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Institutional Abuse Claims: A Guide to Seeking Compensation

Institutional Abuse Explained

Institutional abuse can be physical or psychological and can occur in various settings, including in foster care, day care, detention centres, religious institutions, nursing homes and psychiatric or mental health care facilities. If you’re a survivor of abuse, or aware of someone who may be suffering following abuse, know that the survivor deserves justice. 

This article provides information on a survivors right’s and how to claim compensation through the Redress Scheme vs a Civil Claim. 

Where can Institutional Abuse occur?

It can happen in any institution such as:

This is not an exhaustive list, and abuse can happen to people of all ages wherever they’ve put their trust and safety in the hands of authority or institution.

Signs of Institutional Abuse

Historical abuse essentially describes any situation where a person’s freedom to choose has been stripped away. Abuse can happen once, intermittently or consistently throughout someone’s lifetime. Some forms of abuse might take several states such as:

  • No flexibility of schedule.
  • Complete financial dependence.
  • Lack of choice — in things like food, clothing, possessions, lighting and heating.
  • Physical or verbal abuse.
  • Neglect in the form of withholding necessities like food, clothing, water, shelter, etc.
  • Solitary confinement or unlawful use of restraint. 
  • Forcible feeding. 
  • Failure to respect privacy.
  • Threats of harm or abandonment.
  • Forced labour or sex trafficking. 
  • Sexual abuse like rape, inappropriate touch, harassment, leering or indecent exposure.

As a result of some of these forms of abuse, people will begin to show clear (or sometimes subtle) signs of harm (whether ongoing or after a single event). Some indications that abuse is happening in an institutional setting could include:

  • Authority members treat adults like children.
  • Inadequate staffing levels.
  • Public embarrassment.
  • Unnecessary exposure while bathing.
  • Hungry or dehydrated people.
  • Insufficient personal clothing or possessions and communal use of personal items.
  • Lack or prohibition of visitors.
  • Poor record keeping or missing personal documentation.
  • Bruising, scars, scratches or other signs of physical violence. 

When someone is severely abused, they may come out of the institution (if ever) worse off than when they entered. If you are a survivor of institutional child abuse or elder abuse, you should know your rights and how to seek righteous compensation for the crimes inflicted on you.

Your Rights as a Survivor of Institutional Abuse

While no amount of money will undo the events of abuse, legal compensation can cover the cost of therapy, medical treatments and living costs for those who are unable to work.  

You have the right to file a claim against your abuser or institution with the police. You should also seek medical examination and advice from a doctor as soon as possible. This can help you deal with any long- or short-term damage such as physical ailments or to begin emotional trauma healing. The earlier you seek help, the faster you will pave the road to recovery.

If you want to gain compensation to cover your expenses, you must speak with a lawyer who specialises in institutional abuse compensation claims.

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What is the National Redress Scheme?

In 2013, the Commonwealth Government called upon the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia. This focuses specifically on children who were sexually abused while in the care of state institutions and organisations. As the Commission learned more about how institutions respond to claims and the difficulty victims were facing in court, The Commission started to improve how they dealt with the matters. 

As a result, institutions that are accused of any type of abuse are investigated by the Royal Commission. 

In the years following 2013, the Commission improved reporting and responding practices and developed the National Redress Scheme on 1 July 2018.

Why Choose a Civil Claim over the National Redress Scheme? And What’s the Difference?

Limitations of the National Redress Scheme

  1. The maximum amount you can receive from a redress payment is $150,000, but the average payment received is only $87,955 (as at 9 December 2022).
  2. All applicants have their abuse assessed on a set criteria to determine which category it fits into and the amount of redress payable. There is limited consideration as to how the abuse has impacted your life (maximum of $20,000).
  3. An application under the Scheme is limited to instances of abuse where the child was abused in an institution who has joined the Scheme. If you were abused at an institution that has not joined the Redress Scheme you cannot receive a redress payment.  
  4. An application under the Scheme is limited to instances of sexual abuse.
  5. Once you accept an offer of Redress you are precluded from making any further claims for additional compensation against the institution in respect of the abuse.

