New Jersey Statute of Limitations
In the past year, several states have amended their statute of limitations to expand the time limit to file cases for sexual abuse. The passage of new legislation in New Jersey has transformed the state’s statute of limitation from one of the most restrictive in the country to one of the most expansive for sex abuse survivors. The law (S477) allows victims of sexual abuse a considerably larger window of time to sue the perpetrators of the sexual abuse and the institutions (both public and nonprofit) that employed or supervised them.
Previous Statute of Limitations Law Excessively Narrow
Under the previous statute of limitations for sexual assault of children, survivors had until two years following their 18th birthday or two years upon their “delayed discovery” of the abuse to file a civil lawsuit. The latter category means that a survivor could file within two years of recollecting the abuse when the accuser had suppressed memories of the trauma, which is common for survivors of sexual abuse. For most survivors, this law was severely inadequate to address abuse and force the perpetrators to take responsibility for their actions, since disclosure of abuse most often occurs later in life. In fact, research indicates that 52 is the average age at which survivors of childhood sexual trauma reveal the abuse that they suffered.
Provisions of New Jersey Law S477
The legislation states that survivors who were sexually abused as children can bring a civil lawsuit until they turn 55 years of age or up to seven years after “discovery” of the abuse. The legislation also provides that survivors who were barred from filing lawsuits under the old statute of limitations have a new two-year window beginning on December 1, 2019 to November 30, 2021 to file their lawsuits. The two-year “look-back window” is applicable even if the accuser is over the age of 55 years.
New Jersey Compensation Funds
Any victim of sexual abuse may bring a lawsuit against the perpetrator and the organization that employed or oversaw the perpetrator under the new law. In addition, New Jersey maintains a compensation fund for Victims of Church Sexual Abuse of Minors. The New Jersey Fund assesses claims and offers settlements to be paid by the New Jersey dioceses where the accused was employed. The fund is the first statewide compensation program established in New Jersey. If a victim accepts a settlement offer, he/she must agree not to sue the diocese in subsequent litigation.
New Jersey Leads Other States in Expanding its Law
New Jersey’s new law governing the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse is one of the most generous in the country. New York’s amended statute of limitations gives victims that were previously precluded from suing a one-year window to file a lawsuit while New Jersey now allows victims a two-year window to initiate a lawsuit. Institutions that are at the heart of many of the allegations- including the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America are preparing for a significant financial blow when the law in New Jersey goes into effect later this year. A similar law was enacted in California in 2002 and resulted in the California Catholic dioceses paying out $1.2 billion in settlements.
If you or a loved one has been sexually abused, Levy Konigsberg can help you obtain the compensation you deserve for your injuries. We have recovered millions of dollars for victims of sexual abuse. Please call today for a free and confidential consultation with attorneys at our firm specializing in sexual abuse cases. Please call 1-800-225-9825 or submit an email inquiry above.