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Navigating the Legal Process: What to Expect When Filing a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

The idea of filing a sexual abuse lawsuit to seek justice from the perpetrator who abused you and/or an institution that allowed the abuse can be daunting. However, knowing what to expect when you file a sexual abuse suit can help you have greater peace of mind about what comes next. 

Every case is unique. For information about your specific case, request a free and confidential consultation at Mahoney Law Office in Illinois.

The Statute of Limitations

First, you need to determine whether you are within your statute of limitations to file a sexual abuse lawsuit. In Illinois, 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2 is the state’s statute of limitations, or legal deadline imposed for filing a childhood sexual abuse claim. 

Under section (f) of this law, “an action for damages based on childhood sexual abuse may be commenced at any time,” meaning there is no statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse claims in Illinois.

If the victim was an adult over the age of 18 at the time of the abuse or assault, however, he or she has two years from the date of the incident to file a claim under Illinois’ personal injury statute of limitations (735 ILCS 5/13-212).

Filing a Claim in Illinois

Once you have confirmed you are within your statute of limitations, consult with a sexual assault attorney in Illinois to help you take the first steps toward filing a claim. This may involve an investigation of the basic facts of your case, evidence collection and filling out confusing legal paperwork. Your attorney can file your claim in the correct civil courthouse, which may be in the county where you live or where the accused party (defendant) lives.

Settlement Negotiations

In many situations, sexual abuse cases do not end up in court. Instead, a claim is filed against the defendant’s insurance company, which may then offer a settlement to resolve the legal dispute if it accepts its policyholder’s liability for the injuries being claimed. You can improve your odds of reaching a settlement and avoiding a trial by hiring an attorney to negotiate on your behalf.

The Discovery Phase

If your sexual abuse case cannot reach a settlement, your lawyer can take it to trial in Illinois. If desired, your lawyer can keep your identity anonymous throughout the legal process. The discovery phase of a sexual abuse lawsuit is a period where both sides of the case have the opportunity to collect information and evidence from one another. Settlement negotiations will typically continue, and a settlement can still be reached at any point until the first day of trial.

Sexual Abuse Trial

If the case proceeds to court, you can trust an attorney to represent you. Your lawyer will present evidence and witness testimony – including opinions from experts, if necessary – to help prove your case against the defendant(s). Your side of the case will bear the burden of proof, meaning your lawyer will have to prove that what you are claiming is more likely to be true than not true. This is a lesser burden of proof than in a criminal case.

If a judge or jury believes your lawyer met the burden of proof, it will find the defendant liable for your injuries and losses connected to sexual abuse. A judgment will be awarded in an amount the courts deem fair and reasonable based on the circumstances, such as the severity of the harm you suffered. If the burden of proof was not met, the courts may rule in favor of the defendant, in which case your attorney may be able to file an appeal.

To learn more about your potential sexual abuse lawsuit in Illinois, contact Mahoney Law Office at (618) 717-4115 for a free case review.