New Law Eliminates Civil Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse Victims

We take all forms of child sex abuse extremely seriously, so when a new law was passed that eliminated the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims, we were elated. Far too often, victims of sexual abuse are prevented from receiving compensation from their abusers and those otherwise responsible because they are past the statute of limitations for filing a case. That should not be the case, as it is shown that time and again, the victims of such abuse face barriers to coming out against their abuser, both psychologically and socially. Now that there is no civil statute of limitations in federal cases, those who were subject to felonious child sex abuse can now file a civil case along with a criminal case.

What bill was passed, and what does it do?

In September of this year, the president signed The Eliminating Limits to Justice For Child Sex Abuse Victims bill, making it federal law. Previously, in order for a victim to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser/s, they had to wait until they were at least 18 years of age before they could even file the claim, and if they happened to wait ten years more, they would no longer be in the bounds of the statute of limitations. With this new law, there’s no time limit that determines when they file a case.

The Hill lays it out clearly, stating that “the bill eliminates time constraints for survivors to file civil claims related to sex abuse crimes against minors, including forced labor, sex trafficking, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.”

What does this mean for Tennessee law?

Unfortunately, the new law affects federal statutes only, so any crimes committed within the purview of the laws of Tennessee are not affected by this new law. According to Tennessee law, §28-3-116, the civil statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit for Injury or Illness Based on Child Sexual Abuse is as such:

  • For child sexual abuse that occurred before July 1, 2019, but was not discovered at the time of the abuse, within three (3) years from the time of discovery of the abuse by the injured person; or
  • For child sexual abuse that occurred on or after July 1, 2019, within the later of:
    • Fifteen (15) years from the date the person becomes eighteen (18) years of age; or
    • If the injury or illness was not discovered at the time of the abuse, within three (3) years from the time of discovery of the abuse by the injured person.

The date when the individual realizes that they were a victim of child sex abuse matters greatly when it comes to the amount of time one has to file a civil lawsuit in Tennessee.

Criminal charges vs. civil claims: what you need to know

It is important to note that the civil statute of limitations is not the same as the criminal statute of limitations. A civil claim is different from a criminal charge. Civil claims are brought against the defendant by the plaintiff, usually when seeking financial compensation for damaged property or personal injury. When someone sues another person, that is a civil claim. A criminal charge is what happens when someone breaks the law and the government investigates and charges the defendant for a crime they may have committed. Civil lawsuits and criminal charges can occur at the same time, as the two legal proceedings have different standards.

When it comes to criminal charges, those are brought by the state or federal prosecutor. A civil case is filed by individual parties. In a criminal case, there is no guarantee that you will be awarded restitution, and any fines associated with the charges go to the state of Tennessee, not to the victims.

Why do I want a Memphis injury lawyer to file a civil sexual assault claim?

The criminal justice system may see that the offender is sent to prison, but it cannot compensate you for the pain and suffering that you’ve experienced, and the costs that come along with treating any physical or psychological injuries you suffered. It’s clear that filing a civil case may be your best way forward to be awarded the financial compensation that you deserve so that you can go forward with your life in a meaningful and comfortable way.

Finding the right Memphis sexual assault attorney is essential when filing a civil case. An attorney experienced in handling child sexual assault cases, which are by their nature both delicate and incredibly complex, can help you maneuver the legal process, handling difficult paperwork and communicating with the courts and the opposing party so that you can focus on healing. Often, the sexual abuse against the child is perpetrated by an individual in a seat of power or authority, such as religious figures or school coaches, and they may hold more sway and have more power than you do – possibly making the case uneven if you are without counsel. These are the sort of cases that you want to make sure that you have a dedicated and hard-hitting professional on your side who won’t put up with any flaunting of power.

If you or a loved one has suffered from child sex abuse or sexual assault, we at Bailey & Greer, PLLC want to help. We are experienced in representing victims of child sexual assault against all sorts of abusers, such as religious leaders, coaches, and teachers. We have the experience and skill to represent you, and get the compensation you deserve.  To schedule an appointment, please call us at 901-475-7434 or use our contact page. We want to help. With offices in Memphis and Jackson, we are proud to serve families throughout West Tennessee.