Child Victims Act in California: Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations
Filing a Califonia childhood sexual abuse lawsuit can provide some relief for survivors who experienced sexual abuse in their childhood. Here’s what you need to know about the recent change in California sexual abuse statute of limitations due to the California Child Victims Act.
As a result of the California Child Victims Act, the California statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse now permits victims to file civil claims till age 40. In addition, the law now allows a discovery period of 5 years and provides an opportunity for all survivors to file a civil lawsuit until January 2023.
California Child Victims Act
In 2019, the California State Assembly passed the California Child Victims Act. The California Child Victims Act permits victims of childhood sexual assault more time to pursue legal action against their alleged abusers.
Previously, California only allowed victims of childhood sexual assault to file civil claims up to age 26, but the Child Victims Act now allows victims to file lawsuits up to age 40. Additionally, prior to the California Child Victims Act, victims only had 3 years from their discovery of abuse to file a lawsuit. The act now permits victims 5 years from the discovery of abuse to file a lawsuit, even if they are over 40 years old. Lastly, all childhood survivors regardless of age are eligible to file a civil lawsuit until December 31, 2022.
Related: North Carolina Child Support FAQs
Filing a California Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
More adult survivors are now pursuing legal action against their alleged abusers as a result of the California Child Victims Act. Victims who file a California sexual assault lawsuit can receive compensation and justice. Although the steps for filing a child sexual abuse lawsuit are similar to filing for other crimes, differences such as the burden of proof and additional evidence needed for victims over 40 years old exist.
The burden of proof in California civil cases is the “preponderance of evidence.” The burden of proof means the state finds the alleged abuser “more likely than not” liable for the act(s) they committed against the child. The burden of proof exists because obtaining medical evidence for child sexual abuse cases is very difficult for individuals. The burden of proof ensures the case only needs to tip slightly in favor of the survivor for a successful case.
Although victims over the age of 40 are eligible to file a lawsuit due to the California Child Victims Act, special rules apply. If the plaintiff (victim filing the lawsuit) is over the age of 40, the plaintiff must obtain certificates of merit from:
A mental health professional stating a valid reason why the plaintiff could not discover the harm sooner, and
The plaintiff’s attorney stating the claim is likely to succeed based on a review of the case and the findings of the mental health professional.
The mental health professional is someone who has not treated the plaintiff before.
The time necessary to get the required certification is often tedious because the mental health professional must examine the plaintiff and the lawyer must review the factual basis for the suit.
FAQs About Califonia Child Victims Act: Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations
Can victims file a criminal and civil lawsuit for child sexual abuse?
Victims can file criminal and civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse at the same time. However, criminal lawsuits typically take longer to resolve than civil lawsuits.
Have other states enacted similar laws?
Several states have made significant changes to their sexual abuse laws in the past few years. In fact, New York State has recently enacted its own form of the Child Victims Act. Like Califonia, New York has extended the statute of limitations for civil claims of childhood sexual abuse.