Statute of Limitations Reform Nationally

There are many rules and regulations that you must follow if you wish to have a valid civil lawsuit for sexual abuse or assault. These laws change from state to state. All over the nation, states have been reforming their laws regarding sexual abuse cases. More states are recognizing the difficulty of speaking out about sexual abuse and are allowing survivors more time to file their lawsuits.

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a deadline put in place by state law. These laws exist to encourage claimants to come forward as soon as possible, while evidence is still available. Time limits make the justice system fairer and more efficient. There are criminal and civil statutes of limitations. If you wish to file a sexual abuse lawsuit for damages such as emotional distress, you will need to obey the civil statute of limitations.

Statutes of limitations often give claimants a few years to file civil lawsuits. Unless there are special circumstances, most statutes of limitations begin to run from the date of the occurrence that caused the damages. For example, the statute of limitations in Florida is age 25 or 4 years from the date that the victim discovers a connection between an injury and sexual abuse. With few exceptions, if you attempt to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, you will be barred from financial recovery.

Why Are States Reforming Their Statutes of Limitations on Sexual Abuse?

There has been a recent wave of statute of limitations reform around the country. It began with advocates for sexual abuse survivors calling for a change based on the unjustness of short deadlines for victims. These arguments used evidence such as one study of 1,050 victims that found that the average age at the time of reporting childhood sexual abuse was 52 years old.

This study, and others like it, demonstrates the struggle that sexual abuse survivors face to recall repressed childhood traumas, understand that what happened was sexual abuse and find the courage to speak up. Lawmakers in many states listened to advocates and have reformed their laws to extend the deadline to file for victims of sexual abuse.

Statute of limitations reform has taken three main forms: extending the deadline, creating a temporary window where otherwise time-barred claims can be revived and eliminating the statute of limitations completely. Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia are using the window law, and many others are considering similar statute of limitations reforms.

For example, in California, lawmakers extended the statute of limitations in October 2019 with the signing of Assembly Bill 218 into law. This law changed the statute of limitations from 26 years old to age 40 or 5 years from the date of discovery (whichever is later). It also passed a three-year window of time where previously barred claims can be revived.

What Is the Statute of Limitations in Your State?

As of 2021, there is no statute of limitations on filing a sexual abuse claim in 12 states and Guam. The rest of the states have different time limits based on factors specific to each plaintiff. Statutes of limitations vary state by state. Your maximum time limit to file can also depend on your age at the time of the abuse and when you discovered it. Consult with an attorney right away to fully understand the time limit on your particular sexual abuse or assault lawsuit. Otherwise, you could be at risk of missing the deadline and giving up your ability to seek justice against a perpetrator and/or institution.

Are You Within Your Statute of Limitations? Find Out Today

Statutes of limitations are complex laws that are constantly changing, especially in the current climate of major legal reforms. It is important to speak to an experienced sexual abuse attorney in your state as soon as possible to make sure that you are within your deadline to file a lawsuit against one or more parties. While it will always be difficult to speak out about what happened to you, an attorney can make it easier and help, by keeping your identity anonymous during litigation. Contact Manly, Stewart & Finaldi today to discuss a potential sexual abuse claim and your statute of limitations.