Statute of Limitations on Sexual Abuse Lawsuits in Michigan

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Sexual abuse survivors often live with the effects of the abuse for years. While victims can file civil lawsuits against their abusers, they must do so before the expiration of the statute of limitations. When your time expires depends on certain factors surrounding your claim.

People who were abused as children might have until they are 28 years old to file a claim. In some cases, plaintiffs can file when they are even older. People who were abused when they were adults have a somewhat shorter window of time. Most adult plaintiffs have about 10 years from the abuse to file a claim in court. While both these time limits seem long, they are incredibly short for abuse survivors. In Michigan, lawmakers recently tried to pass new laws that would have extended the statute of limitations or eliminated it in some cases. This new law was not passed, but the issue may come up again soon. While coming forward with sexual abuse claims is difficult, it is in your best interest to talk to a lawyer sooner rather than later.

For a confidential case review free of charge, call our Michigan sexual abuse attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586.

When a Victim of Childhood Sexual Abuse May File a Civil Lawsuit in Michigan

There is more than one statute of limitation when it comes to sexual abuse cases. There are separate statutes for plaintiffs who were children when they were abused and those who were adults. According to MCL § 600.5851b(1), a person who was under 18 when they were sexually abused may file a civil lawsuit according to one of two different time limits.

First, you have until the age of 28 to file a civil claim. This gives young children who might not be able to reach out for help time to recover from the abuse and report it to the authorities. Many kids cannot report abuse because they are too scared of their abusers. Alternatively, they might be abused by a family member, and other family members cover up the abuse.

Second, you may have 3 years from the day you discover that your injuries were caused by criminal sexual conduct. Again, this is important for people who were abused as young kids. It is not uncommon for victims of childhood abuse to suppress memories of the abuse for years. Many people do not even recall the abuse until they reach adulthood.

The time limit that applies in your case is whichever one expires later. In both situations, criminal proceedings are not required. People sometimes mistakenly believe that they must file a criminal complaint against an abuser before they can take civil action. This is not true. The defendant in your case does not have to face any criminal prosecution for you to be able to bring a civil action.

When Adult Victims of Sexual Abuse May Take Civil Action in Michigan

A different statute of limitation kicks in when plaintiffs were adults when they were sexually abused. According to MCL § 600.5805(6), plaintiffs in these cases have 10 years from when the abuse occurred to file a claim. In cases where the plaintiff was abused multiple times over a period of years, the 10-year time limit may begin on the date of the most recent instance of abuse.

Again, plaintiffs are not required to file a criminal complaint. No criminal action must be taken against the defendant. If criminal prosecution is brought, a conviction is not necessary.

The time limit for adult victims is much shorter than it is for children. There are also fewer caveats that might buy you extra time. Often, plaintiffs are not quite sure when the last instance of abuse was, so calculating the right deadline can be somewhat challenging. Talk to an attorney about your situation as soon as possible.

How the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Claims in Michigan Might Change in the Future

Sexual abuse is a hot topic in the legal field. Many states have enacted legislation to expand or even abolish the statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse claims. Michigan legislators have made some changes to the state’s statute of limitations for sexual abuse since the Larry Nassar case in 2018. While the statutes have expanded, some lawmakers are pushing for further change.

In 2023, a package of multiple bills that would expand the time a plaintiff has to file a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse was introduced but not passed. The new laws would allow victims to sue until age 52 or later, depending on when they realize they were victimized. The statute of limitations would be eliminated if the defendant has been criminally convicted.

While these changes have not been implemented, they might be in the future. What this might mean for victims whose deadlines have passed is hard to say. It is possible that a look-back window might be opened, allowing previously time-barred cases to be filed for a brief time. However, this is not guaranteed.

When You Should Speak to a Lawyer About Your Sexual Abuse Claims in Michigan

Speaking up about sexual abuse can be extremely difficult. Simply talking about the abuse might make victims feel as if they are reliving it. It is normal for victims to wait a while to report abuse. Some people wait years, even decades, before they try to seek justice. While coming forward might be painful, it is best to report the abuse and speak to an attorney as soon as possible after you are abused.

If you wait too long, you risk missing the filing deadline and losing evidence. The longer you wait, the more likely evidence will disappear, witnesses will move away, and defendants might pass away or leave the state. Even so, our team can help you fight for justice even if it has been quite some time since the abuse.

Contact Our Michigan Sexual Abuse Attorneys for Help with Your Claims

For a confidential case review free of charge, call our Michigan sexual abuse attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586.


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