The Statute of Limitations to File Sexual Abuse Lawsuits in California

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Every civil lawsuit in California must be filed within a specific amount of time. The statute of limitations is the law that sets forth these deadlines. Victims of sexual abuse are also required to file a lawsuit before the deadline passes. The exact time limit will depend on the age of the victim and when the abuse occurred. Below, our California lawyer for victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church from The Law Office of Andrew Shubin discusses California’s statute of limitation in more detail.

Deadline to File a Lawsuit in California if You Were an Adult Victim of Sexual Abuse

The California statute of limitations governs the amount of time a victim of sexual abuse has to file a civil lawsuit. However, the exact deadline depends on whether the victim of the abuse was an adult or a minor, that is, under the age of 18.

Under CA Civ Pro Code § 340.16, a victim of sexual abuse that occurred on or after the victim’s 18th birthday is permitted to file a civil lawsuit to recover monetary damages limited by specific statutory restrictions.

Typically, the victim will have 10 years from the date of the last act of sexual abuse, including an attempted act or an assault with the intent to abuse, to commence a civil case. However, California has an exception to the 10-year deadline. Victims of sexual abuse must file a lawsuit within three years from the date they discovered the abuse or reasonably should have discovered the sexual abuse. This allows a victim who was unaware of the abuse at the time the ability to seek financial compensation and justice beyond the 10-year deadline.

Unfortunately, this is a relatively new law in California. Under the previous statute of limitations, an adult victim of sexual abuse only had three years from the date of the last act of abuse to file a civil claim. Therefore, if the abuse occurred before January 1, 2019, you are still limited by the older law. If you were a victim of sexual abuse and believe you might not have acted in time to file a lawsuit, you should still contact our experienced California attorney for victims of sexual abuse by a coach.

The California Statute of Limitations for Childhood Victims of Sexual Abuse

Many states throughout the country have been reexamining their statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims for childhood victims. Many victims of childhood sexual abuse would miss the statute of limitations because they were unable to disclose or understand the trauma they endured. Some studies have shown that the average age a victim of child sexual abuse discloses the abuse is 52. Under California’s old statute of limitations, a child victim of sexual abuse had to file a civil lawsuit before their 26th birthday.

However, similar to the deadline for adult victims of sexual abuse, California extended the statute of limitations for childhood victims. As of January 2020, a childhood victim of sexual abuse has until their 40th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. There is also a 5-year discovery exception for victims who were abused as minors.

More importantly, California also created a three-year lookback window. Unlike adult victims who are still restricted by the old statute of limitations if they were abuse before 2019, childhood victims have been granted an opportunity to file a lawsuit even if they would have been previously barred by the statute of limitations. This window will not exist forever, so if you were a victim of childhood abuse, contact our California sexual abuse lawyer immediately.

Sexual Abuse Claims Against Government Entities in California

If the defendant in a sexual abuse lawsuit is a government entity, such as a school district, a municipality, or a city, the statute of limitations could be significantly shorter. In some cases, a victim of sexual abuse will only have six months to file a government claim. Unfortunately, this is true for both adult and childhood victims. If a victim of abuse misses this deadline, they could be barred from filing a civil claim. It is crucial to speak with our knowledgeable California victim of sexual abuse attorney if you believe your claim is against a government entity.

You Should Not Delay in Filing a Lawsuit for Sexual Abuse in California

The deadlines for filing a sexual abuse lawsuit after reporting sexual abuse in California might appear generous. However, if you are a recent victim of sexual abuse or are an adult survivor of sexual abuse, you should not delay pursuing a civil claim.

The first reason for this is the strict deadlines imposed by the statute of limitations. If you do not bring a civil claim under the appropriate time limit, you could forfeit your rights to compensation.

Any delay also decreases your chances of success. Physical evidence is often vital in proving your case and, if you hesitate to file a claim, crucial evidence could be lost, unavailable, or tainted. Additionally, memories fade, so witness testimony could also lose credibility. Our California sexual abuse attorney needs time to investigate your case and gather evidence to support your claim. The more time that passes between the abuse and your lawsuit makes it significantly more challenging to build a compelling case.

Sexual abuse is traumatic and its impact on the victim is more than physical harm. Our office will work with you and psychologists, psychiatrists, and other medical professionals and agencies that are committed to providing survivors of sexual abuse the care and treatment they need.

Another reason not to hesitate in filing a civil claim is that it has the power to provide a sense of justice and closure for the victim. Furthermore, while no amount of money will make the memories or pain go away, the financial compensation available through a civil lawsuit could help a victim move forward with their life.

Contact Our California Attorney for Sexual Abuse Victims for a Free Consultation

Sexual abuse is a horrifying and traumatic experience. Whether you were abused as an adult or child, the negative impacts could last a lifetime. One way to find justice and closure is by filing a civil lawsuit against your abuser or the institution that allowed the abuse to happen. However, there are strict deadlines for filing civil claims. The Law Office of Andrew Shubin compassionately works with victims of abuse to help them understand the process and the statutory deadlines. If you or a loved one were the victim of sexual abuse, call our office at (814) 826-3586 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.


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