Who can I Make an Abuse Claim Against?

Posted on: 8 mins read
Jacob Shaw

Solicitor Graduate, Abuse

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When someone reaches out to us about a possible abuse case, one of the first  points we need to  consider and advise on is who they can sue or make a claim against.

Depending on the facts of your case, it can be possible to bring a claim for abuse directly against an individual abuser. In some circumstances it may also be possible to bring a claim against an organisation, institution, public authority or other corporate body, if we are able to show that they are legally responsible for the abuser’s actions or that they owed you a duty of care and have been negligent in protecting you from harm.

We understand that taking steps to claim compensation for abuse you have experienced is a big  step and takes a great amount of courage. Our compassionate team of specialist Abuse Law solicitors have many years’ experience in bringing claims against different types of defendants, and will be able to talk through the process with you and provided tailored advice on the options available.

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Can I Claim Against an Individual Abuser?

If you have been abused you have the right to seek compensation directly from the individual or individuals who abused you, or their estate.

To bring a claim against an individual abuser, we will need to ensure that the individual has sufficient assets (i.e. savings, income, or property) so that if your claim is successful, we know that they will be able to pay any compensation you are awarded and your legal fees.

If we think that your abuser may have assets which would be available to pay for any compensation, our solicitors can conduct further investigations into this, including obtaining Official Copies from the Land Registry for any properties the abuser owns, or instructing an enquiry agent to investigate the  abuser’s financial position and determine the precise amount of assets available.

Unfortunately, it is often the case that individual abusers do not have enough money or assets to sue them directly, but this does not mean we will be unable to help you. Our solicitors will always advise you if we think there are other potential defendants who you may be entitled to sue for compensation and who may be in a better position to pay any compensation to you if your case is successful. We can also advise you whether you would be able to claim compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.


Can I Claim Against Institutions or Organisations?

If the abuse occurred in an institutional setting, such as a school, care home or religious institution, and was perpetrated by someone who worked there, it is often possible to bring a claim for abuse against that institution, if it can be shown that they are ‘vicariously liable’, i.e. they are legally responsible for the actions of the perpetrator. Institutional defendants will usually be insured against claims for abuse, meaning it is much more likely they will be able to pay any compensation awarded to you if your claim is successful than an individual abuser.


The Vicarious Liability Test

There is a two-stage test that must be satisfied to show that an institution is vicariously liable for abuse committed by their employees. The first stage of the test is to consider the relationship between the abuser and the institution, to see whether it is one capable of giving rise to vicarious liability. The most common example of a relationship that can satisfy this stage of the test is a relationship of employment. For example, an employee within a residential care home would likely satisfy this test.

Vicarious liability is not however confined to relationships of employment and in specific circumstances stage one of the test may also be satisfied if there is a relationship ‘akin to’ an employment relationship. In these circumstances, the courts will consider whether it is fair, just and reasonable to impose liability on the defendant. For example, a volunteer within a school or charitable organisation, a religious leader within a religious institution or a Local Authority’s approved foster carer, may satisfy stage one of the test.

The second stage of the test is that the abuse must also have been committed in a way that was so closely connected to the business activities entrusted to the abuser by the institution, that it is

fair to impose vicarious liability. Every case is different, and the courts will examine each on its individual facts when deciding if there is a sufficient connection. Factors the court may consider include the opportunity afforded to the abuser by the institution to abuse their power; the extent of the power given to the abuser in relation to the claimant; the vulnerability of potential victims to the wrongful exercise of the abusers’ power; and the extent to which the relationship between the abuser and the institution may have furthered the abusers aims.

Our expert solicitors will be able to advise you further whether vicarious liability is likely to be established on the specific facts of your case. If you have been abused in an institution, we may be able to help you bring a claim against any of the following:

  • Schools for abuse by teachers, other staff, or volunteers
  • Care homes, group homes or orphanages for abuse by care workers, House Masters, night supervisors, wardens, and other staff/volunteers
  • Religious organisations such as the Church, for abuse by priests or other members of the clergy.
  • Prisons for abuse by prison officers, prison medics and other personnel.
  • Sports organisations such as football clubs, swimming clubs and gymnastics clubs for abuse by sports coaches and scouts.
  • The NHS including hospitals and other services, for abuse by nurses, doctors, and other staff/volunteers
  • Out of school clubs/activities i.e. Cubs, the Scouts, Cadets, the Boys Brigade, and other youth clubs/centres.
  • Local authorities for abuse by social workers or foster parents.

This is not an exhaustive list and when you feel ready to talk, we are ready to listen and would encourage you to get in touch to discuss your individual circumstances.


