Is there a National Statute of Limitations on Sexual Abuse Victims’ Lawsuits?

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Survivors of sexual abuse all face different circumstances. Maybe you’ve decided to sue an offender, or you want to know if you have the option to sue in the future. Maybe you or the abuser moved to a different state and are wondering if you can still file a civil suit. It can be hard to understand your options, especially because there are many differences in how sexual abuse is handled from state to state.

There is no national statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims to file civil lawsuits against an offender. The statute of limitations depends on the state where the abuse occurred and can vary greatly from state to state. Apart from federal crimes, the federal government can’t impose a statute of limitations on state sexual abuse statutes. So even if the case was filed in federal court, there is no federal statute of limitations that’s followed across the country.

If you’re thinking about filing a civil lawsuit against an abuser, consider reaching out to The Law Office of Andrew Shubin. Our attorneys have experience handling sexual abuse cases and offer free, confidential consultations. Contact The Law Office of Andrew Shubin today at (814) 826-3586.

Statute of Limitations on Sexual Abuse Victims’ Lawsuits

Because there is no national statute of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits, each state has different rules. Statutes of limitations differ depending on the state and whether the victim was a child or adult. In child sexual abuse cases, the statute of limitations is generally longer.

Not only do statutes of limitations vary per state, but states also frequently modify statutes of limitations. For example, in Pennsylvania, the state passed a new law in November of 2019 regarding the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases. If abuse occurred after November 2019, minor victims have to file suit 37 years after their 18th birthday. In cases where abuse occurred before that date, the previous statute of limitations stands. Statutes of limitations can change, making it difficult for survivors to know whether or not they’re still able to sue. That’s why it’s important to enlist the help of an experienced attorney when filing a sexual abuse lawsuit.

While Pennsylvania’s new statute of limitations law isn’t retroactive, some states have retroactively altered the statute of limitations. That means that new laws regarding the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases may affect survivors who could not sue in the past because the statute of limitations had run out. Some states offer a “window” that suspends the statute of limitations and offers a new chance to expired civil cases. Increasingly, more states are adopting similar measures to provide survivors with more opportunities to file a lawsuit against an abuser. However, statutes of limitations still vary from state to state, so it’s important to speak with a lawyer about your options within your specific state if you intend to file suit.

For adult victims of sexual abuse, the statute of limitations also varies. In most cases, the statute of limitations for adult survivors to file a sexual abuse lawsuit is shorter than it is for minor survivors. For even serious sexual offenses, there is a statute of limitations in most states. If you wait past the statute of limitations, it’s important to understand that you may not be able to file a lawsuit against an offender. Speaking with an attorney at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin can help you understand your options when filing a lawsuit for sexual abuse as an adult.

Filing Out Of State for Sexual Abuse Victims’ Lawsuits

Some survivors move out of state and wonder whether or not they can still sue an offender. You can, but you will most likely have to file a lawsuit in the state where the abuse occurred. So, if you were abused as a child and no longer live in that state, you would still have to file there.

If an assailant moves out of state, the statute of limitations might be tolled. Tolling pauses the statute of limitations if a situation warrants such action. Some states may toll a case if an abuser is out of state, as that complicates the logistics of a lawsuit.

Filing a lawsuit in another state can be difficult for a few reasons. First, you have to make sure your attorney is licensed to practice in that state and understands its laws. It also can become difficult if you have to physically go to that state at any point during the lawsuit. Fortunately, you may not have to attend all court sessions in person or may be able to call in virtually or by phone.

Filing out of state can sometimes be avoided. Suppose your attorney can show that the defendant frequents the state you live in now, does business there, or owns property there. In that case, you may be able to get your lawsuit moved to your current state of residence in federal court due to “diversity jurisdiction.” Federal courts have diversity jurisdiction, meaning the court can oversee a lawsuit when it involves parties from different states.

Another problem with filing out of state is that you may be unaware of that state’s statute of limitations. If you didn’t know you had to file in the state where the abuse happened, you might find out that you’ve run out of time and the statute of limitations to file a civil suit has ended. Avoid that by speaking with a lawyer about the specifics of your case as soon as you can. If you’re considering filing a lawsuit for sexual abuse at any point, know the statute of limitations in the state where the abuse happened, not just the state you currently live in.

What to Remember about Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Victims

Statutes of limitations vary from state to state. Things can get confusing quickly because there may be different statutes of limitations for civil suits and criminal charges.

If you’re considering filing both a civil lawsuit and criminal charges against an offender or institution for sexual abuse, make sure you know the difference in the statute of limitations. An experienced attorney for victims of sexual abuse can help you understand the statute of limitations for a civil suit or criminal charges based on your situation.

While most states have extensions and tolling for child victims of sexual abuse, statutes of limitations cannot be budged without a provision. For adult survivors of sexual abuse, the statute of limitations is relatively stagnant, which is important to keep in mind if you’re considering filing a lawsuit.

If You Want to File a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit, Our Attorneys Can Help

If you’re considering filing a sexual abuse lawsuit and want to better understand your options, contact us at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin. For a free and confidential consultation today, call (814) 826-3586.


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