There Are Time Limits For Filing Criminal And Civil Suits
A statute of limitations (SOL) is a law that puts a limit on the time within which you may exercise a legal right, usually the time for prosecuting a crime or bringing a civil lawsuit. These are two very different things and they have very different SOLs.
Many people who call Law Office of Carmen L. Durso are concerned about statutes of limitation, both civil and criminal. Every state has different rules, and we can only advise clients about Massachusetts laws and events which happen here. If your abuse happened in another state, we will try to refer you to a competent local attorney. Or you can contact the National Crime Victim Bar Association at 202-467-8716 for information and legal assistance in your state.
Children who experience abuse may repress the memory or find another way of not thinking about it such as self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. As a result, many victims don’t realize how they have been harmed until they are adults. By the time they figure out what happened, the applicable SOL may have expired.
Criminal Statutes Of Limitation
Determining the SOL in criminal cases is complicated because the time period is fixed by the kind of crime committed. The first step is to determine which criminal statute the abuser violated. The next step is to find when the acts occurred because at different times, the SOLs have had varying time periods. If you want to prosecute a perpetrator, we will give you our best judgment about whether it is possible. But you will need to speak with an investigator or attorney from a prosecutor’s office to get a final determination of whether it can be commenced within the time period of the SOL.
Civil Statutes Of Limitation
For many years, the general SOL for civil actions relating to sexual abuse was three years. Fortunately, in 1993, a rule of law called the “discovery rule,” developed in Massachusetts, had the effect of extending civil SOLs. Because of its many limitations, however, advocates obtained a new SOL in 2014. Whether it will apply in any particular case can only be answered after a careful analysis of the facts, but here are the basic rules:
- As of June 26, 2014, for events that occur AFTER that date, a person sexually abused as a child (under 18) has until age 53 to bring suit against the person who abused them, the abuser’s employer/supervisor, or someone else who made the abuse possible.
- Suits against perpetrators of abuse can be brought for acts that occurred PRIOR to June 26, 2014, if you are still under 53 years of age, but NOT against the abuser’s employer/supervisor, or someone else who made the abuse possible.
- Suits against perpetrators, AND against the abuser’s employer/supervisor or someone else who made the abuse possible, can be brought for acts that occurred PRIOR to June 26, 2014, if they are filed within seven years of the date when you first understood that you were harmed by the perpetrator.
You Need An Attorney With Considerable Experience
Because this is a complicated legal issue, you should not make any assumptions about whether it applies to you. We are always willing to discuss a statute of limitations’ issue without charge for the consultation. If we accept a claim, it is on a contingent-fee basis – you do not pay for our services unless your claim is successful.
You can reach us in Boston at 617-728-9123 or complete a brief online form. Your consultation is free.