How Long Do You Have to Bring a Civil Case for Sexual Assault in California?

How Long Do You Have to Bring a Civil Case for Sexual Assault in California? California passed a law on January 1, 2023, that extends the statute of limitations (the time victims have to file a claim) for claims by adult survivors of sexual assault. The new legislation is in response to the impact of the #MeToo movement and advocates for victims of sexual assault and abuse nationwide.

According to Ms. Magazine:

Biases against survivors stubbornly persist—in society, in policing, and in the criminal system. These biases severely impact racial minorities and gender minorities, and many survivors’ path to healing does not involve police, prosecutors or related systems (at least not on the fixed timelines these systems demand of survivors).

The Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act has two parts. The first part recognizes why the new law, which extends the statute of limitations for sexual assault civil claims, is necessary. The second part addresses the new changes to the rights of sexual abuse victims. In particular, the second part sets the statute of limitations for filing sexual assault claims. The statute of limitations is the time you have to file a claim. If you don’t file your sexual assault claim within the statute of limitations period, your claim will be forever barred.

Cover-up claims can be filed until December 31, 2023 – so you need to contact us NOW if you have a cover-up claim.

Please contact us as soon as possible. We can explain specifically which time limit applies to your claim. The sooner you file your claim, the sooner you can begin to hold the perpetrators and any other wrongdoers who should have prevented the sexual assault accountable.

Part One of the Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act – The reasons the law was enacted

The new law recognizes that:

  • An American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds.
  • One out of six American women have been the victim of a rape attempt or a rape in their lifetime.
  • Only about 30 percent of sexual assaults are reported to the police.
  • One-third of women who are raped “contemplate suicide; 13 percent attempt it.”
  • According to studies analyzed in 2016, “nearly 6,000 women and girls 14 years of age or older who had experienced sexual violence found that 60 percent of survivors did not label their experience as ‘rape.’”
  • Some of the reasons victims of rape or sexual assault may not label their experience as rape or sexual assault include:
    • Self-blame
    • Embarrassment
    • A lack of understanding of the legal terms
    • Fear of identifying the assailant because they think others will blame the victim for the sexual assault
  • The time to identify someone as a perpetrator of a sexual assault can take years if the perpetrator is someone the victim trusted.

The California legislature states that the “unique nature of the emotional and psychological consequences of sexual assault, especially on women, can paradoxically permit wrongdoers to escape civil accountability unless statutes of limitation are crafted to prevent this injustice from occurring.”

The legislation also takes into account news of major businesses being accused by employees of sexual assault – which is why the legislation requires that companies that covered up sexual assault in the past may still be accountable if the victim files her/his claim by December 31, 2023.

Part Two of the Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act – The terms of the new law

The new legislation provides the following requirements and definitions, including the time requirements for filing a civil action claim for sexual assault damages:

If the sexual assault occurred when or after the victim turned 18, the statute of limitations for filing a civil claim for damages is the “later” of the following:

  • Within 10 years from the date of the last attempted act, last act, or assault with the intent to commit an act of sexual assault against the victim/the plaintiff.
  • Within 3 years from the date the victim “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 against the plaintiff.”

The definition of sexual assault is set forth in various sections of the California penal code. Generally, sexual assault crimes require that the defendant/perpetrator intended to commit the acts/violations.

Please know that the filing of a civil claim for damages due to sexual assault does NOT require that there be a criminal prosecution or that if a criminal prosecution was brought that there be a conviction or adjudication.

The legislation applies to any civil action based upon conduct that occurred after January 1, 2009, and is commenced after January 1, 2019, that “would have been barred solely because the applicable statute of limitations has or had expired.” Those claims “are hereby revived and may be commenced until December 31, 2026.”

The law doesn’t revive claims:

  • That were litigated to finality before January 1, 2023
  • That were settled as part of a written settlement agreement before January 1, 2023

The following type of claim is also revived:

  • A claim for $250,000 or more
  • Arising out of a sexual assault or other inappropriate contact, communication, or activity of a sexual nature by a physician
  • Occurring at a student health center between January 1, 1988, and January 1, 2017, that would otherwise be barred before January 1, 2020
  • Solely because the applicable statute of limitations has expired

The statute of limitations, based on other legislation, provides that the time to file a claim when the victim of sexual assault was under 18 is:

  • When the survivor turns 40
  • Within 5 years of learning that “psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by the sexual assault.”

The time limit to file a cover-up claim

Our lawyers will explain what other claims are revived, are not revived, and all applicable requirements. One claim that you need to file immediately is a claim that a doctor or an entity covered up the sexual assault. If your claim would otherwise be denied due to the statute of limitations, you may be able to still file your claim if you file the claim by December 31, 2023.

Ms. Magazine adds that the new legislation:

Provides an option for accountability for entities who tried to cover up occurrences of sexual assault, who, through their own negligence, intentional acts or vicarious liability, are responsible for a sexual assault and then covered it up, meaning, actively hid evidence to keep the assault secret. This could be an employer, a corporation, or other entity in a position of power over the victim.

Other defendants may include hospitals, other medical providers, and schools including grade schools and colleges.

At Taylor & Ring, our Los Angeles sexual assault lawyers file claims against the perpetrators of sexual assault and any people or entities that should have taken steps to prevent the assault. We seek compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost income, and any other damages California law permits. To discuss the time limit for filing a sexual assault claim and all concerns you have, call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.

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