Can You Claim Compensation for Historical Abuse? A Clear Guide to Your Legal Rights

Compensation claims for historical abuse seek justice and financial compensation for the harm suffered by victims that have experienced institutional and/or child abuse. However, the process of claiming compensation for historical abuse can be complex and challenging.

Historical abuse refers to any form of abuse that occurred in the past, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. The majority of these compensation claim cases are focused on historical child abuse and/or historic sexual abuse. In many cases, victims of historical abuse may have suffered in silence for years, feeling too ashamed or frightened to speak out.

With the growing awareness of the impact of abuse on victims, many survivors are now coming forward regarding the harm they experienced, including both physical and psychological injuries.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of historic abuse, it is important to understand your legal rights and options for seeking compensation. While the process can be challenging, there are resources and support available to help you navigate the legal system and pursue justice for the harm you have suffered.

Contents

Understanding Historical Abuse

Historical abuse can occur in a variety of settings, including schools, religious institutions, foster care, and other forms of out-of-home care.

Understanding historical abuse is crucial in determining whether a victim can claim compensation for the harm they have suffered. Victims of historical abuse may be eligible for compensation if they can demonstrate that the abuse they suffered has caused them to suffer physical or psychological harm.

The process of understanding historical abuse can be complex. It requires a comprehensive understanding of the type of abuse (e.g. sexual assault, child abuse, neglect, etc.) and the context in which the abuse occurred, as well as an understanding of the impact that the abuse has had on the victim. This may involve gathering documentation, including witness statements, medical evidence, and records from treating practitioners, to build a case for compensation.

It is important to note that the laws surrounding compensation for historical abuse can vary depending on the jurisdiction. In Australia, there is no limitation period on civil claims for a child sexual abuse claim, claims of serious physical abuse, or any other abuse perpetrated in connection with sexual or serious physical abuse. This means that a historical sexual abuse claim can be brought, regardless of the time that has passed between the occurrence of abuse and when the victim takes legal action. This change in legislation was part of the response to the Royal Commission and aims to better support victims.

Although there may be no limitation period for civil claims, the later a victim brings their claim, the more difficult it may be to prove their case. This is because, as time passes, evidence may be lost, destroyed or otherwise unavailable. 

Understanding historical abuse and the harm suffered by victims makes it possible to build a strong case for compensation and ensure that victims receive the support and justice they deserve.

Eligibility for Compensation

To claim compensation for historical abuse, there are certain eligibility criteria that must be met. These criteria vary depending on the jurisdiction and forum in which a victim brings their claim.

Victims may be entitled to receive compensation through negotiations directly with the institution, court proceedings or from statutory schemes such as the National Redress Scheme or Victims Support Scheme. 

It is important that victims understand their options before they bring any claim as receiving compensation from one source may affect their entitlements. For example, if a victim of historical child abuse receives compensation through the National Redress Scheme, may be prevented from commencing court proceedings against the responsible institution.

The National Redress Scheme was established to provide support to people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse. To be eligible for compensation under this scheme, the abuse must have occurred before 1 July 2018, and the applicant must have been under 18 years of age at the time of the abuse.

In addition, the applicant must have experienced abuse while in the care of an institution that has opted into the scheme. This includes, but is not limited to,  institutions such as schools, churches, and government-run facilities.

To apply for compensation, the applicant must provide evidence of the abuse, such as police reports, medical records, or witness statements. The evidence must be sufficient to support the claim of abuse.

In NSW, the Victims Support Scheme provides financial assistance to victims of violent crimes, including historical abuse. To be eligible for compensation under this scheme, the abuse must have occurred in NSW and the applicant must have suffered physical or psychological harm as a result of the abuse.

The applicant must also have reported the abuse to the police and cooperated with any investigation or prosecution.

There are various pathways to compensation for victims, however, eligibility for compensation for historical abuse varies depending on the jurisdiction and the specific schemes in place. An experienced legal professional can assist by helping you to carefully review the eligibility criteria, provide advice on the best avenue to pursue your claim, and provide sufficient evidence to support your claim.

