Yes, you can sue for acts of sexual abuse during childhood under the discovery rule, even if you are over 40 years old. The discovery rule is an exception that allows you to file a lawsuit even if you are past the statute of limitations under California law. This legal exemption may provide you with additional time to sue for sexual assault that occurred while you were a child, regardless of how old you are.
Today, we will go over what the discovery rule is and how it can restore an adult survivor’s right to sue for child sexual abuse. That way, you have a full understanding of the legal deadlines that apply to your situation as someone that was sexually abused. However, you are more than likely to have questions and concerns that will not be addressed in this article. For answers from a lawyer with experience in childhood sexual abuse lawsuits, contact our law firm and schedule a free consultation.
The Discovery Rule: What Does it Mean?
The discovery rule is an exception to the statute of limitations that normally applies to a criminal case or civil lawsuit. Under this rule, you can file a lawsuit within a certain amount of time after you discover an injury, whether it’s a physical injury or a mental health condition.
Essentially, the discovery rule allows you to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has run out. That means even if you are older than 40, you may still have the opportunity to sue for monetary damages if you were abused sexually before the age of consent (18 years old).
So, how much additional time are you given to file a lawsuit under the discovery rule? And what are the requirements you have to meet in order to sue an organization or individual for sexual assault if you are over 40 years old?
California’ Discovery Rule on Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
With claims of child sexual abuse, the deadline for a lawsuit is 22 years from the victim’s 18th birthday, or up to 40 years of age. This 22 year period begins on the date of the incident, or from the last time the victim was abused if there were multiple incidents by the same perpetrator.
While the time of recovery through a lawsuit may have ended, you can still bring a claim if you can prove that the emotional / physical issues you are going through now are a result of what you suffered as a child. If this realization was made within 5 years, you are still able to bring forward a case, no matter how old you are.
Repressed Childhood Memories of Sexual Abuse in Adults
You are probably aware that kids tend to suppress a lot of what they go through as children. This is a defense mechanism that kicks in when a child is faced with a traumatic situation. Due to their limited capacity for emotional and intellectual reasoning, they are unable to face these issues head on. Instead, they “repress” memories of the trauma, to the point where entire incidents, and even month or years of their life, are gone from their memory. That’s why repressed memories are also known as “dissociative amnesia.”
In many situations, you have minors who repress a lot of what they went through as a result of sexual abuse. As a result, many victims never make the connections. Many never identify the damage they sustained as a child to what they are going through now as an adult. The relationship phobias, the commitment problems, job retention, friend retention and academic failures – these can be attributed to the harm sustained from the abuse while they were a child. These victims often struggle with mental illness and substance abuse disorders, like alcoholism and drug addiction.
The passage of time heals many wounds, but this is not the case when it comes to sexual abuse. Most victims require professional help from a licensed counselor, and finally, they are able to “discover” the impact of what they went through as a child. This is where the discovery rule applies for adults who wish to file a lawsuit for being sexually abused as a minor.
Am I Eligible for a Lawsuit?
Yes, you may be eligible for a child sexual abuse lawsuit under the 5-year discovery rule, regardless of your age. However, you must prove that the effects of sexual abuse as a child, i.e., physical or emotional injuries, were not discovered until you were past the age of 40. As a result, you qualify for a lawsuit within 5 years from when you discovered or should have discovered the injury.
As you have probably guessed, proving the delayed discovery of child sexual assault can be quite challenging with these cases. To ensure that you can have a strong and compelling argument, please seek help from an experienced sexual abuse lawsuit attorney.
The child sexual abuse lawyers of DTLA have many years of experience representing abuse victims in lawsuits against public schools, religious groups, juvenile halls, foster homes, and various other organizations. We are ready to meet with you and advise you of the available legal options during a free case evaluation.
Average Case Value of a Child Sexual Assault Lawsuit
Settlements on behalf of child sexual abuse victims are typically around $1,000,000 to $5,000,000. These payments are based on the victim’s injuries, degree of emotional suffering, negligence by the defendant, and many other issues. There are certainly cases with lower settlements, but as a general rule, you can expect to see $500,000 or more as compensation for those who were subjected to child abuse.
While money cannot take away your pain and suffering, it’s a tangible form of justice that can help you move forward with the rest of your life. Thus, it’s important to have a sense of what your lawsuit is worth, along with representation from a lawyer who can fight for the payment you deserve.
Length of Time to Settle a Child Sexual Abuse Claim
It can take around 1 to several years to settle a claim for sexual abuse of a child. There are many factors that affect the settlement timeline, including:
- The available evidence and how easy / difficult it is to obtain
- The severity of emotional / physical injuries to the victim
- Your approximate case value (higher value cases generally take longer to settle)
- Whether you are suing on your own or joining a class action lawsuit
- If the defendant is willing to work towards a reasonable settlement offer
Sometimes, it can take 6 months or less to reach a settlement in cases of childhood sexual abuse. However, most of these lawsuits are extremely complex with defendants that are unwilling to admit liability. Based on the issues that must be resolved, recovering payment from a child sexual assault claim can take 1 to 3 years, and possibly longer if the case is tried in court.
Free Second Opinion
Our law firm is here for you if there are questions or concerns about your case that you would like to discuss with another legal expert. Many abuse victims want a second opinion on their case, but they are understandably concerned about the fees that may be involved. You won’t have to worry about that here at DTLA Law Group, as we are happy to offer you a free second opinion consultation.
If you need clarification on the laws and your legal options, no problem – we are happy to help. If you are dissatisfied with how your lawyer is handling your case, we can advise you on the process of switching lawyers, though whether you do so is completely up to you. For a second opinion from one of our attorneys, please contact our office.
Contact DTLA Law Group
Thanks to the 5-year discovery rule, there is still a chance for countless victims to take legal action if they were sexually assaulted as a minor. However, we know how tough it can be to navigate the legal system and obtain compensation that you are entitled to as an abuse victim. Representation from an experienced attorney is critical to achieving justice and taking control over what was done to you, through no fault of your own.
Along with decades of experience in sexual abuse lawsuits, we provide free legal services under the Zero Fee Guarantee. All of our fees are charged to the person or entity that abused you, which we only receive by winning your case. That means you won’t pay anything upfront, nor will you pay a single penny in the event we don’t win your case.
At the end of the day, filing a lawsuit is a big decision that involves complex procedures and emotions. Our legal team is ready to guide you through the process and ensure that you are treated in a caring, compassionate, and responsive manner. Contact us right away for a free case review or free second opinion if you are an adult survivor of child sexual abuse.