How Do You Sue if You Were Molested as a Child?

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Realizing that you suffered childhood trauma can be eye-opening.  Knowing this fact can help explain many issues you may have today, but the recognition that something bad happened to you is also quite traumatic.  It may take years to find the strength to come forward and speak about the abuse, let alone the courage to seek justice for the harm you faced.  If you were molested as a child, you often have the right to sue, but knowing where to start may be one of many hurdles in your journey toward justice.  Institutional sexual assault attorney Andrew Shubin explains how victims of molestation and sexual abuse can come forward and file lawsuits for the harm they faced.

How Do I File a Lawsuit for Childhood Sexual Abuse?

If you were abused as a child, the law is usually on your side.  Every state in the country has laws against the sexual touching or molestation of a child.  No matter what kind of touching occurred, if it was unwanted, it usually falls under at least one of these laws.  While many people may focus on what the criminal laws in their state can do to help them seek justice, many ignore that there are also civil laws you can use to hold your abuser accountable.

Under many of these laws, you can file a lawsuit in court to seek damages from the individual that assaulted you as well as any institutions that were responsible for their behavior.  This often means…

The process of filing a lawsuit is much simpler than you might expect.  All that is usually required to get the case started is filing a complaint with the courthouse in the jurisdiction where the abuse occurred explaining what the abuser did, when it happened, and what compensation you deserve for the abuse.  While the process seems simple, it is absolutely vital to work with an attorney to ensure that the language you use properly explains what the defendant did and accurately targets the correct individuals and institutions.  It is also vital to discuss what compensation you might be entitled to so that you do not miss anything you might deserve.

How Long Do I Have to Sue for Childhood Sexual Abuse and Molestation?

If it takes until you are an adult to come to terms with your past trauma and realize the abuse that you suffered as a child, you might have a limited deadline to file your lawsuit.  Most cases are governed by a “statute of limitations.”  A statute of limitations is a law that puts time limits on almost all court cases – both civil and criminal.  In most states, civil claims for abuse or assault against an adult have a short statute of limitations of somewhere from 1 to 5 years.  Fortunately, the statutes of limitations that govern cases of sexual abuse of a minor are often longer to allow victims more time to come to terms with what happened and understand the severity of the case.

“Tolling” the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse

Typically, most states will allow the statute of limitations to be “tolled” or stalled until the victim turns 18.  This means that if the abuse occurred as a child, you usually have at least until your 18th birthday to file your claim.  Most states wait until you turn 18 to start the statute of limitations clock, meaning that the 1-to-5 year statute of limitations does not begin to run until you turn 18, so you have until somewhere in your late teens or early 20s to file the claim.

Some states also toll the statute of limitations for other reasons.  For instance, Massachusetts allows the statute of limitations to be tolled for any amount of time that the abuser lives outside the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  This, in part, helped to prevent the Catholic Church from moving priests out of state to protect them from lawsuits by extending the deadline for all the time they spent living elsewhere.

Extended Statutes of Limitations for Childhood Sexual Abuse

Other states have longer statutes of limitations.  These laws vary greatly, but many states allow victims to come forward into their late 20s and mid-30s to seek compensation.  In some states, statutes of limitations are being paused or abolished entirely.  For instance, until August 2020, New York has its statute of limitations suspended to allow lawsuits reaching back against any abuser, and they are considering extending this “window” into 2021.

Old vs. New Statutes of Limitations

In many cases, these statutes of limitations have been expanded in the past 10 to 20 years.  This means that if the abuse occurred after the new statute of limitations was passed, you might be able to take advantage of the extended deadlines.  However, if your abuse occurred when the old statute of limitations was still on the books, you may still have a limited time to file your claim using the old law.  Talk to a lawyer immediately about your case to ensure that your case is filed as soon as possible.

Call Our Sexual Abuse Victim Lawyers for Help with Your Lawsuit

If you were abused as a minor and want to file a lawsuit against your abuser and the institution that allowed you to be abused, the attorney for sexual abuse victims at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin might be able to help.  Call our attorney today to discuss filing a lawsuit for sexual abuse.  We offer free, confidential legal consultations where you can discuss your case in a safe environment.  To set up your free legal consultation, call our law offices today at (814) 826-3586.  We have represented victims in cases against large institutions like Penn State University in the Jerry Sandusky case, and we are not afraid to take on other institutions and important people to get our clients the justice they deserve.


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