty.
To succeed in a common law claim, you must show that the individual or institution knew or ought to have known about the abuse or the potential for abuse and failed to act to safeguard you from harm. If you are successful, you will be awarded lump sum compensation for pain and suffering, past and future out-of-pocket expenses including counselling and medical expenses, loss of earnings and any care and assistance required because of physical or sexual abuse.
Considering the damning evidence before the Royal Commission many institutions have been more willing to negotiate a settlement either in the context of proceedings being filed in Court or because of claims made directly against the institution.
For many years a problem in bringing claims for childhood abuse was that, subject to some exceptions, claims had to be commenced within 6 years of the damage occurring (known as the Statute of Limitations). In March 2016, the NSW Parliament abolished limitation periods for claims relating to child abuse (defined as sexual abuse, serious physical abuse or other abuse connected with sexual abuse or serious physical abuse to a person under the age of 18 years). Other States have passed similar legislation and the Federal Government has announced that it will not rely on a limitation defence in proceedings brought against it. The law applies retrospectively which means it applies to all claims other than those claims that been settled or resolved. Further, if you previously made a claim which was dismissed or stayed because you were out of time your claim can be recommenced if there was no settlement.
In New South Wales and other states, the Government operates victims of crime services.
The NSW scheme is based around a Charter of victims’ rights and offers a variety of support including assurances as to conduct, counselling and financial support. The amounts recoverable under the scheme are very limited, and not sufficient to provide meaningful compensation. Other States offer different (and in some cases more generous) victims of crime assistance. Any application for compensation or support should be made in the State where the abuse occurred.
Prior to releasing its final report, the Royal Commission issued its report on Recommendations for Redress and Civil Litigation. The report recommended the establishment of a National Redress scheme.
On 4 November 2017, in response to the Recommendations Report, the Commonwealth announced the establishment of a Commonwealth Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse . The announcement indicates that the scheme will operate on an “opt in” basis, meaning that States and institutions with liability for abuse (such as churches, etc.) could opt into the scheme.
In March 2017, more details of the proposed scheme were released in evidence to the Royal Commission. In that evidence, the Commonwealth confirmed that:
- redress will consist of a monetary payment of up to $150,000.
- survivors will be provided culturally appropriate counselling.
- a direct personal response (apology) for those people who seek it.
A number of institutions already offer their own redress schemes which provide for limited compensation and access to counselling services..
Segelov Taylor Lawyers can provide expert assistance and guidance on the options available to you to obtain compensation. We offer a free initial consultation with a specialist lawyer. We act on a ‘no win no fee’ basis for persons who have suffered from institutional abuse. This means that we will not be charged for our costs and disbursements unless you are successful in obtaining compensation.
If you have suffered from institutional abuse then please do not hesitate to contact us and we will arrange for a time where we can discuss a potential claim with you either in our offices or if you are unable to travel, at your home. Please contact us and speak to Tanya Segelov or David Taylor on 8880 0500 or by email tanya@segelov taylor.com.au.