Can I File a Case for Money Damages for Past Sexual Assault?

Posted by Stephanie Sherman | Dec 05, 2021 | 0 Comments

Yes.  Assuming your statute of limitations has not expired.  (discussed infra). 

Sexual Assault or Abuse

As many as one in four women and one in five men suffered abuse as a child and almost 90% of abuse never gets reported. Sexual abuse or assault causes profound trauma for victims whether done by a family member, clergy member, scouting leader, athletics coach, teacher or a complete stranger. It's devastating whether it's a one-time incident, or lasts for years, and usually requires many years of therapy or in-patient mental health treatment to recover. Sexual abuse and assault includes rape, molestation, penetration with an object, groping, date rape, and any other sexual act where consent is not given.  Even if the victim was under the influence, the victim may not have been in a condition to provide consent, which is date rape.  Intoxication is not a defense for the perpetrator.  

Sexual abuse or assault tends to occur in settings or relationships where the victim or child is at a power disadvantage, or is vulnerable. The abusers in these situations can be:

  • Teachers
  • Priests/pastors
  • Coaches
  • Scout leaders
  • Youth group leaders
  • Babysitters or child care providers
  • Doctors
  • Psychologists
  • Lawyers
  • Counselors
  • Sororities and fraternities

A civil case can be a step in the recovery process that brings healing, closure, and money to fund recovery. A civil case for sexual abuse or assault is different than a criminal case.  In a civil case, we are seeking compensation for the trauma, pain, emotional injuries (including anxiety, depression, and/or PTSD), and any physical injuries caused by the abuse or assault.  In a criminal case, the prosecutor seeks a conviction and jail time.  The burden of proof in a civil case vs. a criminal case is is not the same.  You do not have to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" in a civil case.  It is proof that is at least 51% in favor of finding guilt.   A civil case exposes the perpetrator or institution, acknowledges the pain and suffering of the survivor, and forces the institutions to take action to prevent future abuse.  Most importantly, a civil case can provide a bridge to a healed life for the survivor with money to pay for therapy and treatment. 

Survivors will not walk the path of a civil case alone. In a civil lawsuit, you will have a compassionate advocate attorney and team fighting for and with you. There is a fiduciary relationship between the survivor and attorney wherein the attorney is tasked to put the survivor's interests before all else.  In a criminal case, there is no fiduciary relationship between the state and the survivor. 

Injuries That Are Commonly Associated With Sexual Abuse or Assault:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Flashbacks
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections
  • Dissociation
  • Substance Abuse
  • Eating Disorders
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Attempted Suicide
  • Self-Mutilation
  • Sexual Dysfunction

Types of Recoverable Damages in a Sexual Abuse or Assault Civil Case:

  • Medical care costs, including doctor, psychiatric care, and hospital bills.
  • Therapy expenses.
  • Medication expenses.
  • Lost wages for time off of work due to recovery or treatment.
  • Psychological and emotional damages.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Mental anguish.
  • Punitive damages to deter future bad conduct. 

A civil case can be filed against an individual such as a neighbor, a family member, and the employer if applicable.  For example, if the abuse was through an organization, employers such as churches, schools, summer camps, universities, hospitals, movie companies, or other types of for-profit and non-for-profit businesses can also be sued for the conduct of their abusive employee.  If a lawsuit is against an individual, who is a homeowner, or if the perpetrator lives with a homeowner (such as a parent), there may be a home owner's insurance policy that will be responsible for the damages. 

Many victims do not get the courage to take action until many years after the abuse.  Fortunately, there are states that have extended the statute of limitations for victims to file a civil case.  Some states no longer have a statute of limitations for these case.  Sherman Law will confidentially review your case and statute of limitations for any state where the abuse occurred.  



In October 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 218. The law, which took effect in January 2020:

  • Extends the time minor survivors may take civil action to 22 years after age 18 (previously eight years after age 18), meaning minors may pursue justice until age 40 in California.
  • Gives adult survivors five years to sue if they discover, after reaching adulthood, that a psychological injury or illness was due to childhood sexual assault.
  • Provides a three-year look-back window to survivors who could not take civil action due to the previous California statute of limitations. The three-year look-back window ends in January 2023.
  • Allows courts to triple the damages awarded to a survivor if there was an attempted cover-up.


In September 1, 2019, Texas extended the statute of limitations for child sex abuse survivors from 15 to 30 years.  An adult survivor of child abuse occurring on or after September 1, 2019 will have 30 years following their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit for damages

This law also extends the statute of limitations for survivors who were abused prior to the effective date if their statute of limitations has not expired by that time. That is, these victims have an additional 15 years to seek justice in the courts.

Texas survivors of clergy abuse can contact Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests for resources and support. 

New York 

The New York State Legislature in Nov. 2018 passed the Child Victims Act , which permits victims of sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser(s) until the age of 55.  Prior to the passage of the Child Victims Act, victims of childhood sexual abuse in New York had been pushing lawmakers for over a decade to increase their ability to file civil claims, only to be denied by powerful lobbies such as insurance companies, private schools, and the Roman Catholic Church. As a result, the act remained stalled for 13 years. Then the democrats won control of the Senate in November 2018. The Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly approved the act in January, with every senator -- both Republican and Democrat -- voting in favor, 130-3.


Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2466 into law, which extends the time minor survivors may take civil action to 12 years after they turn 18 (previously two years after age 18), meaning minors may pursue justice against their abusers until they reach age 30 in Arizona.

Per the new law, prosecutors may bring criminal charges to hold those accountable until a victim turns 28, and victims can sue until age 55. The bill also creates a year-long “look-back window,” during which old claims that had already passed the statute of limitations may be revived.

New Jersey

In May 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill 477, which:

  • Extends the time minor survivors may file civil claims to 37 years after age 18 (previously two years after age 18), meaning they may pursue justice until age 55 in New Jersey or within seven years from when they discover that an injury was caused by past abuse, whichever is later.
  • Gives survivors a two-year look-back window to file claims that were previously barred by the New Jersey statute of limitations. The two-year look-back window ends in December 2021.


Louisiana now has no statute of limitations for childhood sexual assault.  

There are other states that have extended the statute of limitations.   That's why its important to discuss your case as soon as possible with an attorney.  

Sherman Law investigates and prosecutes sexual assault, sexual abuse, and human trafficking claims throughout the country. These cases must be handled delicately, and you can be assured that Sherman Law will treat you with kindness, dignity, and compassion.  Your consultation is private and confidential.  It is protected from disclosure because you are seeking a legal opinion.  There is no obligation to move forward unless you are ready.  There is no fee, unless there is a recovery. Take ACTION now before its too late.  You do not need to wait until the criminal case is complete.  


About the Author

Stephanie Sherman

On June 1, 2022, I joined the nationwide award-winning law firm, Baum Hedlund.  I am grateful to join this elite group of trailblazers that is so deeply committed to taking on tough cases and fighting for the underdog. You can still reach me here, via my bio page or at 800-827-0087. Stephani...


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