Sexual assault and sexual abuse of a child are horrific crimes, which is why a recent Florida law gives the criminal justice community an unlimited amount of time to pursue charges. However, victims also have civil remedies for the mistreatment they suffered. Instead of jail time, the point of a civil lawsuit is to compensate the victim for their physical, emotional, and financial losses. In these cases, the deadline is different. The basic Florida statute of limitations for personal injury cases is four years, subject to some exceptions. If you do not file suit within this timeframe, you are barred from recovering damages.
Two key exceptions apply when the wrongdoing is intentional abuse, and the victim is a minor, both of which could be factors in child sexual abuse cases. The nature of the misconduct is criminal and extreme, so victims have additional time on their side to file a lawsuit. A Miami crime victims attorney will guide you through the litigation process, and some information about the different statutes of limitations is useful.
Deadlines for Child Sexual Abuse Civil Cases
Florida’s statute of limitations includes multiple provisions that may affect the timing for these cases:
1. When the victim is a minor alleging an intentional tort based upon abuse, they can file a lawsuit up to the latest of the following:
- Seven years after turning 18 years old;
- Four years after leaving the dependency of the abuser; OR,
- Four years after discovering the injuries and the link to child sexual abuse.
2. When the victim of child sexual battery was under 16 years old, there is no statute of limitations.
Note that the default Florida statute of limitations does apply to child sexual abuse cases IF you are pursuing a party whose negligence caused your injuries. Examples might include a daycare center, church, or other organization that did not use proper care to protect a child from abuse by an employee.
Impact of a Conviction
Because sexual battery and abuse of children are against the law, it is important to clarify how criminal and civil cases work. They are separate cases. The outcome of the criminal case does not dictate what happens in the civil lawsuit, even though the allegations overlap. The biggest difference is the standard of proof: A prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a very high burden to get a conviction. As the plaintiff in the civil case, the victim must prove by a 50-50 standard that the abuser is liable. In other words, winning monetary damages in a civil case is possible even when the government did not get a conviction.
Our Miami Crime Victims Lawyers are Ready to Get Started
The statute of limitations may be longer, but time is of the essence to pursue your civil remedies. To learn more about your legal options, please contact Gerson & Schwartz, PA, at (305) 371-6000 or via our website. We can set up a free consultation to discuss details at our offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or West Palm Beach, FL.