Can I Make a Claim for Negligence or Failure to Protect Me from Harm?

In some cases, it will not be possible to establish that an institution is vicariously liable for the abuse, as there will not be a relationship between the abuser and the organisation of employment or akin to employment. A common example that we often see is where there has been abuse or neglect by a family member.

However, it may still be possible in these circumstances to bring a claim against a local authority or other institution, if it can be established that they owed you a duty of care and have been negligent in failing to protect you from harm. You may also be able to show that the institution has breached your Human Rights by failing to protect you from harm.

This is a complicated area of law which is still evolving and has been subject to significant changes in recent years, which have considerably narrowed the circumstances in which a public authority will be held to have owed a duty of care to protect an individual from harm. If you have been let down by a public authority or other institution and they have failed to protect you from harm, we can talk though with you your circumstances and advise on whether you may be able to make this type of claim.


Can I Make a Criminal Injuries Compensation Claim?

It may also be possible for you to make a claim under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. This Scheme is funded by the Ministry of Justice and was set up to compensate victims of violent crimes, including for physical and sexual abuse. An application for an award of compensation can be made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) who administer the Scheme and decide whether or not an applicant is eligible for an award and what award they are eligible for under the Scheme rules. It is often the case that there is no other person or organisation to bring a civil claim against, and in these circumstances, we may be able to help you to make a claim to the CICA. You can find out more information about CICA claims here or contact our team of abuse solicitors who will be able to advise whether you would be eligible to make an application.

Is there a Redress Scheme that I could apply to?

Some institutions have launched redress schemes specifically designed to compensate and support survivors who have experienced abuse within their institutions. These schemes can vary greatly in terms of their eligibility criteria and the amount of compensation that can be obtained. Our team has experience of representing survivors of abuse in applications to many different redress schemes, including:

  • The Lambeth Redress Scheme,
  • The Manchester City FC Redress Scheme
  • The Michael Studdart Redress Scheme; and
  • The Residential Institutions Redress Boardin Dublin.

Such a scheme is also currently being developed by the Church of England and you can read more about this here. The Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) which published its final Report in October 2022 has also recommended that the Government introduce a national redress scheme for survivors of institutional abuse. Our team are closely monitoring the Governments response to the IICSA recommendations.

Our solicitors will advise you if we believe you may be entitled to compensation under any established redress schemes, or if you may be entitled to claim under any schemes that may be available in the future.


You can find our more information about Redress Schemes here.


You may feel nervous or worried about seeking legal advice in relation to an abuse claim, particularly if you have never spoken about the abuse to anyone else before. Our solicitors recognise this, and we will do all we can to guide you through the process, advise you on your options, and put you at ease. We are committed to obtaining justice for our clients and will be able to advise you further on the types of claims explored in this article and which may be available to you to pursue, what the process will look like and what each stage will involve.

If you are a survivor of abuse and you’re wondering if you could make a claim for compensation, feel free to get in touch with our team at Simpson Millar today. Our empathetic Abuse Team lawyers have many years of experience handling all types of sensitive abuse cases.  

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References: GOV.UK. (n.d.). Criminal injuries compensation: Eligibility. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/claim-compensation-criminal-injury/eligibility

Abuse Claims UK. (n.d.). Individuals. Retrieved from https://www.abuseclaimsuk.co.uk/individuals/

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. (n.d.). Accountability and Reparations - Part C: Civil Justice System, Legal Basis for Claims Against Institutions. Retrieved from https://www.iicsa.org.uk/reports-recommendations/publications/investigation/accountability-reparations/part-c-civil-justice-system/c4-legal-basis-claims-against-institutions.html

Forbes. (n.d.). Vicarious Liability: What It Is And When Employers Are Responsible. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/personal-injury/vicarious-liability/

GOV.UK. (n.d.). Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/criminal-injuries-compensation-authority

Jacob Shaw

Solicitor Graduate, Abuse

Areas of Expertise:
Abuse Claims

Jacob proudly holds a First-Class law degree from Lancaster University, which he achieved in 2021. Before joining Simpson Millar, he gained experience as a Legal Assistant at another law firm, dealing predominantly with Personal Injury cases. His duties there included assisting with claimant road traffic accident cases, and public liability and employer's liability matters.

His commitment extends beyond the courtroom. At the age of 17, he was already volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Morecambe, assisting with a range of issues, from employment and benefits to consumer disputes. Recently, he was involved in a fundraising initiative for the National Association of People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC). Jacob also participated in a sponsored walk in August 2023, aiming to further contribute to this worthy cause.

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