Does the Statute of Limitations Apply to Sexual Abuse Cases in Pennsylvania?

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Statutes of limitations are laws that place time limits on when certain lawsuits can be filed. Different cases might follow different time limits, and discussing your case with an attorney is important to figure out how much time you have to file your lawsuit.

While the statute of limitations does apply in sexual abuse cases, it follows unique rules. Sexual abuse victims are often unable or unwilling to come forward to report the abuse, and the ordinary statute of limitations often runs out too quickly. Sexual abuse victims are granted much more time to file their cases for that reason. The deadline is extended for both child victims of sexual abuse and adult victims. No matter how long ago the abuse happened, it is never too late to seek justice.

If you were the victim of sexual abuse in the past, you might still be able to file a lawsuit and get justice for the harm you endured. Our Pennsylvania sexual abuse attorneys can help you. For a free case evaluation, call The Law Office of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586.

Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania Sexual Abuse Cases

The statute of limitations on lawsuits for assaults, batteries, false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and malicious abuse of process can be found under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524(1). Under this law, all these cases must be brought within 2 years of the date the action accrues for adult victims. Sexual abuse might involve one or more of the actions mentioned above, including assault, battery, and false imprisonment in many cases.

The 2-year time limit here generally applies to assault, battery, and many similar offenses that are not always sexual in nature. It does not apply to new sexual assault and abuse cases where the victim is younger than 24 when the abuse occurred. This statute is somewhat newer, and it is not retroactive. That means it only applies to new cases and does not apply to old sexual abuse cases from before the new rule was put into effect.

Although 2 years seems like a long time to file a case, it is a very short time for many sexual abuse victims. Many abuse victims are unable to come forward with their claims. They might fear retaliation from their abuser or that friends and family will not believe them. Many abuse victims are also very young and cannot file a lawsuit without the help of an adult. If the adult in the victim’s life (e.g., a parent or guardian) is the abuser, coming forward to file a lawsuit might be almost impossible. This is why lawmakers have enacted a separate rule allowing younger victims more time.

The 2-year statute of limitations is often too short for many sexual abuse victims. As such, the law has carved out exceptions for sex abuse victims in the hopes that they are better able to come forward and seek justice for the harm they endured.

What if My Sexual Assault Case Happened When I Was a Child in Pennsylvania?

A separate, newer rule exists for sexual abuse victims who were very young when the abuse occurred. As discussed above, young people often have difficulty coming forward with their claims, getting help, and getting justice. Often, the young victim’s abuser is a parent or guardian, and it is nearly impossible to take legal action unless another adult intervenes.

The special statute of limitation for sexual abuse victims who were minors when the abuse happened can be found under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5533(b)(2)(i). Under this law, abuse victims have much more time to file their claims if the abuse happened when they were under the age of 18 when the abuse happened. In such cases, victims have 37 years from their18th birthday to file a lawsuit against the abuser. On top of that, you do not have to file a criminal complaint against the defendant before filing a civil complaint. Our Pennsylvania sexual abuse attorneys can help you begin your case.

This special statute of limitations is important for several reasons. First, it is very difficult for minors to file civil complaints, and they might be unable to do so until after they turn 18. Second, many abuse victims do not realize or remember the abuse until much later. This longer statute of limitations allows them plenty of time to get legal assistance and file a civil complaint.

Statute of Limitations on Sexual Abuse Cases for Adult Victims in Pennsylvania

Minors are not the only victims of sexual abuse. Many adults are abused by partners or someone with authority. For example, an adult might be the victim of sexual abuse by an employer who threatens the victim’s job if they do not consent to sexual activities. Younger adults have a hard time coming forward about the abuse. Even though they are at least 18, they might not know what to do about the abuse or how to get help. Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5533(b)(2)(i.1), adults at least 18 years old and younger than 24 have more time to file a civil complaint.

Young adults aged at least 18 but still younger than 24 when the abuse occurs have until they turn 30 to commence a civil action. Like civil complaints for minors, plaintiffs do not need to file a criminal complaint about the abuse before filing a civil complaint. Often, people who were abused while in college can take advantage of this much longer deadline. Our Pennsylvania sexual abuse lawyers can help you take legal action and get justice.

Is it Too Late to File a Lawsuit for Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania?

Victims of sexual abuse who could not take legal action when the abuse happened often wonder if they can take legal action now, even though many years might have passed. Although trying a case many years after the injuries occurred is difficult, it is never too late to pursue justice. Our Pennsylvania sexual abuse attorneys can help you file a civil complaint to get justice and closure.

Unfortunately, not all sexual abuse victims can file a lawsuit. The law allowing minors 37 years from the date they turn 18, or until they turn 30 if they were at least 18 but younger than 24, does not apply retroactively. The new law took effect in about 2002, and abuse claims from before this time might be barred by the old statute of limitations.

Gathering evidence is one of the biggest problems with filing a case long after the plaintiff was injured. Hard evidence of sexual abuse might be hard to find or non-existent many years after the abuse occurred. In such cases, we might need to rely on your testimony of how events took place and testimony from witnesses who knew about the abuse.

Call Our Pennsylvania Sexual Abuse Attorneys for a Free Case Review

If you were sexually abused sometime in the past, you might still be able to file a civil action under one of the above special statutes of limitations. For a free case evaluation, call The Law Office of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586.