Thousands of adult survivors of sexual abuse have been unable to seek justice against their abusers because of the statute of limitations for filing claims. Many sexual abusers are never criminally prosecuted, and the civil statute of limitations precludes some victims from ever receiving justice for the wrongs done to them. Recently, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act into law. This law will open a window within which adult survivors of sexual abuse can file civil lawsuits against their abusers.
What Is the Adult Survivors Act?
The New York Adult Survivors Act is a law that will open a revival period during which adult survivors of sexual abuse can file civil lawsuits against their abusers. The revival period will last for 12 months starting six months after the law’s enactment on Nov. 24, 2022, and will end on Nov. 23, 2023.
The law allows adult victims of sexual abuse to file lawsuits against the perpetrators after the statute of limitations has expired. The revival period is similar to the revival period that was provided by the state’s Child Victims Act (CVA), which allowed survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits against their abusers during a revival period. However, the revival period under the CVA was extended by one year because of the pandemic. A lawsuit under the ASA is meant for survivors of adult sexual abuse instead of survivors of child sexual abuse, so this law will reach more sexual abuse victims.
When the Child Victims Act opened its two-year revival period, almost 11,000 lawsuits that were previously time-barred were filed. While its revival period is now ended, it allowed thousands of people to pursue justice. Like the CVA, the ASA is also believed to lead to a large influx of legal claims against sexual perpetrators. However, while many lawsuits filed under the CVA were filed against schools and religious institutions, the ASA will likely have a broader reach and affect many different industries.
Before the passage of the ASA, sexual abuse victims who were 18 or older at the time of their assaults could only file civil lawsuits against their abusers within one year. If the victim was younger than age 18 at the time of the assault, the CVA would have instead applied.
New York’s current limitations period for adult survivors of sexual abuse doesn’t allow enough time for many victims to file lawsuits against the perpetrators. This has left many victims without legal remedies until the ASA was enacted. The ASA includes numerous sex crimes that are defined in the New York Penal Law as well as incest crimes.
Which Crimes Are Eligible under the ASA for Lawsuits?
The ASA allows the victims of the following types of sex crimes to file lawsuits even though the statute of limitations has expired:
- First, second, and third-degree rape
- Sexual misconduct
- First, second, and third-degree criminal sexual acts
- Forcible touching
- First, second, and third-degree sexual abuse
- Persistent sexual abuse
- First, second, third, and fourth-degree aggravated sexual abuse
- Using a controlled substance to facilitate a sex offense
- First and second-degree incest
- Female genital mutilation
Victims of any of these types of sex crimes can file lawsuits against the perpetrator and the perpetrator’s employer, depending on the facts. The lawsuits can also be filed for both intentional or negligent acts. Any institution, individual, or company that was at fault for the victim’s sexual abuse can be named in the lawsuit regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
Lawsuits Under the New York Adult Survivors Act
Claims filed under the ASA can include causes of action for intentional acts and/or negligent acts. In most cases, a lawsuit alleging a cause of action for an intentional act will be against the person who committed the offense against the victim. Causes of action for negligence will likely be filed against other parties that negligently failed to protect the victims. ASA lawsuits are civil instead of criminal matters, but the pleading will need to specify the type of offense on which the lawsuit is based.
Negligence causes of action might be pleaded against the perpetrator’s employer if the sexual abuse occurred while the abuser was working because of the employer’s failure to exercise ordinary care to protect others from harm. Negligence can also include failures to act or omissions. To prove negligence, you will have to show that the employer knew or should have known that the perpetrator had the propensity to commit a sexual crime and that the fact that the assault occurred was reasonably foreseeable.
What Damages Might Be Available in an Adult Survivors Act Lawsuit?
Many sexual assault survivors suffer from chronic injuries and trauma. Many survivors are diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder that might leave them requiring years of therapy. Some sexual assault victims also have trouble pursuing their careers, which can also impact their ability to earn an income.
The damages that might be recoverable will depend on the facts of your case. Some of the types of compensatory damages you might recover include the following:
- Past and future medical expenses related to your assault
- Costs of psychological or psychiatric treatment
- Future and past income losses caused by your sexual assault
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish/psychological trauma
- Reduced ability to enjoy life
These damages are known as compensatory damages because they are meant to compensate victims for their economic and non-economic losses. It might be possible for you to also seek punitive damages if you were the victim of sexual assault. Punitive damages are awarded in cases in which the defendant’s actions were outrageous and are meant to punish defendants and deter them from committing similar acts in the future.
When Should You Contact a Lawyer?
While the one-year revival period won’t open until Nov. 24, 2022, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Retaining a lawyer in advance for help with your potential claim can provide your attorney with more time to investigate your claim and gather evidence to support it. This is especially important if your sexual assault occurred years ago to provide your lawyer with enough time to locate and gather critical evidence for your case. Your lawyer might need to track down witnesses and documentary evidence, conduct interviews, and pore over documents. All of the necessary investigations could take some time. If you wait until after the window opens, you might not have enough time to gather evidence and build your case before the revival period closes again.
Speak to the Attorneys at the Lovely Law Firm
Finding the right attorney is important for achieving the best potential outcome for your case. The lawyers at the Lovely Law Firm are experienced and aggressive injury attorneys who strongly believe in holding the perpetrators of sexual assaults and abuse accountable. If you believe that you might have grounds to file a claim under the Adult Survivors Act in New York, our attorneys are prepared to help. Contacting us early is important to help us preserve your sexual abuse claim, and we will immediately take steps to build the strongest possible case on your behalf. Call the Lovely Law Firm today to request a confidential and free consultation at (843) 839-4111.