Compensation disparity for sexual abuse survivors at school highlights value of legal support
The ABC recently reported a story on former students and survivors of sexual abuse at Gippsland Grammar and their disappointment when they learnt of huge disparities in compensation payments ranging from $40,000 to $1 million for survivors of abuse from the same institution.
This story highlights the importance and value of strong and knowledgeable legal advice for survivors to secure proportionate compensation. Legislative changes and recent decisions have enabled many more compensation options for abuse survivors including revisiting previous disproportionate settlements.
RCT Law’s empathetic and knowledgeable Institutional Abuse lawyers assist survivors to navigate compensation options in a sensitive manner to ensure optimum outcomes via a pathway that best suits their needs. We often act for survivors of abuse by the same institution and work to secure proportionate compensation for survivors based on their individual circumstances as well as harnessing powerful corroborative evidence by survivors
Legislative changes support abuse survivors
Recent significant changes to the law in Victoria has made it easier for abuse survivors to take their claims to court, as claims of sexual abuse were previously notoriously difficult to prosecute.
In the past, vulnerable victims who made compensation claims were often coerced into insignificant settlements for token amounts, due to settlement pressure mounted by powerful and financially well-off institutions. During this period, it was more than likely that institutions with responsibility for perpetrators could not be sued directly, limitation issues would impact claims due to the passage of time since the abuse occurred combined with the likelihood of unequal advocacy and representation during negotiations.
As illustrated in the recent ABC article, negotiations with victims were also often insensitive, and settlement terms usually included non-disclosure agreements and private apologies which did not account for traumatised survivors’ needs for recognition.
In 2015, the statute of limitations was abolished in claims of child abuse in Victoria by the passage of the Limitation of Actions Amendment (Child Abuse) Act 2015 (Vic).
The Children Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Vic) means that the courts can in some cases revisit previous settlements made prior to 2015 (when limitations for child abuse cases was abolished) and allow them to be overturned where it is “just and reasonable” to do.
The Wrongs Amendment (Organisational Child Abuse) Act 2017 (Vic) and The Legal Identity of Defendants (Organisational Child Abuse) Act 2018 (Vic) now provide for Institutions to be held liable in negligence for organisational child abuse.
Survivors seek compensation for damages
In addition to legislative changes, there have been a number of recent decisions that have opened the door for survivors to bring similar actions. Survivors have been successful in seeking damages for:
- Pain and suffering (general damages);
- Past and future economic loss and medical expenses (special damages); and
- Potentially also aggravated and exemplary damages through the courts.
Claims have been brought in a number of ways – in negligence, for breach of statutory duty, arguing vicarious liability and direct liability.
There are currently many potential legal pathways and options open to survivors of abuse including:
- Common Law (Civil) Claims in Court;
- Out of Court Settlements;
- Redress Applications through the National Redress Scheme;
- Revisiting Past Settlements or Judgments;
- Victims of Crime Applications; and
- Sentencing Act Applications.
As the largest Abuse Law practice in Victoria, RCT Law’s Institutional Abuse team has acted for more than 2,500 clients who have suffered physical, sexual or psychological abuse.
Since the early 1990s, we have given legal support to clients and have proudly advocated for the rights of survivors in seeking justice.
The RCT Institutional Abuse legal team helps abuse survivors navigate the myriad options now available to them through a tailored approach suited to each individual situation and strong advocacy designed to secure optimum compensation and legal redress while also addressing recognition needs.