Statute of Limitations on Sexual Assault and Abuse Lawsuits in Indiana

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Sexual abuse lawsuits are often filed years after the initial abuse occurs.  This commonly happens because child victims might not understand what happened to them until years later, and they certainly do not typically have the means to file a lawsuit until they become adults.  This can create legal issues when it comes to meeting the statute of limitations, potentially shutting down cases before they can even be filed.

For victims of sexual abuse who were minors when the abuse occurred, you usually have 7 years from the date of abuse to sue.  However, there may be ways to extend the deadline to file, potentially giving victims up to 2 years from the time they turn 18, up to 4 years from when they leave custody of an abusive parent/guardian, or additional time for abuse they could not discover.  Adult abuse victims typically have 2 years from the time of the abuse.

For help with your case, call the lawyers for sexual abuse victims in Indiana at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586.

The Statute of Limitations for Civil Sex Abuse Claims in Indiana

Civil law covers lawsuits for wrongdoing, filed with the goal of getting the victim damages for what happened to them.  Contrast this with criminal law, which focuses on punishing the defendant for their actions.  Both civil and criminal cases have statutes of limitations, but they are often different.  For civil law, the statute of limitations for when you can file your lawsuit for sexual assault or sexual abuse depends on a few factors, including whether you were a child when the abuse happened, as well as some dealing with whether you knew about the abuse or were a dependent of the abuser.

Adult Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Deadline

The simplest deadline to file is for adults who were abused when they were adults.  In this case, I.C. § 34-11-2-4 usually gives you 2 years to file your case under subsection (a)(1).  This is quite a short deadline, but the assumption is that adults have the understanding to know what happened to them and the means to call a lawyer for help.  Our Indiana sexual assault attorneys can investigate your case and get it filed as soon as we can if you call us and get your case started.

Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Deadline

For victims abused as minors, the rules are a bit more complex and usually give more time to file.  Under subsection (b)(1) of the same statute, the deadline is given as 7 years from the time the lawsuit “accrues.”  Accrual typically just means the date that the abuse took place, giving you 7 years from the date of the event – or the most recent in a string of events – to file your case.

However, the law recognizes that minors might not understand what has happened to them, and they often cannot hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit as minors.  As such, the law also recognizes being a minor as a “legal disability,” and I.C. § 34-11-6-1 gives minors an extended filing deadline.  Under this rule, you get 2 years from the date you turned 18 (which removes the “legal disability”).

These laws can create some difficult interactions, as there might be an overlap in the 7-year period and when the victim turns 18.  For example, if you were abused at age 16, a 7-year filing deadline means you’d have to file when you’re 23.  However, that is more than 2 years after you turn 18.  Alternatively, what if you were abused at age 10 and have to file by the time you are 17?  Does that prevent you from getting the 2-year extension after you turn 18?

Our lawyers can help make sense of these seemingly contradictory rules and get your case filed on time.

Removal of Custody/Dependence

Indiana has a special rule for when victims of abuse are abused by a parent or guardian that they are dependent on.  In this case, the law recognizes that you usually will not be able to get a lawyer and file a case against a parent/guardian while you are under their roof and dependent on them financially, so it does not start the statute of limitations clock from running until after you leave their custody.

Whether the removal of custody/dependence comes from you turning 18 and moving out of the house, from a parent getting the other parent stripped of custody, or from you being moved to foster care, the law gives you 4 years to file your case after your dependence on the abuser ceases.

This law does have a specific rule for how it interacts with the 7-year deadline: you go with whichever limit gives you more time.  For example, if you were abused by your father at age 16 and your mother stripped him of custody when you were 17, the law gives you the full 7 years (until you are 23) instead of giving you 4 years from the end of custody (age 21).  If you were abused at age 10 but custody was removed when you turned 18, you should have 4 years from the end of custody instead of 7 years from the abuse, as still being in the abuser’s custody delays your filing deadline beyond the 7-year deadline.

The “Discovery Rule”

Sometimes it can be difficult to know that you were abused, and it might take years of therapy to contextualize events that happened decades ago.  Indiana does have a “discovery rule” in place that allows a filing deadline to be paused until the victim’s “repressed memory” stops them from understanding they were abused.  Ultimately, it is up to the court to decide if the statute of limitations should be paused based on what you knew and when you knew it.  If it is paused, it should give you 7 years from the date of discovery to file your child sexual abuse case.

For abuse that occurred as an adult but was repressed, the repressed memory issue will be harder to prove.  Even so, those cases should give you 2 years from the date of discovery.

In cases where discovery was impossible but due to something other than a “repressed memory,” proving that you could not discover the injury will be more difficult but not impossible.

Call Our Indiana Sexual Abuse Lawyers Today

For help with a sexual abuse claim, contact the lawyers for victims of sexual abuse in Indiana at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin today for a free case review by calling (814) 826-3586.


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