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Don't Believe Corporations: The Civil Justice System Protects People
Don't Believe Corporations: The Civil Justice System Protects People

By: Allan M. Siegel

Chances are if you played the Match Game or simply heard the word “frivolous,” one of the first things that would come to mind is “lawsuits.” This is exactly what corporations want you to think. Through years of carefully calculated attacks and spending of millions upon millions of dollars, corporate powers with interests in limiting their liability and chances of having to pay people they’ve harmed have succeeded in perpetuating the myth of the frivolous lawsuit.

While powerful corporate entities, the insurance industry, anti-consumer lobbyists, and “tort reform” groups have wielded their power to ingrain this myth into the minds of Americans, it’s important to step back, look at the facts, and ask a few important questions. Why do so many Americans think there’s a problem with frivolous lawsuits? And what types of lawsuits are they referring to?

The video below provides some answers:

The Myth of the Frivolous Lawsuit

As mentioned in the video, tort reformers who invoke the term “frivolous lawsuits” refer to civil lawsuits, not criminal cases. Civil suits generally involve disputes between two parties, such as two people or a person and a corporation, and are often brought to court in order to hold someone (or some entity) accountable when they cause harm.

Personal injury lawsuits are civil lawsuits, and they can involve suits filed by victims against a corporation (such as in a product liability claim) or against another person (such as in a car accident case). Though a case may be filed against an individual (i.e. a negligent driver), it is often that those individual defendants are represented by their insurance companies.

These insurance companies and corporations have financial interests in shielding themselves against civil lawsuits, liability, and having to pay victims. In order to do so, they have spent huge amounts of money to generate the myth that there are too many lawsuits in America. But the facts show that claim is simply incorrect. Not only is there a body of law designed to rule out lawsuits which lack sufficient merit, statistics show civil suits in the U.S. have been declining for decades. In 1993, for example, 10 out of 1,000 Americans filed civil lawsuits. In 2005, less than 2 out of 1,000 brought civil claims in court.

Why You Should Care

While generating myths may seem like just another questionable tactic used by corporations, there is a reason you should care. The civil justice system is one of the most powerful platforms for justice in the U.S., and it provides everyone with a fair chance to hold others accountable for fault, negligence, and wrongdoing – even if they’re big and powerful corporate entities. Allowing corporations and lobbyists to degrade the system in their favor will only harm you, your community, and Americans at large.

Over the years, civil lawsuits have had major positive impacts not just on cases important to individuals and families, but also major issues that affect all Americans – from ending segregation and discontinuing the sales of dangerous pharmaceuticals to rooting out regulatory violations, dangerous conduct, and fraud against consumers and communities that may have never been exposed if not for people being able to exercise their rights and harness the power of the civil justice system. Here are a just a few specific examples:

  • Defective toys – The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued nearly 900 recalls on children’s toy products since 1974. Parents depend on the civil justice system to hold product manufacturers accountable when their children suffer preventable injuries, and to ensure toys on the market are safe for their kids.
  • Defective cars – In the 1960s, civil suits were responsible for revealing that General Motors knew the placement of gas tanks on their cars could cause explosions and fires in car accidents, making them more likely to injure and kill people. Although fixing the issue would have cost just under $9 per car, GM calculated it would only cost under $3 per car to pay claims for 500 fatal accidents. The civil justice system ensured they were held accountable, prompted federal regulatory standards for fuel tanks in rear-end collisions, and continues to help improve auto safety across the board.
  • Protecting communities – The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 was a catastrophe that caused over 10 million gallons of oil to pollute more than 1,000 miles of Alaskan coastline. Though the oil company did everything it could to escape liability, civil lawyers worked for 20 years to hold Exxon accountable and force them to clean up their mess.

To put things simply, the concept of “frivolous lawsuits” is a myth, and it is generated by powerful special interest groups who care more about their profits than they do people. At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., we know the power of the civil justice system when it comes to accountability, needed change, and the protection of victims and families who deserve justice and fair compensation. It’s why our attorneys have dedicated their professional careers to this area of law, and why we continue to fight for our clients when they face off against powerful defendants. We encourage you to share this video with your friends and families, and help spread the truth about what the civil justice system really means.

Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. proudly serves residents throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and is available to discuss any questions you may have about a potential case and your rights in the civil justice system. Contact us to speak with a lawyer.

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Recent Posts
  • Don't Believe Corporations: The Civil Justice System Protects People

    By: Allan M. Siegel

    Chances are if you played the Match Game or simply heard the word “frivolous,” one of the first things that would come to mind is “lawsuits.” This is exactly what corporations want you to think. Through years of carefully calculated attacks and spending of millions upon millions of dollars, corporate powers with interests in limiting their liability and chances of having to pay people they’ve harmed have succeeded in perpetuating the myth of the frivolous lawsuit.

    While powerful corporate entities, the insurance industry, anti-consumer lobbyists, and “tort reform” groups have wielded their power to ingrain this myth into the minds of Americans, it’s important to step back, look at the facts, and ask a few important questions. Why do so many Americans think there’s a problem with frivolous lawsuits? And what types of lawsuits are they referring to?

    The video below provides some answers:

    The Myth of the Frivolous Lawsuit

    As mentioned in the video, tort reformers who invoke the term “frivolous lawsuits” refer to civil lawsuits, not criminal cases. Civil suits generally involve disputes between two parties, such as two people or a person and a corporation, and are often brought to court in order to hold someone (or some entity) accountable when they cause harm.

    Personal injury lawsuits are civil lawsuits, and they can involve suits filed by victims against a corporation (such as in a product liability claim) or against another person (such as in a car accident case). Though a case may be filed against an individual (i.e. a negligent driver), it is often that those individual defendants are represented by their insurance companies.

    These insurance companies and corporations have financial interests in shielding themselves against civil lawsuits, liability, and having to pay victims. In order to do so, they have spent huge amounts of money to generate the myth that there are too many lawsuits in America. But the facts show that claim is simply incorrect. Not only is there a body of law designed to rule out lawsuits which lack sufficient merit, statistics show civil suits in the U.S. have been declining for decades. In 1993, for example, 10 out of 1,000 Americans filed civil lawsuits. In 2005, less than 2 out of 1,000 brought civil claims in court.

    Why You Should Care

    While generating myths may seem like just another questionable tactic used by corporations, there is a reason you should care. The civil justice system is one of the most powerful platforms for justice in the U.S., and it provides everyone with a fair chance to hold others accountable for fault, negligence, and wrongdoing – even if they’re big and powerful corporate entities. Allowing corporations and lobbyists to degrade the system in their favor will only harm you, your community, and Americans at large.

    Over the years, civil lawsuits have had major positive impacts not just on cases important to individuals and families, but also major issues that affect all Americans – from ending segregation and discontinuing the sales of dangerous pharmaceuticals to rooting out regulatory violations, dangerous conduct, and fraud against consumers and communities that may have never been exposed if not for people being able to exercise their rights and harness the power of the civil justice system. Here are a just a few specific examples:

    • Defective toys – The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued nearly 900 recalls on children’s toy products since 1974. Parents depend on the civil justice system to hold product manufacturers accountable when their children suffer preventable injuries, and to ensure toys on the market are safe for their kids.
    • Defective cars – In the 1960s, civil suits were responsible for revealing that General Motors knew the placement of gas tanks on their cars could cause explosions and fires in car accidents, making them more likely to injure and kill people. Although fixing the issue would have cost just under $9 per car, GM calculated it would only cost under $3 per car to pay claims for 500 fatal accidents. The civil justice system ensured they were held accountable, prompted federal regulatory standards for fuel tanks in rear-end collisions, and continues to help improve auto safety across the board.
    • Protecting communities – The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 was a catastrophe that caused over 10 million gallons of oil to pollute more than 1,000 miles of Alaskan coastline. Though the oil company did everything it could to escape liability, civil lawyers worked for 20 years to hold Exxon accountable and force them to clean up their mess.

