Statute of Limitations and Sexual Abuse Cases

Overcoming the Statute of Limitations in PA for sexual abuse cases In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations in most civil assault cases is two years from the date of the injury. If the injured victim is under the age of eighteen(18), the victim must file suit before they reach the age of twenty (20). However, the statute of limitations in sexual abuse and molestation cases in Pennsylvania is not as clear cut as it may seem. Pennsylvania law, 42 Pa. C.S. §5533 (b)(2)(i), presently states that victims of sexual abuse and molestation who are under the age of eighteen (18) when the sexual abuse or molestation occurs, must file suit before they turn thirty (30). This law was enacted on August 27, 2002. Individuals who were childhood victims of sexual abuse or molestation in Pennsylvania before this law was enacted are not afforded this extended statute of limitations, and thus are required to file suit before they turn twenty (20). One exception to the statute of limitations for sexual abuse and molestation in Pennsylvania surrounds what is known as the common law "discovery rule." The application of this rule allows victims to file suit within two years of the time:

(1) they discover the injury; and (2) they discover the source of the injury. However, it is important to note that Pennsylvania, unlike many other states, has rejected the repressed memory theory as a tool to apply the discovery rule. The repressed memory theory is applicable to situations where victims of sexual assault and molestation have subconsciously forced themselves to forget the occurrence of abuse for many years.

The theory of "fraudulent concealment" may also extend the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania sexual abuse and molestations cases. In order for this theory to be applicable, the Plaintiff must establish the defendant committed some affirmative independent act of concealment upon which the Plaintiff justifiably relied. This exception may be applicable if the Defendant provides the Plaintiff with information which misleads the Plaintiff, and thereby causes him/her to forego filing suit. There are other exceptions to the statute of limitations in sexual abuse and molestations cases which are less common. Each case presents with a unique set of facts, and it is extremely important to consult with an experienced sexual abuse and molestation attorney even if you believe that the statute of limitations on your case has expired. The sooner you consult with an attorney, the better the chance your rights will be protected.

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