Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions About Clergy Abuse
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Can my identity be protected if I bring a lawsuit?
Yes. The justice system has a process which would allow for your identity to be concealed from public disclosure. Through that process, you would be identified either as John Doe or Jane Doe in the lawsuit.
How much is a clergy abuse case worth?
The value of each sexual abuse case is different. The value depends on a number of factors including the nature of the abuse, the length of the abuse, the availability of evidence supporting the case, the economic damages suffered, the pain and suffering sustained, and other repercussions of the abuse suffered.
What good will it do to speak up?
In the past, it was considered taboo to talk about having been a victim of sexual abuse. In the church setting, parishioners, and mainly children, were told to keep silent and not to utter a word to anyone in authority, especially to their parents after being sexually abused by members of the church. Times have changed since the #MeToo movement. Speaking up and sharing your story of abuse not only shines a light on the injustice, but it also gives other survivors the courage to step forward and share their stories of abuse as well. Together, with multiple voices united, it becomes incredibly difficult for these predator priests and the Church to credibly deny the allegations levied against them.
What can I do to change the law in Michigan?
There is currently a strong movement in Lansing to pass several sexual assault bills into law that will extend the rights of sexual assault victims in the state of Michigan, and allow those that were abused many years ago to bring a claim for their abuse for a limited time. You can read the draft bills that were introduced in April 2023 here. Please contact your friends, neighbors and co-workers and have them call their representatives in their districts to let them know you are in favor and support the new sexual assault bills. You can also write to your district’s representatives, including sending emails and letters requesting their vote on the passage of the sexual assault bills currently under consideration. With the public’s support, and with the passage of the bills into law, this legislation could bring justice to those who have suffered in silence for decades.
Will I have to pay more in attorney fees because I sign up with your coalition of Michigan clergy abuse lawyers as opposed to hiring just one lawyer or law firm?
No. While our coalition is made up of three prominent Michigan firms and their attorneys who have wide experience and expertise in representing victims of sexual abuse, you will not be charged any more than you would be if you hired just one attorney or law firm. For the same standard contingency fee, you will have the expertise and resources that come from three major law firms on your side to fight for justice. Our team of attorneys has all worked together before to represent survivors and we use the same trauma-informed approach to obtain justice for sexual abuse survivors. Like it is important for survivors to speak up and join together, it is also important for their legal representation to form a team that has the resources and depth to take on the large institutions that facilitated or covered up the abuse our clients suffered.
How long do I have to file a claim for sexual abuse?
If you were over the age of 18 at the time of the abuse, the Statute of Limitations would allow you three (3) years to file your claim. However, if the abuse occurred while you were still a minor, the law provides you with additional time in which to file your claim. In 2018, Michigan changed its law by enacting Michigan Compiled Law 600.5851b. This new law provides that anyone who was a victim of criminal sexual conduct or abuse while still a minor, you can now file a lawsuit by your 28th birthday, or within three (3) years of your abuse being discovered, whichever is later.
Can I bring a claim for sexual abuse if the abuse occurred many decades ago?
As indicated above, if you were abused while you were still a minor, you would have until your 28th birthday to file your claim. However, if you, like many others, suppressed your abuse, or didn’t realize until many years later that you were being abused, you would have three (3) years to file your claim upon your discovery of your abuse.
Can I bring a case if my abuser is now dead?
Yes, you can still file a claim against your abuser’s estate, or, you may be able to file your claim directly against your Church or the Catholic Archdiocese. In Michigan, the employer is responsible for the acts of its employees. Thus, your Church can be held liable for the abuse inflicted upon you by your priest. In addition, there is substantial evidence demonstrating that the Archdiocese was well aware of the widespread abuse being inflicted upon minors, and not only did they fail to address it, but they also chose to cover it up. These failures by the Church and Archdiocese may expose them to substantial liability for your claim.
What kind of damages may I receive should I decide to file a claim?
Should you file a claim, you could be entitled to substantial compensation for:
- Anxiety, depression, and emotional distress suffered;
- Post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological damages;
- Medical bills, past and present, including costs of future therapy or counseling;
- Lost wages or income if the abuse affected your ability to work or obtain employment; and
- Physical injuries sustained from the abuse.