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Every 98 seconds someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.  About one in 10 children will be sexually abused before his or her 18th birthday. One in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. These statistics demonstrate the pervasiveness of sexual crimes in our country.

Sexual abuse or sexual assault?

The term “sexual abuse” is typically used to describe conduct toward children rather than adults. It involves any sexual act with a child performed by an adult or, in some cases, an older child. Sexual abuse can include many different actions, including not just physical contact, but also such acts as making a child watch pornography. Every state has laws that recognize that children are not capable of giving informed consent to any sex act.

“Sexual assault” refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Consent may not be possible due to alcohol, drugs or some form of incapacitation. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services notes that "sexual assault can be verbal, visual or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention." Like sexual abuse, sexual assault can take many forms, including rape/attempted rape, fondling or unwanted sexual touching, and forcing a victim to perform sexual acts.

Sexual crimes can have traumatic and permanent effects on a victim’s life. Survivors often experience PTSD, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. They may also develop substance abuse issues. All these conditions can have a damaging effect on the victim’s education, relationships, job retention, health and financial stability.

Criminal Proceedings Versus Civil Lawsuits

Sexual abuse and sexual assault are criminal offenses which can result in convicted defendants being incarcerated, fined and required to register as sex offenders. While criminal convictions are designed to punish and deter, they fail to compensate victims.

HKQ Law Attorney Joseph A. Quinn, Jr. explains that, “A victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault may also file a civil lawsuit against the alleged perpetrator and under appropriate circumstances may file a claim against other persons or entities.   Such a lawsuit is usually the only way that a sexual assault victim can get monetary compensation for the harm suffered and start to get back on the road to healing.”

Third-party defendants

A civil lawsuit enables a plaintiff to make legal claims against entities or persons other than the alleged perpetrator. For instance, a company may be civilly liable if it knew or should have known about sexual wrongdoing by an employee and failed to take corrective action.  Such claims can include, but are not limited to, religious institutions, churches, colleges, hotels, bars, hospitals, landlords, and even governmental agencies.   (With regard to claims against governmental agencies, the Plaintiff would have to overcome governmental immunity.)  An example of a third party, other than an employer, who could be liable to the victim is a building owner who fails to maintain a building, as a result of which the perpetrator gains access to the building and to the victim.


For survivors of sexual abuse or sexual assault, a successful civil lawsuit can provide a certain measure of closure. However, the primary benefit is to provide victims with the financial resources they need for the services that are crucial to rebuild their lives. Damages, the monetary awards given to a successful plaintiff, fall into three categories:

Economic: Covers monetary expenditures necessitated as a result of the defendant’s wrongdoing which can include such things are medical bills, therapy and counseling, prescriptions and lost wages.

Non-economic: Compensates for physical pain, emotional anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of consortium.

Punitive: Includes damages designed to punish defendants for their willful or recklessly indifferent actions and to deter others from similar future misconduct.

Statutes of Limitations

Victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault must realize that they must file suit prior to the expiration of the Statute of Limitations or might otherwise be forever barred from pursuing their claim.  For years, the Statute of Limitations for adult victims was two (2) years from the date of the alleged incident and for victims under the age of eighteen (18), the Statute of Limitations required that claims be filed prior to the victim attaining his or her thirtieth (30th) birthday.

It is important to understand that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, on September 26, 2018, passed overwhelmingly a Child Sex Abuse Bill designed to expand the time for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file suit.  If this Bill is passed by the Senate, it would eliminate all criminal Statute of Limitations and extend the deadline for civil cases to age fifty (50).  Most importantly, the bill would permit past victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault to have an additional two (2) years to file their civil suits. 




About HKQ Law

Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms that has had the privilege of representing more families in the courtroom than any other NEPA firm. The attorneys at HKQ Law have been honored as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms by US News and World Report, and have received the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbel. HKQ Law was recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, Jr., has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history. The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A Quinn, Jr. is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. In addition, Best Lawyers, in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, has designated HKQ a Tier 1 Best Law Firm across multiple categories in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



As Hourigan, Kluger and Quinn addresses the concerns raised by COVID-19, the health and safety of our clients, employees and friends of the firm remain our top priority.

These are very difficult and scary times and we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and symptom free. We recognize that so many of you are understandably anxious about your health, the economic impact of this pandemic and all of the consequences of social isolation.

We also recognize that many of you are anxious about how the coronavirus is impacting the Court systems, our firm and your cases. Although all of our offices are closed, our firm has remained fully operational and we have initiated procedures that allow all of our attorneys and staff to work remotely from their homes. Each of us and our staff will respond to any emails and calls about your cases as quickly as possible.

Our Federal and State Courts have instituted significant changes in their calendars as a result of the coronavirus. Although most courthouses are closed to the public, and Hearings and Trials will be delayed for some time, there are matters that can proceed telephonically and by video. Despite these changes in the Court calendars, we are working diligently on your cases and are determined to do whatever we possibly can to assure an early and just recovery for you and your loved ones. Even under these difficult circumstances, we believe that "Nobody will work harder for you than we will."

With regard to new potential clients, we are not in a position to have an in-person new client meeting, but we will be conducting these initial meetings via phone. New potential clients should call us for a free telephone consultation at (570) 287-3000.


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