Alternative Options – A Civil Claim

A civil claim is where you sue the institution and/or offender responsible for the abuse. There are many benefits to choosing this option over Redress:

1. There is no limit on the amount of compensation that can be awarded and your case is assessed on its own merit. That means the case is tailored specifically to you and the impact the abuse has had on your life. From our experience almost every civil claim results in a payment in excess of $150,000 (the maximum amount payable under Redress). Some civil cases settle for in excess of $1million.

2. A civil claim provides an opportunity to claim compensation in respect of:

  • General damages/non-economic loss (commonly referred to as ‘pain and suffering’).
  • Economic loss – consideration is given to the impact the abuse has had on your education and employment opportunities.
  • Treatment expenses – covering the cost of the treatment you reasonably require as a result of the abuse such as counselling, medication, etc.
  • Domestic care and assistance – for instances where the abuse has impacted on your ability to carry out domestic duties around the home.
  • Aggravated and exemplary damages – may be available against the defendant in certain circumstances.

3. A civil claim is not limited to the institutions who have registered with the Redress Scheme. A civil claim can be brought against any institution or individual offender.

4. The majority of civil claims will settle favourably for the plaintiff (person making the claim) without the need of going to a final hearing before a Judge.

5. Civil claims are not limited to sexual abuse. A claim can also be brought in respect of serious physical abuse.  

What’s the Best Option for You?

Contact GMP Law today to discuss your claim. Our expert team would be pleased to discuss your claim and the potential options open to you on an obligation free basis.

From our experience the majority of people are better off brining a civil claim. A civil claim gives you the opportunity to be heard and will likely result in a much higher sum of money being paid to you in recognition of the abuse and its subsequent impact on you.

What if I have already Applied for Redress?

If you have already applied for Redress but you have not yet accepted an offer for Redress then you can still make a civil claim. We recommend you contact our office today to discuss your options.

Once an offer for Redress has been accepted there is unfortunately no civil claim available against the institution in respect of the abuse. 

Time limits based on state or territory

Generally, you must lodge a personal injury claim in most states and territories within three years of the incident. 

Until recently, this included child sexual abuse — both domestic and institutional. However, due to the research, the Royal Commission put into understanding child sexual abuse and how survivors come out of the event, they found that it takes an average of 20 years to process the crimes done to them and then to speak up and seek justice. For this reason, the statutory time limits have been abolished for child sex abuse.

Who can make a claim?

Making a Redress Scheme claim involves several stipulations. Such regulations include being the age of 18 or older when you file, never having served time in jail and never receiving payment related to your abuse. 

Outside of the Redress Scheme, all adults in the community have a responsibility to report child or patient abuse. In Victoria, specifically, there is a law enacted in 2014 called the Failure to Disclose Offence. There are intervention orders across the country to encourage bystanders, who have a reasonable belief that abuse has been committed, to come forward to the police.

Compensation Lawyers for Institutional Abuse Claims

If you or someone you know has suffered institutional abuse of any kind, you should feel empowered to come forward, seek legal advice and help this person out of the cycle of trauma. While the survivor will need to recount the events to their lawyer, and while we understand this can be extremely hard or even triggering, we are here to listen to your experiences and help you seek justice. 

Once your abuse lawyer has taken down the details of your claim, we will work tirelessly to help you make a claim and earn compensation. You can count on Gerard Malouf & Partners abuse lawyers to fight for your rights against the institutional response to abuse. We have extraordinary court and mediation results for institutional sexual abuse received in Victoria and other states and we can help you too. 

Reach out to a personal injury lawyer today for a no-obligation legal advice consultation.

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About Us
Gerard Malouf & Partners have provided friendly, experienced legal advice to communities across Australia for over 35 years. Our Personal Injury Lawyers have taken on ten’s of thousands of cases and we are proud to have won billions of dollars for our clients.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.

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