No limitation period for child abuse civil action
JENNIFER, who is now 45 years of age, was sexually abused by her step-father when she was in her early teens.
Over many years, Jennifer has difficulty coming to grips with the abuse and it is only in her early 40's that she seeks counselling and reports the abuse to the police.
After speaking to the police, Jennifer is concerned about the requirement of "proof beyond reasonable doubt" in criminal matters and decides she does not wish to take that course.
However, Jennifer consults a solicitor, who informs her that she is able to commence civil action for damages against her step-father.
Jennifer is advised that the standard of proof that applies to civil actions is less onerous than a criminal trial.
Jennifer is also informed that in most actions for damages, there are limitation periods that could prevent a claim that is made so long after the event but because the abuse occurred while she was under 18 years of age, these limitation periods may not apply.
Enquiries reveal that Jennifer's step-father has sufficient assets to meet an order for damages against him if Jennifer was successful with her claim.
Jennifer's solicitor ascertains that there are a number of witnesses who are able to corroborate her claim and her solicitor goes about taking statements from these people.
Proceedings are commenced and after lengthy negotiations between the solicitors, Jennifer ultimately receives a substantial compensation settlement, without the need for a hearing.
Jennifer tells her solicitor that although the decision to commence action was a difficult one, she feels that bringing her step-father to account has made her feel a lot better and that the compensation will change the lives of her young family.
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