    To put things simply, the concept of “frivolous lawsuits” is a myth, and it is generated by powerful special interest groups who care more about their profits than they do people. At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., we know the power of the civil justice system when it comes to accountability, needed change, and the protection of victims and families who deserve justice and fair compensation. It’s why our attorneys have dedicated their professional careers to this area of law, and why we continue to fight for our clients when they face off against powerful defendants. We encourage you to share this video with your friends and families, and help spread the truth about what the civil justice system really means.

    Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. proudly serves residents throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and is available to discuss any questions you may have about a potential case and your rights in the civil justice system. Contact us to speak with a lawyer.

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  • Less Than 4 Hours of Sleep? New Study Says You're 15 Times More Likely to Cause an Auto Accident

    By: Allan M. Siegel

    Over the past several years, numerous studies and public health and safety campaigns have focused on reminding us just how dangerous driving while tired can be. Although fatigue and a lack of sleep have become part of daily life for many working class Americans, these efforts have shown us that drowsy driving does pose significant risks on our roadways and, according to an older study from 2016, can be just as dangerous as driving drunk.

    While the risks make sense, researchers haven’t let up on studying the impact of fatigue when it comes to our driving abilities. In fact, new research is suggesting sleep-deprived drivers may be an even bigger problem than previously thought.

    The study, conducted by the Sleep Research Society and published in the scientific journal SLEEP, analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which includes detailed investigatory notes about nearly 5,500 car accidents, as well as interviews with drivers. From those reports, researchers made some significant findings:

    • Drivers who said they got less than 4 hours of sleep were 15.1x more likely to cause a wreck than those who got the recommended 7 to 9 hours of rest. That crash risk is comparable to driving with a BAC level 1.5 times over the legal limit of .08 (which is about nine or more drinks for someone of average size).
    • Drivers with 4 or fewer hours of sleep in a 24-hour time frame also had the highest risks of being involved in single-vehicle accidents, which NHTSA reports more frequently result in catastrophic injuries or deaths as compared to two-vehicle collisions.
    • Drivers with varying levels of insufficient rest all had increased accident risks, according to the study. This includes a 1.3x crash risk for 6 hours of sleep, 1.9x for 5 hours, and 2.9x the chances of causing a crash for those who slept between 4 to 5 hours.
    • The study also noted that motorists who drove for 3 hours or more without taking a break were more likely to crash, as were drivers with sleeping schedules which had changed within the past week, a finding corroborates by previous studies which have found an increase in accidents following daylight saving time.

    The study’s findings add to the growing log of research and reviews which highlight the dangers of driver fatigue. This includes a recent study from earlier this year which associated severe sleep apnea, a medical condition that can cause breathing obstruction at night and sleep disruption, with a 123% increased car accident risk, with less severe forms of the condition still posing significant crash risks. In the past, we have discussed the dangers of untreated sleep apnea, especially among commercial drivers. Despite the known dangers, however, federal regulators announced late last year that they would not pursue regulations to address sleep apnea in truckers and others who drive commercial vehicles.

    Sufficient Sleep: Avoiding Fatigue & Reducing Risks

    As we all know well enough, sleep is a critical component to the way we function in our daily lives, whether that’s completing job-related tasks, doing chores around the home, or remembering our “to-do” lists. For any number of reasons, though, most Americans tend to view fatigue as an unavoidable part of life, and tend to underestimate the dangers they pose to themselves and to others when they get behind the wheel while deprived of sleep. To help ensure your safety and the safety of those around you, it’s important to prioritize sufficient and quality sleep, and take steps to avoid drowsy driving. Here are a few tips to help:

    • Experts recommend between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for adults, but that number may be more for younger adults or adolescents, including teen drivers.
    • Chronic fatigue is a problem that can rack up quickly. Even if you miss out on sleep on one or several nights, researchers say you can make up some of that “sleep debt” by sleeping more in the following days.
    • If you’re driving for an extended period of time, or feel that fatigue is compromising your driving abilities, take a break, pull over for a nap, and / or consume caffeine for short-term help.
    • Sufficient rest is critical on longer road trips, as is driving during the day, making plans for rest stops, and trading off periodically with more rested drivers when possible.

