The Time Limits to File Sexual Abuse and Harassment Lawsuits in California
Statutes of limitations for civil claims involving sexual assault
The state of California has multiple time lines 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 civil cases, the time limit to file suit is different depending on if the victim is a child or an adult (over age 18).
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 new 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.
The same law applies for child victims of abuse, except for one distinction: that a claim must be filed within 8 years of the child reaching the age of majority, regardless of when the attack occurred. In other words, childhood victims of abuse have only until the 26th birthday to file a claim for damages. The law also allows for the additional three years for discover.
Potential changes to the law in AB 218
At this time, legislation has been introduced to expand those times limits. Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) would increase the statute of limitations, allowing victims of childhood sexual assault another 22 years from the age of majority – or until the age of 40 – to file a claim. It would also expand the discovery time limits from 3 years to 5 years.
Claims against government entities may have different time lines
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.
Civil lawsuits are different than criminal lawsuits
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 time lines. 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.
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.
- Civil Lawsuits Are One Way Victims Can Seek Justice for Themselves
- Relaxed Statute of Limitation Laws Don’t Apply to Civil Rape Cases
- 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.