It is very important that victims of sexual abuse and other crimes understand the applicable Statute of Limitations in the state where they were abused. Simply put, a Statute of Limitations puts a limit on how long a civil plaintiff can sue their abuser and the institution that enabled/employed them. After the Statute of Limitations has run, a lawsuit can no longer be filed, and a victim will be left with no civil remedy.
Thankfully, many states have updated their Statutes of Limitations to allow sexual abuse victims a longer period to bring a lawsuit. Most states recognize that childhood sexual abuse is a special circumstance, different from other injuries, and there are legitimate reasons a complaint may not be made until many years later. Maryland is an excellent example.
In Maryland, a typical injury sufferer, like a car accident victim, has 3 years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit. If a car accident victim is a minor when hurt, they have until age 21, regardless of the age they are when injured. Until 2003, that same time limit applied to victims of child sexual abuse.
Several years ago, the Maryland legislature changed that law. Today, the Statute of Limitations in Maryland allows abuse victims to sue for seven years after they turn 18, or until age 25. The time extension applies to all abuse victims who were not previously barred under the old law.
There is also the possibility that a victim of decades old abuse could file a lawsuit, even if it appears they are barred by Maryland’s new Statute of Limitations. In 1996, a Maryland judge decided a sexual abuse victim could not sue even though they only discovered the abuse because of severe psychological injuries after the Statute of Limitations ended. The victim had been abused by a Catholic priest in the 1970s, but, as is often the case, did not discover his childhood trauma until 1994. Although this decision was never overturned, it is was decided before Maryland changed its laws, and before several high-profile abuse scandals.
Andreozzi + Foote represents survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault nationwide, and has experience navigating Statutes of Limitation issues . If you or someone you know has fallen victim of sexual abuse, sexual assault, or another crime, do not hesitate to call our office. We do not charge for phone consultations, and will do everything we can to help.