A “childhood sexual abuse” can be one of the most traumatic events in anyone’s life. This form of abuse occurs when a minor is sexually abused. In many cases the victim is unable to bring a legal action until many years later and in some cases this action may not occur until they are an adult.
The California Legislature has recognized this fact, and has created a statute of limitations which acknowledges the trauma, difficulty and emotional complications an individual may experience when they have been sexually abused as a child. Therefore, if an individual is seeking to file a civil lawsuit against another person, for a childhood sexual abuse, then a specific statute of limitations period applies.
First, let’s a review of the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the period in which a person must file a lawsuit. If the person fails to file within this time period, then they are unable to file another lawsuit for this incident. For example assume you were rear-ended while stopped at a stop sign on April 15, 2011 and you suffered a neck injury. If you filed the lawsuit on April 14, 2013, then you would be within the two-year statute of limitations. Now if you were to try and file a lawsuit for this neck injury on April 16, 2013, then that action would be outside of the statute of limitations and the lawsuit would be barred. The statute of limitations can come down to a single day.
Under California law, there are two potentially applicable statutes of limitations for a childhood sexual abuse. The first potentially applicable time period requires the victim to file an action within eight years of becoming a legal adult. Thus, the victim must commence the lawsuit before their 26th birthday. A secondary applicable time period for a claim of childhood sexual abuse may also be available. This second period requires the victim to file an action within three years of discovering a psychological injury or illness related to the sexual abuse. Therefore, in the situation where the individual is sexually abused and then suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder later in life, that person has three years from the discovery of the psychological illness to file the claim.
California has also gone one step further to allow victim’s an opportunity to recover in childhood sexual abuse actions. Of the two applicable time periods discussed above, which ever period expires later is the applicable statute of limitations. Therefore if a person does not experience PTSD until they have reached the age of 28, their claim would not automatically be invalid because of the eight year provision. Alternatively if a 19 year old begins to suffer extreme anxiety, but does not initiate their legal action until they have reached the age of 25, that would be permitted. Whichever period expires later is the applicable time period.
Cases of sexual assault have been increasing in San Diego. In fact, UCSD is expanding its sexual assault prevention center. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a Southern California or San Diego sexual assault, contact the sexual assault attorneys at Martinez & Schill LLP today to discuss your case. You may be able to recover compensation for your injuries and emotional distress. Contact our San Diego office: (619) 512-5995 or Riverside office: (951) 200-4630.