Statute of Limitations to File Sexual Abuse Lawsuits in Washington State

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

While many people are unfortunately victims of sexual abuse, many do not come forward right away. Victims often have numerous reasons why they wait to report abuse, but they often run into problems with the statute of limitations for their claims.

The statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims in Washington is very short. Victims only have a few short years to report the abuse and file a civil claim for damages. For many, this deadline comes and goes without anyone even knowing about the abuse. If your deadline to file has passed, talk to an attorney. We might be able to have the statute of limitations tolled so you can get more time to file. If not, you might still get justice through the criminal courts. While the time limit to file is painfully short, there have been recent pushes toward change in the Washington legislature. Many lawmakers want to eliminate the statute of limitations, but the future remains uncertain.

If you experienced sexual abuse and want to file a claim for damages, call our sexual abuse attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586 to schedule a free initial case evaluation.

How Much Time Do I Have to File a Civil Lawsuit for Sexual Abuse in Washington State?

The amount of time you have to file your sexual abuse claims in civil court in Washington depends on when you were abused. Different statutes of limitations apply to adult and child victims. Generally, children who were the victims of abuse have longer to file their claims. Even so, the deadline for either circumstance is not long, and it is important to talk to our sexual abuse lawyers as soon as possible after the abuse.

Adult Victims

Many people are victims of sexual abuse when they are adults. Adult sexual abuse often occurs between romantic partners. A partner or spouse might become sexually abusive. Date rape is another common example of sexual abuse perpetrated against adults. Still, many adults are victimized by strangers. Under R.C.W. § 4.16.340(1), a plaintiff must file civil claims for sexual abuse within 3 years from the date the abuse happened.

Alternatively, a plaintiff may file their claims for sexual abuse within 3 years of when they discovered their injuries from the abuse. Please note that this deadline does not necessarily run from when you realize or discover your injuries. Instead, the deadline may run from when you realize your injuries are connected to the abuse.

Childhood Victims

The statute of limitations for children who were victims of sexual abuse is a bit longer, but not by much. The deadline is still 3 years, but it begins on the day the victim turns 18, not when the abuse occurred. For example, if a plaintiff were 13 when they were sexually abused, they would have until they turn 21 to file a claim, a total of 8 years.

Just like adult victims, plaintiffs who sue for childhood sexual abuse may file their claims 3 years from when they turn 18 or 3 years from when they discover the abuse or realize the abuse caused their injuries. Sometimes, this may extend the statute of limitations past the normal deadline.

It is also important to note that, under R.C.W. § 4.16.340(2), the statute for claims involving multiple acts of abuse begins to run from the most recent instance of abuse. This is often important in cases involving child victims who are repeatedly victimized by an adult in their lives.

What if My Time to File a Sexual Abuse Case in Washington State Expires?

It is very common for victims of sexual abuse to miss the deadline to file their civil claims. Many victims wait to come forward about abuse because they are ashamed of what happened. Many more are afraid of retaliation from their abusers. If your deadline has passed, talk to our lawyer about other options. Having the statute tolled might be possible. If not, you might still achieve justice from the criminal courts.

Tolling the Statute of Limitations

As discussed above, the statute of limitations may be tolled under specific circumstances, allowing plaintiffs extra time to get their claims into court. Tolling for victims younger than 18 is explained in the statute of limitations, but there might be other ways to have the statute tolled.

People with legal disabilities may have the statute tolled until their disability ceases. A disability in this sense might not necessarily be a physical or medical condition, although that is a possibility. A disability may include anything that prevents the plaintiff from filing or understanding their legal rights. Sexual abuse victims with mental health conditions that hinder their ability to comprehend what is going on may have the statute of limitations tolled.

It is also possible to have the deadline tolled if you did not come forward about the abuse because of intimidation from the defendant. The defendant cannot purposefully prevent a plaintiff from filing by means of force, threats, or intimidation. This is a common problem in many abuse cases, especially in those where victims live with their abusers.

Criminal Action

If we cannot have the statute of limitations tolled, you might be unable to sue for damages and fair compensation. However, that does not mean that you cannot get justice. While the statute of limitation for civil claims for sexual abuse is short, the statute for criminal prosecution is very long. In fact, under R.C.W. § 9A.04.080(1)(a), numerous forms of sexual assault may be prosecuted at any time, meaning there is no statute of limitation.

Possible Changes to the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Claims in Washington State

While the civil statute of limitations does not allow potential plaintiffs much time to file claims for sexual abuse, change might be just on the horizon. Recently, House Bill 1618 was approved by the Washington House of Representatives and would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil claims.

This law would follow similar laws in numerous other states that have abolished the statute of limitations for sexual abuse civil claims. The law is not official yet, but it is an important signal of change in the State of Washington.

Call Our Sexual Abuse Lawyers About Your Claims Now

If you were sexually abused and want to file a civil claim, call our sexual abuse lawyers at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin at (814) 826-3586 to set up a free, private case review.


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