    CSCS: Fighting for Accident Victims Across DC, Virginia & Maryland

    Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. has been providing personalized support and award-winning legal representation to victims and families throughout the DC Metro area for decades. Comprised of nationally recognized trial attorneys, our team has the experience how to effectively guide clients through the personal injury process following all types of motor vehicle accidents, including those caused by fatigued and negligent motorists or careless companies that failed to meet their legal obligations.

    If you have a question about a potential auto accident case and how our firm can help you, contact us for a FREE and confidential consultation.

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  • California Jury Orders Caltrans, City of LA to Pay $9.1M to Bicyclist Left with Brain Damage After Crash

    By: Allan M. Siegel

    Earlier this month, a California jury sided with a seriously injured cyclist by awarding him $9.1 million in compensation for damages sustained after he crashed while attempting to avoid debris on the Pacific Coast Highway near the Santa Monica Mountains. The jury found that Caltrans and city of Los Angeles were liable for the crash.

    As court records show, the crash occurred in July 2014 as the bicyclist was riding home. An experienced cyclist who rode his bike to work for years, the man had been following traffic signs instructing bicyclists to ride on the shoulder of the highway between lanes of traffic and the nearby cliff. While riding in the designated path, the man was forced to swerve to avoid a pile of rocks and sand on the pavement, and was struck by the side mirror of a passing truck, causing him to lose control and crash. He suffered significant brain damage, and was left unable to work, the lawsuit notes.

    During trial, it was discovered that Caltrans (the California Department of Transportation), which owns the highway, contracted with the city of Los Angeles to sweep the pavement on a monthly basis in order to keep it free from debris. The route where the accident occurred is a popular path for bicyclists, and officials had been aware for years that debris from the hills commonly create hazardous conditions on the pathway and highway.

    Two city street sweepers who testified at trial noted that they often swung around rocks, sand, and debris near the cliff, rather than remove it, and that the city often ignored such roadway hazards instead of having them cleared and hauled away. The jury ultimately found the city of Los Angeles 60% liable for the crash, and Caltrans 40% liable.

    Bicycle Accidents & Government Liability

    The $9.1 million judgment is one of the largest jury awards in Los Angeles history for an injured cyclist, and it mirrors similar high-figure cycling crash verdict and settlements that are increasing throughout the nation. Though the financial award is substantial, the case best serves as an important reminder about the devastating consequences of preventable bicycle accidents, and that injured riders have the right to seek justice, accountability, and a recovery of their damages through the civil justice system.

    As personal injury lawyers active in the local cycling community and bicyclist advocacy organizations like the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), our team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. knows that bicycle accident cases are high stakes matters, and that injured riders often suffer catastrophic harm and traumatic brain injuries. In many cases, cycling crashes result from preventable car accidents and the negligence of motorists, including those who fail to yield, drive distracted, or drive under the influence. In others, however, they may involve government entities that failed to meet their duty of care when performing their duties and taking steps to reduce risks on public roads.

    Personal injury cases involving government liability can create unique challenges for victims. Not only do cities, public utilities, transit authorities, and other government agencies or contractors fight these claims aggressively by disputing fault and liability or transferring blame to cyclists themselves, there are also different rules and procedures involved. This includes a shorter statute of limitations, meaning victims have a limited amount of time to file lawsuits in pursuit of damages.

    Over the years, our award-winning attorneys have secured millions of dollars in compensation for victims injured in bicycle and pedestrian accidents across the region, and as a result of the negligence of government entities, including the District of Columbia, the Alexandria Transit Company, WMATA, and other local government and public agencies. If you or someone you love has suffered harm due to dangerous roadway conditions, government negligence, or any other type of preventable accident, our team is available to help you through these difficult times, and fight for the compensation you deserve.

    Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. represents victims throughout Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland, and offers FREE and confidential consultations. Learn more about your rights and how we can help by contacting us online or calling (202) 644-8303.

