Thursday, December 13, 2012

Under California law, how long do I have to file a lawsuit if I was the victim of childhood sexual abuse?

California, like every other state, has time limits for filing lawsuits called statutes of limitations.  This only allows a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit for civil damages or lose any right to recovery.  For sexual abuse cases, the law is as follows:

California Code of Civil Procedure § 340.1 -  Damages suffered as result of childhood sexual abuse; Certificates of merit provides as follows:

(a) In an action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse, the time for commencement of the action shall be within eight years of the date the plaintiff attains the age of majority or within three years of the date the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered that psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by the sexual abuse, whichever period expires later, for any of the following actions:

 (1) An action against any person for committing an act of childhood sexual abuse.

 (2) An action for liability against any person or entity who owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, where a wrongful or negligent act by that person or entity was a legal cause of the childhood sexual abuse which resulted in the injury to the plaintiff.

 (3) An action for liability against any person or entity where an intentional act by that person or entity was a legal cause of the childhood sexual abuse which resulted in the injury to the plaintiff.

The "age of majority" is 18 years of age.  Therefore, a victim of childhood sexual abuse would normally have until their 26th birthday to file a lawsuit for the abuse.  However, the statute also anticipates repressed memories associated with childhood sexual abuse and provides for an additional time after the "discovery" of the abuse, which can be shown by a licensed therapist such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.  The victim would have three years from such discovery to file suit.

Trying to determine the exact time limit on filing this type of claim can be complicated.  This is best done through retaining a quality sexual assault and abuse attorney.