This page will explain the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits for sexual abuse and sexual assault. Every state has its own separate law on the statute of limitations and the facts of each individual case are often very unique, so it is important to consult with an attorney to evaluate how the statute of limitations applies to your case.
If you have been the victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault, contact the sex abuse lawyers at Miller & Zois for a free, confidential evaluation of your case.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Sex Abuse Lawsuits?
A statute of limitations is basically a legal deadline that limits how long a potential plaintiff can wait before filing a civil lawsuit. The underlying goal of all statutes of limitation is to ensure that civil lawsuits are litigated within a reasonable time after the events occur, so that the evidence and potential witnesses to the event are still around and available.
If an very long period of time has passed since the events occurred, locating witnesses and collecting other relevant evidence for the case becomes exceedingly difficult. This can leave both the plaintiff and the defendant in a difficult situation in terms of their ability to prove or disprove the allegations.
This is why every state has statutes of limitations that apply to all types of civil lawsuits, including sex abuse lawsuits. In most states, sex abuse lawsuits are covered by the same general statute of limitations that applies to all personal injury cases. The length of the statute of limitations varies from state to state, but in most states the limitation period is about 2-3 years from when the claim arises.
How the Statute of Limitations Impacts Your Case
The applicable statute of limitations can determine whether you are eligible to bring a sex abuse lawsuit or not. If the statute of limitations for sex abuse lawsuits in your state has already expired, then you will be legally barred from filing your lawsuit. This is why knowing and understanding the statute of limitations in your case is extremely important.
Civil vs. Criminal Statute of Limitations
Most acts of sexual abuse and sexual assault are criminal and can be subject to criminal prosecution. Victims of sexual abuse and assault can also file civil lawsuits against both the perpetrator and any third parties such as churches, schools, etc. that negligently allowed the abuse to occur.
The state has the authority to bring criminal charges and prosecute someone for sexual abuse. The victim is the one who decides whether to bring a civil lawsuit. One thing that is important to understand is that criminal charges for sexual abuse and civil lawsuits for sex abuse are subject to different statutes of limitation. The statute of limitations for criminal prosecution is usually much longer than the statute of limitations for civil claims.
Special Statutes of Limitation for Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Over the last decade, child sexual abuse by clergy (particularly within the catholic church) has generated a lot of public attention. This attention has generated significant political pressure to hold churches and other institutions liable, even when the abuse occurred decades ago.
In response, a growing number of states have amended their laws to enable victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring civil lawsuits. These states have either lifted or significantly extended their existing statutes of limitation to allow sex abuse lawsuits even when the abuse occurred decades earlier.
These new rules vary from state to state. Some states enacted “lookback windows,” which are basically 1 or 2 years periods during which childhood sex abuse victims would be allowed to sue no matter how many years had passed. Other states simply extended the limitations period for abuse claims. Below is a summary of the new laws passed in each of these states:
States with Lookback Windows for Clergy Sex Abuse Claims
|19-month lookback window from June 2019 to January 2021 (all claims allowed)
After lookback, limitations period on child sex abuse claims extended to when victim reaches age 30
|California||3-year unlimited lookback window from January 2020 to January 2023
After lookback window closes, claims allowed until victim turns 40-years-old
Treble damages are permitted if plaintiff can prove institutional cover-up by church
|District of Columbia||2-year lookback window from May 2019 to May 2021 (all claims allowed)
After lookback, claims allowed until victim reaches age 40
|Unlimited lookback window opened in 2018 and closed April 2020 (this was the state’s second lookback window period)|
|Montana||1-year lookback window ended May 2020
Limitations period on child sex abuse claims now extended until victim turns 27
|New Jersey||Unlimited 2-year lookback window from December 2019 to December 2021
After lookback, child sex abuse claims allowed until victim is age 50
|New York||1-year lookback window ended August 14, 2020
Extended SOL to allow child sexual abuse claims to be filed until the victim reaches age 55
|North Carolina||2-year lookback window from January 2020 to January 2022
After lookback period, claims for sex abuse allowed until victim turns 28
States That Extended the Statute of Limitations for Sex Abuse Lawsuits
The states below did not create lookback windows but amended their existing statutes of limitation to allow cases based on child sexual abuse to be filed many years later in adulthood.
|Extended limit on sex abuse claims from age 21 to age 25
|Connecticut||Age limit on sexual abuse claims increased from 48 to 51 as of June 2019|
|Michigan||Increased age limitation on sex abuse claims from 19 to 28|
|Pennsylvania||Age limitation on sex abuse lawsuits raised to 55 (law not retroactive so future claims only)|
|Rhode Island||Age limit for abuse claims raised to 53 for limited time period (2019)|
|Tennessee||Age limitation on sex abuse claims increased from 19 to 33|
|Texas||Limitation on sex abuse claims raised from age 33 to age 48|
States That Have Completely Eliminated the Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits
3 States have gone so far as to completely remove all statute of limitation time limits on child sex abuse civil lawsuits.
