The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy in what it said was an effort to safeguard compensation payouts for sexual abuse victims.

The organisation has been accused of covering up abuse inflicted on thousands of its young members over its 110-year history.

Bankruptcy proceedings will help the Boy Scouts to "equitably compensate" victims through the establishment of a victims' compensation trust and allow the organisation to continue at a local level, a statement from the group said. 

"The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologises to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting," chief executive Roger Mosby said in the statement.

More than 12,000 members of the Boy Scouts had been sexually abused since in the organisation since 1944, victims' lawyer Jeff Anderson said last year. 

He also said files maintained by the Boy Scouts listed more than 7,800 alleged perpetrators of sexual abuse.

The existence of that documentation - known as the "perversion files" and listing scoutmasters or troop leaders accused of sexual abuse - was first revealed in a 2012 court case.

Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has around 2.2 million members between the ages of five and 21, the organisation said.