Statutes of Limitations to File Sexual Abuse and Harassment Lawsuits in California
Your questions answered:
- What are the time limits for filing a civil sexual assault claim in California?
- How long do sexual abuse survivors have to file a claim in California?
- Will the Speak Out Act affect my sexual assault or sexual harassment claim?
- How are civil lawsuits different than criminal lawsuits for sexual abuse?
- Why you should not delay filing a claim for damages after a sexual assault in California
- How do I contact you?
What are the time limits for filing a civil sexual assault claim in California?
The state of California has multiple timelines for sexual assault cases. While different criminal charges have different statutes of limitations, civil claims all follow the same statute. If you or your loved one has been a victim of sexual assault, call Taylor & Ring in Los Angeles as soon as possible, so we can get started on your case.
How long do sexual abuse survivors have to file a claim in California?
In civil cases, the time limit to file suit is different depending on if the victim is a child or an adult (over age 18).
Childhood victims of sexual assault have until their 40th birthday, or within 5 years of the discovery of the abuse, to file a civil lawsuit. The law also allows for a five year window for the revival of any claims that would have been barred by the statute of limitations. If the childhood abuse was covered up, victims may have the right to claim treble damages in their claim.
We’ve been having a lot of really righteous cases come in since AB218 went into effect, from people who previously were barred because of the statute. We’re seeing a lot of victims who are well into adulthood, 50 and 60-year-old men and women, who are finally ready to talk about their abuse and want to know if they can do something legally.
Natalie Weatherford, “Giving Voice to the Silenced: Anatomy of a Sexual Abuse Practice at Taylor & Ring”
Under CA Civ Pro Code § 340.16, adult victims of sexual abuse and assault can make a claim within 10 years of the event, or within three years since the discovery of any injury or illness resulting from the assault. The law says:
In any civil action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of sexual assault, where the assault occurred on or after the plaintiff’s 18th birthday, the time for commencement of the action shall be the later of the following:
- Within 10 years from the date of the last act, 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 statute of limitations took effect on January 1, 2019. If you were assaulted before that date, you may only have three years from the date of the attack to file a claim.
Claims against California’s government entities have shorter timelines
If a public or government entity is a defendant (a school district, a city, etc.), then the time limit can be as short as six months from the incident to file what is known as a “government claim.” This is true if you are a child or an adult bringing a lawsuit. If you miss the six-month deadline, your lawsuit could be barred.
Will the Speak Out Act affect my sexual assault or sexual harassment claim?
It could. In December 2022, Congress passed Public Law 224, known as the Speak Out Act, “to limit the judicial enforceability of predispute nondisclosure and non-disparagement contract clauses relating to disputes involving sexual assault and sexual harassment.”
If you have been prevented from disclosing your abuse or assault because of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), the Speak Out Act ensures that your rights are protected by making those NDAs judicially unenforceable if you signed the NDA before the act of assault or abuse occurred. As such, if you were harmed within the timelines put forth by the State of California, you may be able to file a civil claim for damages against your abuser.
How are civil lawsuits different than criminal lawsuits for sexual abuse?
The time limit for the district attorney to file criminal charges against the perpetrator differs depending on the charges. Under California law, “the prosecution of rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, oral copulation, and sexual penetration, that are committed under certain circumstances, as specified, [can] be commenced at any time.”
However, this law only applies to sex crimes committed on or after January 1, 2017. Any acts committed before this date could fall under the old statute of limitations. The one exception is for crimes committed against children; in this case, the state has until the child reaches the age of 40 to file charges.
Understand, though, that pending criminal charges have no effect on your timelines. Just because your attacker is facing criminal charges, does not mean that your civil claim can be delayed, nor that you cannot proceed with your case.
From the beginning, I knew I was in compassionate hands with Taylor and Ring. I was represented by Mr. Ring, and as a sexual abuse survivor, I felt that he went above and beyond a typical trial lawyer's obligations. Mr. Ring demonstrated such kindness and professionalism throughout my litigation experience that a process which can often feel worse than the abuse felt humane and empowering. I am forever grateful to have had Taylor and Ring's representation during a time when I felt completely alone. They are the best of the best!
Why you should not delay filing a claim for damages after a sexual assault in California
If you are a victim of sexual assault, an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, or the parents of a child who was molested or abused in Los Angeles, it is imperative to understand the time limits to file civil lawsuits. Delay can damage or even destroy your case for several reasons:
- There are strict deadlines for bringing lawsuits. If a civil claim is not brought by the appropriate time limit, you will lose your right to sue and your right to collect any money, even if you have a “perfect” case.
- Delay damages your ability for success. Memories fade with time. Physical evidence can be lost or damaged. The sooner our attorneys review your abuse case, the sooner we can collect and preserve the necessary evidence to help prove your claim.
- Delay means the victim is probably not getting all the counseling that she or he needs. We work with many psychologists, psychiatrists, government agencies, and private counselors who are trained to help rape and sexual assault victims adjust and recover from these terrible ordeals.
- Prompt action means prompt justice. The attacker and everyone else who helped the attacker, looked the other way or was negligent in their duties need to be stopped right away. Prompt action helps prevent abusive attacks being done to others.
At Taylor & Ring, our Los Angeles sexual abuse lawyers are prepared to help you and your loved ones get the justice you need. Do not hesitate to get help as soon as possible.
- Does California have a statute of limitations for rape?
- How Survivors Are Helping Change Laws for the Better
- Reporting Sexual Assault: Know Your Rights
Delay can forever stop your right to bring a case for sexual assault
Statutes of limitations are a very complex area of the law. You must promptly consult with a lawyer who has handled sexual assault cases to ensure you are getting the correct advice. If you miss the deadline by one day, you lose. There are no do-overs, no excuses. It is essential that you contact an experienced Los Angeles sexual abuse attorney as soon as the abuse occurs to legally protect your claim. Call Taylor & Ring at 310-776-6390 or fill out our contact form to schedule free initial consultation with one of our sexual abuse lawyers today.