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Texas Child Victims Act - Texas Extends Lawsuit Deadline for Childhood Sexual Assault

Posted by Stephanie Sherman | Feb 06, 2022 | 0 Comments

SHERMAN LAW NEWS | DALLAS, TEXAS (February 6, 2022)

Child victims laws are being enacted across he U.S. in response to the disclosure of the abuses in the Catholic Church, on campuses, institutions, sports teams, and in Hollywood.  The #metoomovement also has brought much needed attention to the issues with celebrity cases such as Bill Cosby, director Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly, Jeffrey Epstein and others.

The obstacle in these cases has always been that by the time the victim gets the courage to take action, its too late because of the statute of limitations. The deadline to file a civil case for personal injuries is the called the statute of limitations.  If you don't file your case by the deadline, the case is time-barred, meaning its too late and cannot be filed unless an exception applies. 

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 by a "preponderance of the evidence," or is at least 51% in favor of finding guilt.    

What is the Statute of Limitations in Texas for Sexual Assault Cases?

Before 2007

Before 2007, the statute of limitations for a civil personal injury or death case resulting from sexual assault in Texas was 5 years.  If the assault occurred before age 18 and in 2007 or earlier, the person would have until age 23 to file a claim (age 18 plus 5 years).  The statute of limitations starts when the child reaches 18.  The statute of limitations for a criminal case before 2007 was 10 years.  

2007 to 2015

Effective September 1, 2007, Texas eliminated the statute of limitations in criminal cases for sex crimes against children. 

The statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit was not changed and remained at 5 years.   

2015 to 2019 - Civil Statute Extended to 15 Years

Effective September 1, 2015, Texas extended the statute of limitations for a civil personal injury or death case resulting from sexual assault from 5 to 15 years.  But, the law was not retroactive and did not apply to past assaults. All assault claims that accrued before the law change were still governed by the previous 5 year limitation.  

2019 - Civil Statute Extended to 30 Years

Effective September 1, 2019, Texas extended the statute of limitations for a civil personal injury case resulting from sexual assault from 15 to 30 years.. Again, the law was not retroactive and did not to assaults before 2019.  

The new law gives a child until age 58 to file a personal injury civil case.  (age 18 plus 30 years).

What Injuries Are Caused By Sexual Abuse or Assault?

The type of injuries alleged in a personal injury lawsuit for sexual assault can include anything and everything that was caused by the assault including physical and emotional damages such as:

  • Physical injuries including head trauma, broken bones, and reproductive injuries
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Night terrors
  • Insomnia
  • Flashbacks
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections and Diseases
  • Dissociation 
  • Substance Abuse
  • Eating Disorders
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Attempted Suicide
  • Self-Mutilation
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Learning disabilities
  • Mania
  • Psychotic breaks
What Are the Damages in a Sexual Abuse or Assault Civil Case?

The plaintiff (who brings the lawsuit) can recover any and all costs and expenses associated with the physical and emotional trauma of the abuse including:

  • 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. 

The plaintiff can also recover money for future care and therapy needs, and future mental anguish and pain and suffering.  To support these damages, the lawyer will hire an expert to discuss the amount and type of therapy needed in the future and the projected costs.  For the future mental anguish and pain and suffering in the future, a jury decides on the amount based on many factors including the depth of the trauma already suffered in the past, and the likelihood of it continuing in the future.  

Who Do You Sue for Sexual Assault in a Civil Case?

The defendant (person or institution sued) can include the individual abuser, employer or institution, and anyone else involved or who knowledge of the abuse and/or a duty to report the abuse, or who helped facilitate the abuse. 

If you have been a victim of sexual assault, contact a sexual assault attorney to review your rights.  Sherman Law  provides a confidential and free case review. 

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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