How Long do I have to File a Clergy Abuse Lawsuit?

Posted on: December 2, 2020 Catholic Church Sexual Abuse

Many clergy sexual abuse survivors are concerned about how long they have to file a lawsuit. For some, the fear is they may miss the window to file because it could take years, even decades to recall their abuse since traumatic events suffered as a child are often suppressed. Others, who haven’t blocked those memories, still need many years to process the pain and receive treatment or counseling before they are ready to share their stories. In either situation, if a survivor decides to seek accountably by filing a lawsuit many years after the abuse, he or she may wonder if it is too late to file a clergy sexual abuse lawsuit.

Each state’s statute of limitations law defines the time in which a person has to file a civil lawsuit. If you have been a victim of child sexual abuse, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred, you should contact an experienced sexual abuse attorney to help you determine if your claim is within statute.
Call us now at 1-800-941-7209 for a FREE and PRIVATE consultation.

For informational purposes only, below is a description of different kinds of statute of limitations laws. There are often outside factors, beyond the categories listed below, that may affect the amount of time you have to file a claim.

Statute of Limitations for Clergy Sexual Abuse

Studies have shown that only about 34% of child-sexual-abuse victims in the United States tell authorities of their abuse before adulthood, which means a large majority of survivors need time before they will come forward, if at all. Statute of limitations laws set limits on when legal action can be pursued. However, the time frame specified by many states’ laws does not always provide adequate time for childhood victims to file civil claims against their abusers. Unfortunately, these laws sometimes create a barrier for survivors to seek justice through the legal system.

The summary table below shows the categories that generally make up civil statute of limitations laws. The 3 general categories include:

  • Age Cap: The ‘Age Cap’ refers to the age by which a childhood sexual abuse victim has to file a claim.
  • Discovery Rule: Some states include a ‘Discovery Rule’ as part of their statute of limitations laws which allows victims, who have suppressed the memories of their abuse, the opportunity to still file a claim once the connection is made.
  • Revival Law: Revival law, commonly referred to as creating a ‘Revival Window’, allows victims, whose claims were previously time-barred, a finite amount of time to file their claims.

how long can I sue a priest or catholic church

State Specific Statute of Limitation Laws

Each state sets their own laws which govern how long a survivor has to file a claim, and the differences between states can be dramatic. For example, California has been making pro-survivor law changes since 2002 by enacting reforms to increase the age cap and provide a revival window. These changes give survivors more opportunity to file claims against their abuser. In contrast, Louisiana legislators have not taken any recent steps toward reforming any of their existing child abuse laws.

Use the interactive chart below to navigate to an individual state to find detailed information about its specific statute of limitations law regarding priest or clergy sexual abuse.

Law Firm Dedicated to Holding the Catholic Church Accountable

If you or a loved one were a victim of sexual abuse contact our firm today. Our firm reviews cases of sexual abuse nationwide and can help you understand your legal options. We are dedicated to holding the Catholic Church accountable on behalf of survivors. Call us today at 1-800-941-7209 for a FREE and PRIVATE consultation.