|Maine||Maine was the second State to eliminate time limits for filing civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse. Maine Sex Abuse Lawsuits|
|Maryland||The Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023 removed the statute of limitations on all child sex abuse civil lawsuits, making Maryland the largest state to do so. Maryland Sex Abuse Lawsuits|
|Vermont||In 2020, Vermont became the first state to eliminate its statute of limitations on civil lawsuits involving childhood sexual abuse. Vermont Sex Abuse Lawsuits|
Statute of Limitations for Sex Abuse Civil Lawsuits in All States
The chart below lists the current statute of limitations of civil sex abuse claims in all 50 states.
|STATE||STATUTE||SOL TIME LIMIT|
|Alabama||Ala. Code § 6-2-38||2-Years|
|Alaska||Alaska Stat. § 09-10-065||3 Years|
|Arizona||A.R.S. § 12- 542(1)||2 Years (but no limit for “violent” sexual abuse)|
|Arkansas||Ark. Code § 16-56-130(a)||3 Years|
|California||Ca. Civ. Proc. Code § 340.16||10 years|
|Colorado||Colo. Rev. Stat. § 16-5-401||3 Years|
|Connecticut||Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-577e||2 Years – but no limit if abuser convicted|
|Delaware||Del. Code tit. 10, § 8119||2 Years|
|District of Columbia||D.C. Code § 12-301(11)||Victims have until their 40th birthday|
|Florida||Fla. Stat. § 95.11(7), (9)||25th birthday, 4 years after the person leaves the dependency of the abuser, or within 4 years from the time of discovery, whichever occurs later|
|Georgia||O.C.G.A. § 9-3- 33.1(b)||2 Years|
|Hawaii||Haw. Rev. Stat. §657-7
Haw. Rev. Stat. § §657-1.8
|Idaho||Idaho Code § 6-1704(1)||2 Years|
|Illinois||Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 735, § 13–202, § 13—202.2(b)||2 years – but no limit if the civil suit is based on a Class X felony|
|Indiana||Ind. Code § 34-11-2-4(1)||2 Years|
|Iowa||Iowa Code §669.13, §614.8A||2 Years|
|Kansas||Kan. Stat. § 60-523
K.S.A. § 60-513(a)(4) and (5)
|Kentucky||Ky. Rev. Stat. § 413.249, §413.140(1)(a)||1 Year|
|Louisiana||Louisiana Revised Statute 9:2800.9(A),
Civ. Code §3492
|Maine||Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 14, § 752-C, Maine Civil Statute of Limitations||2 Years|
|Maryland||Md. Cts. and Jud. Proc. § 5-117||3 Years|
|Massachusetts||General Laws of Massachusetts Part III, Title V, 260-4C,||3 Years|
|Michigan||MCL 600.5805||10 years|
|Minnesota||Minn. Stat. § 541.073||6 Years|
|Mississippi||Miss. Code Ann. §15-1-49, § 15-1-59||3 Years|
|Missouri||Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.046,||5 Years|
|Montana||Mont. Code § §27-2-204(1),
Mont. Code Ann. 27-2-216
|Nebraska||Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-207||4 Years|
|Nevada||Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 11.215, Nevada Civil Statute of Limitations||2 Years|
|New Hampshire||N.H. Rev. Stat. § 508:4-9|
|New Jersey||N.J. Stat. § 2A:61B-1||7 Years|
|New Mexico||N.M. Code § 37-1-30||3 Years|
|New York||N.Y. CVP 213-C;||20 Years|
|North Carolina||N.C.G.S. § 1-52(16)||3 Years|
|North Dakota||N.C.G.S. § 1-52(16)||2 Years|
|Ohio||ORC Ann. § 2305.111(c)||2 Years|
|Oklahoma||Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 95||2 Years|
|Oregon||ORS § 124.005||2 Years|
|Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania Code 42 Pa. CSA 5533(b)(2),||2 Years|
|Rhode Island||R.I. Gen. Laws § 9- 1-51||3 Years|
|South Carolina||S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-555||3 Years|
|South Dakota||S.D. Codified Laws § 26-10-25,||3 years|
|Tennessee||Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-104, 28-1-106||1 Year|
|Texas||Civil Practice and Remedies Code Title 2B||2-5 years|
|Utah||Utah Code Ann. § 78B-2-308,||4 Years|
|Vermont||12 V.S.A. § 522||NO LIMIT|
|Virginia||Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-243||2 Years|
|Washington||Wash. Rev. Code § 4.16.340||3 Years|
|West Virginia||W.Va. Code § 55-2-15||2 years|
|Wisconsin||Wis. Stat. § 893.587,||2 Years|
|Wyoming||Wyo. Stat. § 1-3-105||4 years|