For adults who suffered sexual abuse as a child, the Child Victims Act allows holding those at fault accountable. The law provides a renewed opportunity for justice for those who were no longer eligible to file a claim due to the expiration of the prior statute of limitations. In addition, it also extends the statute of limitations in cases where it had not yet expired. However, lawsuits must be filed properly and meet all the formalities of a civil suit to be successful.
Time to file a Child Victims Act claim
The Child Victims Act makes the following changes to the law:
- Extends the time for survivors to bring a civil lawsuit against abusers – Before, the victim had from 1 to 5 years after their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. Now they can file up until age 55.
- Opens a one-year “look back” period – In situations where the civil statute of limitations had expired, or the claimants had been dismissed on timeliness grounds, the victim may file a lawsuit up until August 14, 2020, regardless of when the abuse took place.
- Eliminates the “notice of claim” requirement – Typically, a claimant needs to put a public entity on notice before filing a lawsuit against it; the notice of claim often involves short periods that can effectively decrease the statute of limitations to a period of only 90 days.
- Extends the statute of limitations for criminal charges – The length of time was lengthened by five years until the victim turns 25 or 28 depending on the type of criminal charge.
How to file a Child Victims Act Claim
A lawsuit brought under the Child Victims Act claim is procedurally similar to other civil lawsuits. A claimant needs to be prepared to file paperwork that complies with court rules, engage in procedures like discovery, present compelling evidence, and build a strong case. Having an experienced attorney by your side is the best way to reach a favorable result.
Determine your eligibility
To file any lawsuit, including a civil case for child sex abuse, you must have standing to sue. You may have standing to file a Child Victims Act lawsuit if:
- You or your child was the victim of sexual abuse as a minor;
- You have not already received compensation for the abuse; and
- You are under age 55 if you wait until after August 14, 2020, to file.
Initiating a claim
To start a lawsuit, you need to prepare and file a complaint and pay a filing fee. A complaint is a formal document that must meet the requirements of state and local court rules. This will set off a serious of events like response deadlines– which the defendants must reply, court conferences, and steps like discovery where the parties exchange information.
As stated above, the parties in a lawsuit participate in a process called “discovery,” where each party can request information. This takes place in a variety of ways– including requests to produce documents, interrogatories, and depositions. The information gained at this step can become crucial evidence that allows one party to win the case before trial or can be used at trial.
Negotiating a settlement
Most civil cases settle rather than go to trial. The better job you do building your case throughout the litigation process, the better position you will be in to negotiate a favorable settlement.
Trying the case
A small percentage of lawsuits head to trial. It may last a few hours or a few weeks, depending on the complexity. A trial will involve filing paperwork, presenting arguments, and evidence before the jury or the judge—who determines the outcome based on whether the plaintiff proved the elements of the cause of action.
Importance of hiring a Child Victims Act attorney
In any civil case where the stakes are high, a skilled attorney who understands the laws and procedures will be your most valuable asset. This is especially true in a highly personal and emotional lawsuit like one involving sexual abuse of a child.
Even in the most impersonal cases, each party can become so emotionally invested in the outcome that they make less than ideal choices. The risk is considerably higher when the lawsuit involves reliving a personal trauma. An attorney experienced in bringing child sex abuse cases can keep a level-headed outlook while compassionately protecting your best interests.
Speak with a lawyer today
If you or your child has been a victim of child sexual abuse, now is the time to speak with an attorney at Douglas & London about whether filing a Child Victims Act lawsuit is the right choice for you. Time under the Look-Back Window is limited, so do not delay. Consultations are free and confidential.
- CNN. “More than 400 lawsuits Filed in New York Courts As Part of New Child Sex Law” https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/14/us/new-york-child-victims-law/index.html
- New York Courts. “Child Sex Abuse Cases.” https://www.nycourts.gov/CourtHelp/Safety/childSexAbuseCases.shtml