What States Have Sexual Abuse Lookback Windows?

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

There have been numerous reports and stories regarding horrific cover-ups of child sexual abuse cases. Institutions from the Catholic Church to schools and youth sports organizations have ignored abuse allegations or have taken steps to protect their reputations. While many survivors of sexual abuse have sought and received compensation through civil lawsuits, many have been barred by their state’s statute of limitations. This is especially troubling as it often takes years or decades for a child to acknowledge that they were a victim of abuse. Fortunately, many states have begun to reexamine their respective statutes of limitations. Additionally, some have created lookback windows that allow victims who were barred from the opportunity to file personal injury lawsuits in civil court. Below, our experienced attorney for institutional sexual abuse victims from The Law Office of Andrew Shubin examines lookback windows and the states that have enacted them.

What Are Lookback Windows?

Every state has a statute of limitations that sets deadlines for filing civil or criminal cases. This law will set specific time limits based on the type of case that is being filed. For example, an accident victim might be required to file a personal injury lawsuit within three years from the date of an accident. If you were suing someone for a breach of contract, you could have four years to file a claim depending on the governing state law.

A statute of limitations would also apply to cases arising from sexual abuse. Many states make distinctions based on when the abuse occurred. For example, survivors of childhood sexual abuse in Ohio have 12 years from the date they turn 18 to file a civil lawsuit. However, if the victim was an adult at the time of the abuse, they only have two years from the date of the abuse.

Because of the ongoing work of advocates for victims of child sexual abuse, many states have been taking a closer look at their statute of limitations. If you were a survivor of child sexual abuse in Illinois between 2003 and 2017, you had 20 years from your 18th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. In 2017, Illinois eliminated the statute of limitations for child sexual assault and abuse.

Most statutes of limitations are not retroactive. This means that if a state amended its law in 2018 and you were abused earlier, your case would still be governed by the previous statute of limitations and possibly barred. To offer victims an opportunity to file a lawsuit, some states enacted “lookback windows” along with the change in their statute of limitations. A lookback window is a set period, usually a year or two, where a victim of abuse is permitted to file a claim no matter when the abuse occurred. Basically, it affords survivors who were previously prohibited the opportunity to file a claim.

State Lookback Windows for Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Following is a list of states that have lookback windows that are currently open. Some states also have pending legislation to address their current statute of limitations. Because of the nature of the legislative process, the information provided in this article is as accurate as possible at the time of writing but subject to change. You should contact our New Jersey attorney for sexual abuse victims to verify the governing statute of limitations in your state.


California has a two-year statute of limitations lookback window that commenced on January 1, 2020. This window applies to survivors who had barred claims against individual perpetrators, private organizations, and government agencies.

New York

New York had initially afforded victims of child sexual abuse a one-year window that opened on August 14, 2019. However, this window was extended by executive order and will be in place until August 14, 2021. You should consult with an experienced attorney for New York sexual abuse victims one-year lookback window lawsuits because this window is closing shortly and there are some exceptions for adult victims.

New Jersey

On December 1, 2019, New Jersey enacted a two-year window allowing those previously prohibited from filing a claim for sexual abuse the opportunity to do so. This window applies whether the victim was a child at the time of the abuse or an adult.

North Carolina

To provide a means for its citizens to seek compensation for sexual abuse claims that were prohibited under its statute of limitations, North Carolina opened a two-year window beginning on January 1, 2020.


Vermont enacted some of the most significant steps to allow victims of child sexual abuse to hold their abusers civilly liable. In 2019, Vermont permanently removed any statute of limitation restrictions on cases of child sexual abuse. Unlike other amended statutes of limitations, Vermont’s new law was applied retroactively. This means that all survivors of sexual abuse who were previously prohibited from filing a claim now have the right to file.

Washington D.C.

Washington opened a two-year restricted window on May 3, 2019. This window is only open to expired claims against individual perpetrators and entities. Additionally, the survivor must have been a child victim who is 40 years old or younger.

Call Our Experienced Attorney for Sexual Abuse Victims to Review Your State’s Lookback Window and Statute of Limitations

Each state has a different statute of limitations concerning pursuing compensation through a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse. Recent changes in many laws have opened doors for thousands of victims to come forward and seek justice. However, these lookback windows are not available in every state and many are closing soon. If you or a loved one are a survivor of child sexual abuse, contact The Law Office of Andrew Shubin to review your specific case. Our compassionate attorneys for sexual abuse victims of the Catholic Church are committed to helping survivors and their families find justice. Call (814) 826-3586 to schedule confidential and free appointment.


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