Pennsylvania and New Jersey Statutes of Limitations in Sexual Abuse Cases
For crime victims, coming forward can take years and unfortunately Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s Statutes of Limitations limit the time a sex abuse victim has to file a lawsuit against responsible parties. Whether a sex abuse victim’s case is defeated by the Statute of Limitations is an important legal question. It is crucial to speak to an experienced Pennsylvania and New Jersey child molestation, priest abuse, sexual assault and sex abuse victim’s attorney as soon as possible.
The Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations in Child Sex Abuse Cases
In August 2002, the Pennsylvania legislature extended the Statute of Limitations in cases of child sex abuse. Prior to this, the Statute of Limitations in child sex abuse cases was 5 years after the child/victim turned 18. However, the 2002 amendment extended the Statute of Limitations in child sex abuse cases by another 7 years. This special Statute of Limitations period only applies to victims of sex abuse who were minors when they were abused.
Under the amendment, which can be found at 42 Pa. C.S. 5533 Section (b)(2)(ii), victims of sex abuse who were under the age of 18 when the abuse occurred now have until their 30th birthday, or 12 years after they turn 18, to file suit. Unfortunately, this statute is not retroactive, meaning it only applies to cases where the child/victim turned 18 after the statute’s enactment, i.e, turned 18 after August 2002. It does not apply to cases of child sex abuse where the child/victim turned 18 before its enactment.
2016 Update: July 5, 2016 Update – Pennsylvania Senate Votes to Pass HB 1947, Major Changes to Statute of Limitations Laws Expected
The New Jersey Statute of Limitations in Child Sex Abuse Cases
In 1992, the New Jersey legislature passed the Child Sexual Abuse Act, which can be found at N.J. Stat. Ann. 2A:61 B-1. Under this law, the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse two years after the victim discovers the injury and its relationship to the abuse.
N.J. Stat. Ann. 2A:61 B-1 provides in relevant part: “In any civil action for injury or illness based on sexual abuse, the cause of action shall accrue at the time of reasonable discovery of the injury and its causal relationship to the act of sexual abuse. Any such action shall be brought within two years after reasonable discovery.” Many New Jersey courts since 1992 have attempted to define “reasonable discovery”, yet there is no specific standard.
Because statute of limitations questions are very fact specific and require expert legal analysis, it is best to contact an experienced New Jersey sex abuse and clergy abuse victim’s injury lawyer as soon as possible.
The Pennsylvania and New Jersey Statutes of Limitations in Other Crime Victim Civil Cases
Like most states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s general Statute of Limitations for personal injury cases is two years from the date of the injury. For the majority of crime victims, this means that the Statute of Limitations will expire two years from the date of the crime.
In general, crime victims must file civil lawsuits within two years of the date of the injury. For minors, the Statute of Limitations expires two years from the date they turn 18. So in other words, if a crime victim is under the age of 18 when the crime occurred, the Statute of Limitations will expire two years after their 18th birthday.
Exceptions to the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Statutes of Limitations
There are some exceptions to the Statute of Limitations. For example, a defendant’s fraudulent conduct or fraudulent concealment may toll the Statute of Limitations. Many defendants attempt to conceal their crimes, and this includes threatening the victim. Such threats may be enough to constitute fraudulent concealment. Also, the victim’s mental incompetence at the time of the injury may toll the Statute of Limitations. Another exception to the Statute of Limitations is the discovery rule. Under this rule, the Statute of Limitations expires not two years from the date of the injury, but two years from the date a plaintiff discovered that she was injured and that the injury was caused by the defendant.
Statute of Limitations issues are time sensitive and fact specific. Each case requires careful analysis by a qualified, experienced crime victim’s injury attorney. It is important for a crime victim to contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss their case.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of sex abuse, contact Brian Kent, an experienced sex abuse victims civil lawyer in NJ and PA. Mr. Kent handles child molestation, sexual assault, sex abuse, and priest/clergy abuse cases in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He works with attorneys nationwide and can also be admitted in other states to handle matters on a case by case basis. 800.220.7600
Page last updated: July 5, 2016