Is There an Age Requirement for Filing a Sexual Assault Lawsuit?
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After a sexual assault, survivors need time to heal. Part of that healing process may include filing a lawsuit against an offender. However, is that an immediate possibility for all victims of assault, regardless of age? In short, what are the age requirements for filing a sexual assault case, and how can you be sure to meet them?
To file a lawsuit by yourself, you technically have to be 18 years or older. Sexual assault cases are no exception. Child survivors can still bring a lawsuit against an offender while they’re under 18, but it will need to be filed by an adult (e.g., a parent or guardian) on behalf of the victim. That’s not always an option for all child survivors, especially if a parent was the abuser. Adult victims of assault can file at any age, as long as it’s within their state’s statute of limitations.
The compassionate sexual assault attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin are dedicated to representing survivors. Our team can help your child receive justice or fight for an adult victim’s right to damages. For a free, confidential consultation, call the sexual assault attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin today at (814) 826-3586.
What is the Age Requirement for Filing a Sexual Assault?
Minors are unable to file a lawsuit by themselves, regardless of the type of case. Because of this, minor victims of sexual assault may have to wait until they’re 18 to file a lawsuit. A parent or guardian can bring a case on behalf of a victim before they’re 18. Adult survivors have no standard age requirement – they just have to file within their state’s statute of limitations.
It can be very hard for children to come forward about sexual assault for obvious reasons. Often, the perpetrator is known to the victim, making disclosing even more difficult. However, minors cannot bring a case themselves because they cannot hire a lawyer, handle the costs, or understand the requirements for a lawsuit. Should a minor victim disclose a sexual assault, their parent or guardian can file a lawsuit against the offender on behalf of the victim. If your child has approached you about a sexual assault, you might be unsure whether or not to sue. If you need guidance, reach out to skilled lawyers, like the team of sexual assault attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin. An experienced attorney can help you understand the requirements of a sexual assault case involving a minor.
Survivors of childhood sexual assault can file by themselves once they’ve turned 18. Many states will “toll” – or pause – the statute of limitations for minors so that victims have more time to decide to file once they turn 18. Many states also offer a very long statute of limitations to minor victims of assault. So, while the age requirement to file independently is 18, minor victims have years, sometimes decades, to file a lawsuit.
The filing deadline for minor victims of sexual assault is much longer than for adult victims. For example, in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations recently changed for minor victims of assault. In 2019, the commonwealth increased the filing deadline, allowing survivors of childhood sexual assault 37 years after their 18th birthday. For adults, the filing deadline is much shorter across the country. The rationale is that adults have the mental capacity to understand assault, whereas children do not. However, increasingly more states are expanding the statute of limitations for adults, recognizing that it is difficult to disclose sexual assault regardless of your age.
Once you’re an adult, you can make your own decisions. You can choose to file right after your 18th birthday if you’re a survivor of childhood sexual assault. As an adult victim, you can consult with the sexual assault attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin about filing a lawsuit the next day, theoretically. Of course, that’s not realistic for most survivors of sexual assault. So, take your time, focus on healing, and stay mindful of your state’s statute of limitations if you intend to sue an offender.
Why Is There an Age Requirement for Filing a Sexual Assault?
The age requirement to file a sexual assault case isn’t unique. Generally, minors cannot bring a lawsuit against anyone, for any reason, by themselves. They need the guidance of a parent or guardian to sue an offender. For adults, the age requirement varies based on the statute of limitations in your state and your age when you were assaulted.
Children don’t have the same right to sue as adults do. While an adult can file a lawsuit on behalf of a child, that child can’t do so alone. This is the law because children don’t have the mental capacity to understand the complexities of a lawsuit. They can’t research the best legal team; they can’t call the sexual assault attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin for counsel. Children cannot transport themselves to and from legal proceedings. A child needs the guidance of a trusted adult to help facilitate a lawsuit. Sexual assault cases are especially emotionally taxing, making that support even more necessary.
However, not all child victims of sexual assault have a trusted adult that can help them file a lawsuit. Their parent or guardian might refuse to believe or accept the truth. It could be that a child doesn’t feel safe enough to disclose the assault to their family, as perpetrators are often known to minor victims. So, while children can bring a sexual assault case with the help of a parent or guardian, not all victims have that ability.
For minor and adult survivors, these age requirements are in place to ensure that the pertinent evidence and memories remain intact. Over time, evidence and witness accounts can deteriorate, making it harder for survivors to receive the compensation they deserve. However, there is a much longer filing period for minor victims. As laws are reviewed, the age requirements and statute of limitations to file a lawsuit for adult victims might soon more closely resemble those of minor survivors.
Our Attorneys Can Help You File a Sexual Assault Case
If you or your child has endured a sexual assault, our lawyers can help you get justice. For a free and confidential consultation, call the compassionate sexual assault attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin today at (814) 826-3586.