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Time Limits to File Sexual Abuse and Harassment Lawsuits in California

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Victims of sexual abuse and harassment have varying time limits to file lawsuits in California. These differences arise depending on whether the victim was a minor or an adult at the time that the abuse or harassment took place.

Recently, California passed Assembly Bill 218, which dramatically alters the timeframe in which childhood sexual abuse survivors have to file a civil claim against their abusers.

How Long Do Child Survivors of Sexual Abuse Have to File a Claim?

The amount of time those who were sexually assaulted as a child has been changed by Assembly Bill 218. This law was passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Newsom. It takes effect on January 1, 2020, and implements several changes to the existing timeframes that survivors of childhood sexual assault have to file claims.

  • Victims of childhood sexual abuse have until they turn 40 years of age, or five years from the discovery of the assault, to file civil lawsuits. The law previous capped the limit at the age of 26 or three years from the discovery of abuse.
  • Victims of any age will have three years to bring claims that would have otherwise been barred due to existing statutes of limitation.

How Long Do Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse Have to File a Claim?

Adults who have suffered from sexual assault (the assault occurred on or after the plaintiff’s 18th birthday) must file a claim on the later of the following (text taken from CA Civ Pro Code § 340.16):

  • Within 10 years for the date of the last act, or attempted act, or assault with the intent to commit an act, of sexual assault by the defendant against the plaintiff.
  • Within three years from the date the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered that an injury or illness resulted from an act, attempted act, or assault with the intent to commit an act, of sexual assault by the defendant against the plaintiff.

This law took effect on January 1, 2019. Victims of assault that took place before that date may only have three years from the date of the attack to file a claim against their abuser.

Why You Should Not Delay Filing a Claim

Understandably, sexual assault is an emotional issue. However difficult these claims are to bring forward, you should not delay in doing so. Even with expanded time limits, a delay can damage or destroy your case due to several reasons:

  • The deadlines may be missed. These deadlines are serious. If they are missed, a sexual assault victim will lose their right to sue and collect any compensation for what has happened to them, regardless of how strong their cases.
  • A delay damages evidence. As time fades, so does the evidence. Physical evidence may be degraded or lost, and memories fade over time.
  • Delays prevent a victim from receiving the counseling they need. The sooner a victim comes forward with their claims, the sooner they will get to work with psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors who are trained to help victims of sexual assault.
  • Justice is delayed. Delaying a claim and they prevent justice from ever being served on the perpetrator of the abuse. Prompt legal action can help prevent an abuser from attacking others.

Covid 19 Update: We are accepting new cases and we handle everything electronically and remotely, so our clients never have to leave their homes.