Pennsylvania Law & the Statute of Limitations in Sex Assault Cases (Child Victims)
In Pennsylvania, there are different statute of limitations periods. In personal injury cases, such as auto accidents or cases involving medical malpractice, a two year statute of limitations period applies and starts ticking on the day of the accident or incident.
In sex assault or sex abuse cases, the applicable statute of limitations period varies and depends on the age of the victim when the incident(s) occurred. There is a separate statute of limitations period for child molestation or child sex abuse cases which is the focus of this article. Get more info about sex assault and abuse victims’ legal rights.
Civil Statute of Limitations for Sex Assault Against Children (Molestation or Sex Abuse)
In recent years, many states have revamped their civil statute of limitations laws in child molestation or child sex abuse cases. This has been in large part due to the numerous reports of widespread sex abuse in large institutions like the Catholic Church, schools, etc. Time and time again, we’ve seen massive cover-ups involving dozens of cases of child sex abuse committed by priests, teachers, and others involved with youth. In some instances, the conduct occurred over decades.
In 2002, the Pennsylvania legislature amended the child molestation statute of limitations for civil lawsuits. Previously, the civil statute of limitations expired on the victim’s 23rd birthday (5 years after turning 18). After the 2002 amendment became effective (August 2002), the statute of limitations was extended to the victim’s 30th birthday. This is the current law as of January 2018.
Example: A child was molested by her teacher in 2003 when she was just 10 years old. The abuse continued for 2 years, until 2005. Under Pennsylvania law, the victim has until she turns 30 to file a civil lawsuit against the teacher and/or school where the teacher was employed.
It’s important to note that statute of limitations questions can only be answered by sex abuse victims’ lawyers with sufficient experience handling these kinds of cases. There are some exceptions which might apply to a given case.
In addition, multiple states have passed special laws which have revived previously time-barred lawsuits for child molestation. These laws open specific windows of time to allow victims to file their lawsuits. Pennsylvania has considered passing a similar law, but the legislative bills have not made it out of judiciary committees. When and if Pennsylvania passes such a law, victims whose cases were too old may be able to seek justice.
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