California's “Child Victims Act” Extends Civil Suit Deadlines
The statute of limitations is the time period during which you must file your civil case. If you don't file your case in time, your case is time-barred, meaning its too late and you cannot file it, ever.
Statutes of limitations differ based on the claim at issue, where the damages or injury occurred, and who is being sued.
Before January 1, 2020, California residents who were survivors of childhood sexual assault had to file any civil lawsuit against their abuser before their 26th birthday. The problem with this is that many survivors do not get the courage until many, many years after the abuse to even disclose to anyone what happened and by whom. Many survivors experience shame and don't feel safe to share what happened. Survivors may also suffer from trauma induced post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) which can be severely debilitating. PTSD changes the structure of the brain and can require many years of trauma therapy. Many survivors are unable to take action until they are further along in their healing which can take many years. The average age that survivors disclose that they were sexually abused as a child is 52. Thus, any statute of limitations cutting off a survivor's rights at age 26 is not good enough, leaving the abusers free to go about their life.
Fortunately, the state of California recognizes the importance of childhood sexual abuse. On October 14, 2019, California passed the Child Victims Act for survivors of childhood sexual assault. It took immediate effect on January 1, 2020.
The Act allows a three year window NOW for survivors with expired claims to bring a civil lawsuit against their perpetrator, a private organization, or the government. This three year window to file an expired sexual assault claim expires January 1, 2023.
The Act also revised the definition of “childhood sexual abuse” and instead refers to it as “childhood sexual assault”. The new definition has been expanded to include crimes such as incest, sodomy, and several other violations against minors that were not previously recognized as sexual abuse.
The Act also made significant changes to the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits for childhood sexual assault. The act allows survivors to file a civil lawsuit for damages by either:
- the time the survivor reaches the age of 40, or,
- 5 years after the survivor discovers (or reasonably should have discovered) that their psychological injury was caused by their childhood sexual assault, whichever of the two occurs latest.
The Act allows for survivors over the age of 40 to file a sexual assault claim if an individual or entity knew, had reason to know, or was otherwise put on notice that its employees, representatives, volunteers, or agents were engaged in misconduct that created a risk of childhood sexual assault. Additionally, individuals and organizations will be liable under the act for failing to take reasonable steps or implementing safeguards to avoid acts of childhood sexual assault.
The Act also provides that survivors may recover additional damages from a perpetrator or organization who covered up the sexual assault of a minor.
If you are a survivor of sexual abuse in California, please contact California sexual assault attorney Stephanie ShermanSherman Law investigates and prosecutes sexual assault cases in California and throughout the country. Your consultation is private and confidential. There is no fee, unless there is a recovery. Take ACTION now before its too late. Statute of limitations apply to your potential claim.