New Jersey’s Expanded Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse
In New Jersey, anyone convicted of child sexual abuse or assault faces the possibility of years behind bars along with the stigma of being a registered sex offender for life. Beside these harsh penalties, there may be additional consequences — namely, the threat of civil liability in the form of lawsuits by victims seeking damages.
The threat of a lawsuit may loom for several years, since New Jersey recently extended its statute of limitations for child sexual abuse and assault civil claims. A set of laws enacted at the end of 2019 gave victims much more time to file civil lawsuits and at the same time removed certain barriers to filing cases against entities and organizations that employ abusers.
Prior to the legislation, an abuse survivor who was less than 18 years old at the time of the incident had to file a civil claim before turning 20 or within two years of discovering the abuse occurred. A survivor who was over 18 at the time of the abuse had to bring a claim within two years of the incident.
Today, these time limits on filing a claim are much longer and allow more opportunity for victims to argue that they suppressed memories of abuse for years. A survivor abused while under the age of 18 can file a civil lawsuit at any point before turning 55 or seven years from the date of first discovering the abuse occurred, whichever is later. A survivor who was an adult at the time of the abuse must sue within seven years of discovery.
The extended statute of limitations means that if you are accused of child sexual abuse — whether convicted in criminal court or not — you could find yourself in civil court years after the alleged incident, facing huge monetary losses. You can be found liable in civil court even if you were not found guilty in criminal court. A plaintiff in a civil case does not have to prove a charge beyond a reasonable doubt but only that it was more likely than not that you committed the alleged acts.
In addition to extending the statute of limitations, the 2019 laws expanded the range of people and entities who can be sued. School districts and other public entities that were previously immune from sexual abuse lawsuits no longer have that protection. Governmental bodies can now be sued for negligent hiring, supervision or retention of an employee who committed a sex crime against a minor. Most non-profits, such as religious organizations and charities, can now face liability as well.
The Law Offices of David Jay Glassman provides criminal defense counsel and civil litigation support to people accused of child sexual abuse and assault in New Jersey. Call 866-221-1270 or contact us online 24 hours a day if you need assistance. We have offices in Marlton, New Brunswick, Newark and Hackensack. We can also consult with you by phone or video conference.