Statute of Limitations to File Sexual Abuse Lawsuits in Georgia

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

It is quite difficult to come forward about sexual abuse or sexual assault, and many plaintiffs keep what happened to them a secret.  This can often last for years, especially if the victim was a child when the abuse occurred.  However, it is important to consider your legal rights and talk to a lawyer about what happened to you, as there are strict statutes of limitations that block people from being able to file a sexual abuse lawsuit too long after the events occurred.

For adults, there is a short, 2-year deadline to file your case.  For those abused while they were under 18, the deadline to file is much longer – but the rules changed in 2015.  For abuse that took place before the law changed, the deadline to file is your 23rd birthday.  For abuse after the law changed, you must file by your 23rd birthday, but you can get an extension if you did not know about the abuse and file within 2 years of discovering the abuse.

How Does the Statute of Limitations Work for Civil Sexual Abuse Lawsuits in Georgia?

Most claims and criminal charges have statutes of limitations that require the case to be filed against the defendant within a certain deadline from the time of the events.  In Georgia, sexual abuse claims have a strict statute of limitations to prevent cases from being filed long after the events unless the delay was reasonable.

Usually, statutes of limitations are separate for criminal charges and civil lawsuits.  In Georgia, the statute of limitations varies depending on the crime, the age of the victim, and other factors (such as whether DNA evidence is involved) for criminal cases.  For civil cases, the statute of limitations is 2 years for adult cases and until the victim turns 23 for child sexual abuse cases, with some exceptions.

In a civil claim, the purpose of a statute of limitations is to get people to bring their case quickly while the evidence is fresh and witnesses remember what happened.  Filing a case much later can mean people forget what happened and the court might be using outdated or misremembered info to hold someone responsible.  Filing a case late often means it wasn’t actually that important – though with childhood sexual abuse cases, there is often a good reason the case is delayed, cutting against this argument.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Adult Sexual Abuse Claims in Georgia

Any injury case in Georgia where the victim is an adult must usually be brought within 2 years of the events under O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.  This is true whether the claim is based on negligence – like in a car crash case – or intentional actions – like with assault and sexual abuse.

This means that as an adult, you must act quickly to speak with our Georgia sexual abuse lawyers and get your case filed or else you risk losing the chance to file.

Statute of Limitations for Childhood Sexual Abuse in Georgia Lawsuits

Child victims of sexual assault, sexual abuse, molestation, and other abuse are not as able as adults are to understand what happened to them.  They are also certainly less able to hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit.  As such, the law gives childhood sexual abuse victims more time to file their cases.  This law – found under O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.1 – changed in 2015 to allow for more time to file, so we will discuss this law as it applies to cases before and after the change took place:

Events Before July 1, 2015

Abuse of a victim under 18 that took place before July 1, 2015 must have the case filed before the child turns 23.  This gives them time after they turn 18 to potentially seek therapy, seek counsel with a lawyer, and eventually file their claim within 5 years of becoming a legal adult.

However, many people still do not recognize the signs of abuse or do not understand that what happened to them was inappropriate.  Many people also face blocks in their memory – a natural response to trauma that protects you from thinking about terrible memories.  Allowing for additional time is one of the things that changed when this law was updated.

Events On/After July 1, 2015

For abuse that took place on/after July 1, 2015, victims still must usually file their case before they turn 23.  However, there is an additional exception to allow for extensions when the victim is not aware of the abuse.

As soon as the victim “discovers” or remembers what happened to them, they must file their case within 2 years.  This gives additional time to people who might have forgotten about childhood sexual abuse or blocked out painful memories but who later remember what happened because of information in the news or work with their therapist.

If you are over 23, then as soon as you begin to suspect that something in your past might have constituted sexual abuse, you should call a lawyer right away.  An attorney will need to collect evidence of how and when you remembered the events to help prove that you do indeed meet the requirements to use this extended deadline – and we need to act quickly to file your case on time.

What Constitutes Sexual Abuse for Childhood Victims to Get the Extended Statute of Limitations in Georgia?

The extended statute of limitations that gives victims until they turn 23 or until they discover their abuse only applies to specific types of abuse that would qualify as a crime under certain statutes.  This does not mean that you also have to go to the police and have them bring criminal charges for those crimes, as civil and criminal cases are separate issues.  Instead, it just means that the conduct criminalized by those specific statutes is what constitutes “sexual abuse” for purposes of setting the filing deadline.

The listed crimes include rape, molestation, enticing a child, and aggravated sexual battery, among others.  This means that the conduct in question is quite broad, and nearly everything one might consider to be under the umbrella of “sexual abuse” should allow for an extended filing deadline.

Call Our Georgia Sexual Abuse Attorneys Today

For a free, confidential review of your potential case, call us today at (814) 826-3586.


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