Statute of Limitations on Sexual Abuse Lawsuits in Iowa

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Many states have begun lengthening the amount of time that victims of sexual abuse have to get justice for what happened to them.  While Iowa has removed the statute of limitations for criminal charges for sexual abuse, it has not done so for civil lawsuits, and victims have strict limits to follow if they want to sue their abuser.

Under current Iowa law, adult victims of sexual abuse who were adults when the abuse occurred have 2 years to file their lawsuit.  If you were a minor, then you have until you turn 19 to file unless the abuse was committed by a teacher, counselor, or other particular people in positions of trust, in which case you have about 5 years.  If you were unable to “discover” the sexual abuse as a minor, you might have 4 years from the date of discovery to file.

For help with your case, contact our lawyers for sexual abuse victims in Iowa today at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin by calling (814) 826-3586 for a free, confidential case assessment.

Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse or Sexual Assault of an Adult in Iowa

Adult victims who were at least 18 when they were abused and had no mental illness preventing them from understanding what was happening only have 2 years to sue under Iowa Code § 614.1(2).  This is the standard statute of limitations, and it applies to any physical injury cases, including sexual assault or sexual abuse.

If you were under the effects of a mental illness or disability when the abuse occurred, your deadline to file is paused as long as you are still under the effects of the mental illness.  This is common in cases of institutional sexual abuse in mental health facilities or for people who were otherwise taken advantage of because of temporary mental health conditions or permanent intellectual disabilities.  In these cases, § 614.8(1) gives you a year from the time the mental illness ceases to be disabling.

Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse Victims to Sue in Iowa

If you were abused as a minor, then the same rule for mental illness applies, given that being a minor is considered a “legal disability.”  As such, subsection 2 of the same statute gives minors a year from the time they turn 18 to file a lawsuit for anything that happened to them as a minor, including sexual abuse and sexual assault.  That means our lawyers for victims of sexual abuse can help victims abused as minors file their lawsuits any time before turning 19, regardless of how young you were when the abuse happened.

This law is quite strict and is one of the shortest deadlines to file for child sexual abuse victims in the country.  However, this law only applies if you understand that what happened to you was sexual abuse.  If you have a delay in understanding or discovering that, then the “discovery rule” might extend your filing deadline.

Iowa’s Discovery Rule for Civil Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Iowa Code § 614.8A has a special rule that can extend the filing deadline for adults who were sexually abused when they were minors, but it only applies if the “causal relationship between” your injury and sexual abuse was “not discovered until” you were already over 18.

Many victims of sexual abuse – especially those abused as minors – do not understand that what happened to them was wrong.  This could be because of their trust in an adult, because they did not understand the sexual nature of what happened, or because they simply repressed the memory of the events.  In any case, many survivors of childhood sexual abuse realize what happened to them much later in life, potentially after years of suffering from depression and other mental health issues without knowing their cause.

Once you “discover” both the injury and its connection to the sexual abuse you faced, you have 4 years to file your case.  However, it is important to contact a lawyer and act quickly to lock down any evidence that might still be available and to avoid any problems that can come from additional delays.

Filing Deadline for Victims of School Sexual Abuse or Sexual Abuse by a Therapist/Counselor in Iowa

There is also another special law that extends the filing deadline if the abuser was a school employee, a therapist/counselor, or another adult responsible for “training or instruction” of the victim.  Under this rule, found in subsection 12 of the general statute of limitations, the victim has 5 years to bring their case.  However, the starting point of this 5-year clock can vary.

For victims of sexual abuse by their counselor or therapist, the 5-year period starts from the date of their last treatment.  In cases where victims are encouraged to keep quiet about what happened to them, this end of treatment could potentially be months or years after the abuse ceased, giving them 5 years from that point.

For victims of abuse in a school, the 5-year clock starts when they end their enrollment at the school.  For victims pulled out of a school after reporting abuse, the 5-year clock starts immediately.  For those who remain at the institution until graduation, that could delay the start of this 5-year period for some time, further extending their filing deadline.

This rule does not say that it applies only to minors, so both child and adult sexual abuse survivors should be able to use these rules if they apply to their situation.

Criminal vs. Civil Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Cases in Iowa

These statutes of limitations apply to civil cases, i.e., lawsuits filed by the victim for damages.  There is much discussion over Iowa getting rid of the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases, but this is only for criminal cases.  This means you can report what happened to you to the police at any time, but you cannot sue for damages unless you do so within the statute of limitations period.

Call Our Lawyers for Victims of Sexual Abuse in Iowa Today

Call (814) 826-3586 for a free case evaluation with the lawyers for sexual abuse victims in Iowa at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin.


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