Understanding abuse claims

Understanding abuse claims

In legal terms, the term ‘abuse’ encapsulates mental, physical and sexual abuse.

Claims of abuse against all kinds of organisations are unfortunately becoming increasingly frequent in the UK. Against this backdrop, it’s important to understand the different types of abuse claims, how to mitigate the risk of abuse and what insurance is available to protect organisations if claims arise.


What’s the difference between a criminal and civil abuse claim

Abuse claims can be made in the civil and/or criminal courts but there is an important distinction between the two. Sexual assault is usually a serious indictable offence that is dealt with by a Crown Court. A civil abuse claim is a claim for compensation made by the injured person against the person at fault. The main difference to consider here is that civil claims are subject to a limitation period but criminal claims are not.


What is a limitation period?

The limitation period is the timeframe in which a claim can be made, and it’s an important factor to consider when thinking about insurance cover. There is no limitation period on the prosecution of most criminal abuse cases, whereas civil abuse claims, also known as personal injury claims, are generally subject to a three-year limitation period.

However, it’s not that straightforward: many civil claims involve allegations of abuse that occurred decades before and there is judicial discretion available to extend the limitation period indefinitely. When considering whether to extend the period in which a claim can be brought, each case is decided on its own merits and factors laid down in the Limitation Act.


When does the limitation period start?

The limitation period normally starts from either the date the incident occurred, or the date the person who suffered the abuse becomes aware that it took place (if this date is later). For example, in the case of minors, the three-year period doesn’t start until the child is 18 years old. The limitation rules are also different for adults who do not have mental capacity.


How can my organisation minimise the chance of abuse happening?

Embed a workplace culture with person-centred values, promote empowerment and manage the risk. Training and education will help employees to recognise and respond to abuse should warning signs emerge. Other prevention approaches include identifying those who could be at risk, raising awareness and implementing policies and procedures within the organisation. Measures such as obtaining references from previous employers and ensuring workers have undergone a DBS check will also cut the risk of abuse.


What about risk management planning?

A risk management plan is a useful tool. It should identify the risks, the likelihood of them occurring and the impact to the business should they occur. Just as importantly, the plan should include mitigation steps to eliminate or reduce risk, and a strategy so that staff know how to handle abuse allegations, escalating them through the proper channels.


Why is insurance coverage important?

Serious allegations can seriously affect both personal and business reputations. Reliable legal representation and insurance cover that is ongoing and incorporates long-term protection provides both reassurance and specialist support.


What’s the difference between Claims Occurring and Claims Made insurance?

A Claims Occurring policy covers incidents that occur during the period of insurance. As long as it is reported in accordance with policy terms and conditions, it does not matter how far in the future a claim is made.

A Claims Made policy provides cover for claims made and reported during the period of insurance. Claims notified after the policy period has ended will not be covered even if a claim is legitimate. 

Published on
August 25, 2021