Sexual Abuse Lawyer

How Long Do I Have To File A Child Sex Abuse Lawsuit?

In deciding whether a sex abuse victim has a viable claim against their perpetrator, a threshold issue always involves the date upon which the abuse occurred. Unfortunately, some victims were abused so long ago that California law prohibits them from filing a lawsuit. Historically, the timeline to file a claim was far too short. However, recent changes in California law make it easier for victims to come forward well into adulthood.

California legislators realized that many victims of child sex abuse take years to deal with the trauma inflicted upon them in childhood. Our lawmakers found that victims can delay coming forward for a number of reasons, including:

  1. Victims are afraid to confront their abuser.
  2. Victims feel too embarrassed.
  3. Victims feel too ashamed.
  4. Victims feel they are somehow to blame for the abuse.
  5. Victims want to stuff their feelings and forget the trauma.
  6. Victims are urged by family members, or even their attacker to keep quiet.
  7. Victims simply repress the memory and do not remember the abuse until much later.

Prior to 2020, victims of child sex abuse had to file a claim by their 26th birthday, or within 3 years of discovering the abuse. Too often, these victims did not come to terms with the abuse inflicted upon them until much later in life. This harsh deadline resulted in many victims losing their right to obtain justice and compensation from their abuser.

Our lawmakers decided something must be done to give victims more time, and recently passed a landmark bill significantly increasing the statute of limitations for child sex abuse. The California legislature passed AB218 in 2019 and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the new bill into law, taking effect on January 01, 2020. The new law is as follows:

  1. Victims who were abused before their 18th birthday now have until their 40th birthday to file a lawsuit, or
  2. Within, five years of discovering the underage sex abuse, or
  3. If over the age of 40, victims must obtain independent certification from a mental health professional stating they reasonably believe the victim was abused, or
  4. If not qualifying under any of the above, all previously time barred claims can be filed before December 31, 2022.

This new law also provides victims of abuse with three times the amount of money if it can be proven that an entity engaged in any sort of cover up. Additionally, whenever a person sues a government entity such as a school district, foster care agencies, or athletic facilities owned by a city, victims are ordinarily required to put that entity on notice of a claim within six months of the abuse. California recognizes the impossibility for most victims to comply with such a stringent requirement, and therefore, the new law eliminates the issue.

All of this is great news for abuse victims. However, victims are strongly advised to seek legal counsel as soon as they can. This is important because with passage of time, witnesses and vital evidence can disappear, making the case more difficult to prove.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of abuse, it is important to hire legal experienced legal counsel. But even more important, victims should hire a law firm that helps to facilitate the victim’s healing and closure. In interviewing attorneys, victims should inquire whether the firm works with highly qualified mental health professionals. Victims should ask whether the firm’s legal staff is readily available to assist the victim through the difficult process of facing their abuser. Victims should ask their potential attorney whether the firm’s legal staff are trained to deal with sensitive and painful issues.

Victims of prior abuse are encouraged to call our office and receive a confidential, no-obligation consult today. It is important to remember that the law is on your side, and we are here to help you every step of the way. Call us today at 424-343-0600.

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