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  • Attorney Joseph Cammarata Comments on Bill Cosby’s Prison Sentence in The Washington Post, Fox News Interview

    Partner Joseph Cammarata, who is currently representing several women in a pending civil lawsuit against Bill Cosby, was recently quoted in The Washington Post and other major news sources on the comedian’s criminal sentencing hearing. Cosby, 81, was sentenced on Tuesday to 3 to 10 years in a Pennsylvania state prison. The presiding Judge also designated Cosby as a sexually violent predator, which means he will be required to register as a sex offender.

    Partner Cammarata, who attended the sentencing at Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, stated: “Today, we celebrate the rule of law. The jury spoke through its verdict that abhorrent sexual behavior is not to be tolerated in a civilized society.”

    The sentence has made international headlines for concluding one of the first major celebrity criminal trials in the #MeToo era. In April, Cosby was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004. During her testimony at trial, Constand discussed the assault in harrowing detail, and later asked simply for justice at sentencing. In his ruling, Judge Steven O’Neill stated there was overwhelming evidence, including Cosby’s own words in a civil deposition, that he planned to drug and sexually assault his victim.

    In addition to being quoted in The Washington Post, Mr. Cammarata also shared his insight in a televised phone interview with Fox News, which can be viewed here.

    Criminal Case Concludes, But Civil Lawsuits Move Forward

    Although as many as 60 women have stepped forward to accuse Cosby of sexual misconduct and assault, the prison sentence relates only to one criminal case and victim. That’s because many of the accusations, some dating back to the 1960s, are too old to prosecute under the expired statute of limitations. There have been successful efforts to extend the statute of limitations in other states where Cosby is accused of similar crimes, but for some victims who commented on the case, his prison sentence is in many ways much-needed and long-overdue justice.

    While some Cosby accusers may not be able to have their day in criminal court, there are still civil lawsuits pending against the former comedian. This includes a civil lawsuit being handled by Partner Joseph Cammarata and our legal team. In the suit, Mr. Cammarata represents multiple women who claim they were sexually abused or assaulted by Mr. Cosby, and that they were defamed as liars after stepping forward to publicly disclose their accounts of the alleged abuse and assault. The complaint also alleges claims for false light (involving offensive and embarrassing implications) and intentional infliction of emotional distress (resulting in extreme psychological distress).

    That case, which is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Western Division, is an important legal action that will provide victims who are otherwise unable to pursue justice through the criminal justice system to have their day in court and make their voices heard.

    Partner Cammarata, no stranger to representing victims of sexual abuse against powerful celebrities and political figures, made the following statement:

    “Today’s sentencing of Bill Cosby should be the Clarion Call to those who use their positions of power over unsuspecting victims that their days of criminal misbehavior are over, and more importantly, that their days of freedom from their criminal conduct are numbered. I cannot rest, I will not rest, until my clients claims are vindicated in a Court of Justice. As a nation of laws, we owe it to all victims of abuse to let their voices be heard in the proper forum of our American Court system, and I am confident that once my clients finally have the opportunity to speak, that they will finally get the Justice that they seek, and the peace of mind not only that they deserve, but also have sought for these many long years.”

    Joseph Cammarata is a nationally recognized Trial Attorney and Partner at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. Over a career spanning more than 30 years, he has cultivated a reputation for tenaciously protecting victims’ rights and for securing victories in challenging and noteworthy cases that still have implications today. This includes his representation of Paula Jones in a civil lawsuit against former President Bill Clinton, and winning a unanimous decision from the United States Supreme Court that guarantees the right of equal access to justice, even against figures as prominent and powerful as the President of the United States.

    For more information about Partner Cammarata and his work, please contact us.

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  • CSCS Announces Winner of 2018 Ethiopian Heritage Scholarship Fund

    Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is pleased to announce the winner of our 2018 - 2019 Ethiopian Heritage Scholarship Award – Veronica Abebe!

    Veronica, who will be attending Princeton University this fall, immigrated to the U.S. with her family six years ago. In her winning essay, Veronica describes her experience arriving in a new country as an 11-year-old, and the awe and hope she felt knowing that everything in her life would soon change.