Compensation Amounts

Compensation amounts for historical abuse claims vary based on the jurisdiction and forum in which the claim is made. In Australia, compensation is often awarded through negotiations with institutions, following court proceedings or from redress schemes. 

Depending on how a victim decides to pursue their claim, Tthe amount of compensation awarded may depends on the severity of the abuse suffered and/or the impact it has had on the victim’s life. 

If a victim lodges a claim through the National Redress Scheme, the cCompensation amounts can range from less than $10,000 to $150,000.

The amount of compensation awarded through the National Redress Scheme can also depend on the type of abuse suffered. For example, victims of sexual abuse may be awarded higher compensation amounts than victims of physical abuse.

In addition to financial compensation, redress schemes may also provide other forms of support including counselling, medical treatment, and other forms of assistance to help victims cope with the trauma of their experiences.

It is important to note that compensation amounts through the National Redress Scheme are not intended to fully compensate victims for the harm they have suffered. Rather, they are intended to provide some measure of financial support and recognition for the harm that has been done.

Whereas, the aim of the Court during civil proceedings is to fully compensate victims for the harm they have suffered and the losses they have experienced as a result of that harm.

How to Make a Claim

Making a claim for historical abuse can be a complex and challenging process. It’s important to understand the key steps involved in order to improve the potential outcome of your claim.

The first step in making a claim for historical abuse compensation is to find a lawyer who specialises in this area. It is important to choose a lawyer who has experience in handling historical abuse cases and who understands the legal and emotional complexities involved. Booking a free initial consultation can be a good way to find out if a firm will be the right fit for your case.

Collecting Evidence

To make a successful claim for historical abuse compensation, you will need to provide evidence to support your case. This may include medical records, police reports, witness statements, and any other documentation that can help to prove that the abuse occurred.

It is important to start collecting evidence as soon as possible, as memories can fade over time, and it may be more difficult to obtain supporting documentation. If you are struggling to obtain evidence, your lawyer may be able to assist you in obtaining the necessary documentation.

Filing a Claim

Once you have found a lawyer and collected the necessary evidence, you can file a claim for historical abuse compensation. This will involve submitting a formal legal claim to the relevant institution or authority.

The process for filing a claim can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of your case. Your lawyer will be able to guide you through the process and ensure that your claim is filed correctly and within the relevant timeframes.

Potential Challenges

When it comes to claiming compensation for historical abuse, there are a number of potential challenges that survivors may face. These challenges can arise from a range of factors, including legal, practical, and emotional considerations.

One of the main challenges that survivors may face is the difficulty of proving that abuse occurred. This can be particularly challenging in cases where the abuse occurred many years ago, as memories may have faded and evidence may be hard to come by. In addition, survivors may be hesitant to come forward and report the abuse, either because they fear retribution or because they feel ashamed or embarrassed.

Another potential challenge is the availability of compensation. While compensation schemes do exist in some jurisdictions, survivors may find that they are not eligible for compensation or that the compensation available is insufficient to meet their needs. In addition, survivors may face long waiting periods or bureaucratic hurdles when applying for compensation, which can be frustrating and discouraging.

Finally, survivors may face emotional challenges when seeking compensation for historical abuse. For many survivors, coming forward and reliving the trauma of their abuse can be a difficult and painful process. In addition, survivors may feel that they are not being believed or that their experiences are being trivialised or minimised.

Overall, while there are challenges associated with claiming compensation for historical abuse, survivors should be encouraged to come forward and seek the support and justice that they deserve. By working with experienced legal and support professionals, survivors can navigate these challenges.

Burke Mead Lawyers are Experienced Institutional and Historical Abuse Lawyers - Contact Our Team Today

Dealing with an institutional or historical abuse claim can be a stressful and complicated process, but it is manageable with the right help.

The team at Burke Mead Lawyers are experts in compensation law, including historical abuse claims. Our experts can assist you throughout this process to protect your legal rights – contact Burke Mead Lawyers today.

About the Author
Emma Mead

Emma Mead is an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law, accredited by the Law Society of NSW. She is also a National Accreditor Mediator and has a Graduate Diploma in Family Dispute Resolution. She specialises in all personal injury and family law disputes, locally and across New South Wales.