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California Assembly Bill 218 Extends Statute of Limitations for Childhood Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

California law allows people who have been subjected to sexual assault to sue their attackers for damages in civil court. However, civil lawsuits involving sexual assault previously had to be filed within eight years from the date the plaintiff turns 18, or within three years from the date the plaintiff discovered the psychological ramifications of being sexually assaulted—whichever happens later. A law that limits filing lawsuits to a certain period of time is known as a statute of limitations.

So, why would society put a deadline on seeking justice?

The ideas behind a statute of limitations address practical concerns. For one, the law wants to encourage plaintiffs to pursue their claims swiftly and immediately. Waiting too long may risk losing vital evidence. Additionally, witness memories generally fade over time, making recall testimony unreliable.

Early in October this year, the California Assembly passed Assembly Bill 218 (AB218) to amend various provisions in the California Code of Civil Procedure and the Government Code regarding childhood sexual abuse. Specifically, AB218 expands the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse to the longer of 22 years from the date the plaintiff turns 18, or 5 years after the date of discovery.

Why Is a Longer Statute of Limitations Important?

One of the most significant challenges that hinders the dispensation of justice in sexual assault cases is the reluctance of persons who have experienced acts of childhood sexual abuse to come forward against their assailants.

Sexual assault victims do not confront their attackers in court for various reasons. Some are too embarrassed to publically confront their attackers. Others doubt that people will believe their story, or are concerned that others will think their pursuit of justice is driven by greed or some other hidden agenda.

When it comes to childhood sexual assault, there is a unique reason why offenses do not get reported. Some who have been subjected to childhood sexual abuse were too young to comprehend the ramifications of their experience.

A longer statute of limitations is a step toward strengthening the justice system by aligning legal procedures with the realities of sexual assault cases. Many of the recent high-profile sexual assault cases involved witnesses who appeared on behalf of victims after decades of silence. With the passage of AB2118, the plaintiff’s efforts to find justice won’t have to end because of a procedural technicality.

What to Do if You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted

Sexual assault and abuse is also a crime in California. If you’ve experienced sexual assault or abuse, you should report it to the police. If you are concerned about your rights during the police investigation of your case, you should get in touch with an experienced attorney who can answer your questions and advise you about the criminal and potential civil proceedings involved. A qualified legal representative can help you identify and preserve important evidence for your case, including witness testimony.

Consult Crane Flores, LLP for Experienced Legal Representation

If you are seeking the seasoned advice and advocacy of a licensed attorney regarding an incident involving sexual assault, you should consult an attorney from Crane Flores, LLP. We have dedicated our practice to representing people who’ve sustained injuries due to another person’s conduct, including sexual assault cases.

Call us at (805) 628-4967 or contact us online for a free consultation regarding your legal options and rights. Serving Oxnard, Ventura, and Santa Barbara.