    While the experience was initially a scary one for Veronica, she soon discovered that she was never asked to give up her identity or where she had come from, and that she could contribute her own experiences to the melting pot of cultures that comprised America.

    In the United States, Veronica and her family chose Silver Spring, Maryland as their home, where Veronica attended John F. Kennedy High School and thrived in numerous AP classes, earning an impressive 4.77 GPA. Veronica also gave back to the community by completing over 375 hours of community service!

    Our firm congratulates Veronica on winning the 2018 EHCSF, and is thrilled to support her as she goes on to study at Princeton. You can view photos from the award ceremony we held at our office in Washington, DC below, and read Veronica’s inspiring essay here.

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  • Brooklyn Catholic Diocese Agrees to $27.5 Million Sexual Abuse Settlement

    By: Allan M. Siegel

    The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn has agreed to pay $27.5 million to end a lawsuit filed by four adult victims who claim they were abused by a religious teacher from the church as children. The settlement, reached on Tuesday September 19th, is one of the largest settlement awards for individual sexual abuse victims by the church in history.

    According to victims’ claims, former religious education director Angelo Serrano repeatedly abused students of his catechism classes at St. Lucy’s – St. Patrick’s Church in Brooklyn between 2003 and 2009, when the victims were between the ages of 8 and 12. A lawsuit filed by the victims claims that abuse occurred within the church, an affiliated after-school program, and Serrano’s apartment located in a building behind the church. After one of the victims reported the abuse to a family member in 2009, Serrano was arrested and later pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual conduct charges. He is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence.

    Prior to settling the lawsuit, the Diocese had disputed their liability, claiming that Serrano was not an employee, but rather a volunteer, despite the fact that he had a desk on church property and received a stipend for his leadership of the education department. A judge overseeing the case sided with the victims in allowing the lawsuit, not only because of the stipend and Serrano’s role, but also because church staff ignored clear warning signs of abuse and failed to report Serrano.

    Sexual Abuse Lawsuits: A Shifting Tide

    The settlement against the Brooklyn Diocese comes at a pivotal time. Today, increasing awareness of sexual assault and abuse has led to the creation of powerful activism efforts such as the Me Too movement and widespread coverage in the media, including recent reports of a Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal and cover-up in Pennsylvania spanning decades, and a heightened focus on sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

    Stepping forward against wrongdoers is not an easy task, which is why sexual abuse is historically and so overwhelming underreported. However, it is one of the most courageous acts a victim can do, not only for their own pursuit of justice, but also to ensure accountability, prompt needed change, and protect others from becoming victims. This is why these types of cases, although tragic and sometimes difficult to discuss, are so crucial to shifting the tides in the fight against sexual violence, and furthering the rights of victims.

    CSCS: Our Commitment to Victims of Sexual Abuse & Assault

    Our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is passionate about protecting the rights of sexual assault and sexual abuse victims as they navigate the legal pathways toward the justice and compensation they deserve. By leveraging our experience, resources, and unwavering commitment to clients, we have proven our abilities in tackling challenging matters involving sexual assault and sexual abuse, including cases involving abuse committed by religious leaders and individuals in positions of authority and trust, and cases where abuse was allowed to persist due to the failures, complicity, and willful conduct those in a position to take meaningful action. This includes our representation of clients victimized by Georgetown Rabbi Bernard Freundel and several women who brought claims against Bill Cosby.

    Though offenders like these may often have their day in criminal court, it is important to note that victims will still need to take legal action in the civil justice system in order to recover the compensation they deserve, and in some cases hold other individuals, entities, and corporations accountable for their actions and failures to prevent or stop abuse. Civil sexual assault and sexual abuse lawsuits are challenging and emotional matters, but they can be handled effectively with the support of caring, compassionate, and experienced attorneys who fight for the best possible results.

    If you have questions about our firm and the legal services we provide, or if you wish to discuss a potential case confidentially with a member of our team, please call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online for a free consultation. Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. serves clients throughout Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC.

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