Is it Too Late to File a Florida Civil Sexual Assault Case?

For survivors of sexual assault, true justice can feel elusive. No matter what penalty is ultimately imposed (if it is imposed), there is no erasing the trauma and physical violation. You may be healing the rest of your life. Despite the long-term impact, you do not have unlimited time to pursue justice for sexual assault in the civil courts. Palm Beach sexual abuse lawyer

In Florida, civil sexual assault cases should be initiated as soon as possible. Most torts (legal action against others for negligence or wrongdoing) must be filed within 2 years of the incident (or last incident, as may be the case with sexual assault). However, as our West Palm Beach sexual assault lawyers can explain, there are a few caveats for sexual abuse survivors.

As outlined in F.S. 95.11(7), a civil claim for intentional torts based on abuse can be filed at any time within:

  • 7 years after the victim reaches the age of majority
  • Within 4 years after the person leaves the dependency of the abuser
  • Within 4 years from the time of discover by the injured party of both the injury and the relationship between the injury and abuse (whichever occurs later)

Civil claims against abusers for sexual battery and/or human trafficking of a child under 16 can be filed at any time. Approximately 22% of rape victims were under the age of 12 when it first happened. Approximately 32% were between the ages of 12 and 17, according to RAINN.

No arrest or criminal conviction is required to file or win a civil case against an abuser for sexual assault or abuse.

However, these statutes of limitations pertain solely to claims against the actual abuser. Most Florida civil sexual assault lawsuits are filed against third parties – schools, churches, daycare centers, sports clubs, employers, etc. that were negligent in their duty to protect the victim from harm. The reason for this is that insurers will not cover claims for crimes, which is basically what intentional torts are. That, along with the fact that most abusers aren’t independently wealthy, means even if you have a strong case against your abuser, it may not be worth it financially to pursue a claim.

(You do not pay Florida civil injury lawyers upfront for their services, but you may find them reluctant to take on a claim – even a strong one – that has little to no chance of compensation at the end.)

If you are filing a negligence claim against a third party, you unfortunately have just 2 years to file. (It used to be 4 years, but the Florida legislature recently changed the deadline for all negligence cases – including the type of claims typically filed against third-parties in civil sexual assault cases. These include:

  • Negligent hiring
  • Negligent supervision
  • Negligent retention
  • Negligent security

There may also be claims for respondeat superior, in which employers can be held vicariously liable for the wrongdoing of their employees acting in the course and scope of employment – even if the employer didn’t actually do anything negligent themselves. Still, those claims have a 2-year statute of limitations.

If you have a question about the statute of limitations for civil sexual assault cases in Florida, our Palm Beach sexual assault lawyers provide free initial consultations.

Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.

Additional Resources:

National Sexual Assault Hotline: Confidential 24/7 Support, RAINN

More Blog Entries:

Understanding the Challenges When Suing a Church for Sexual Abuse in Florida, May 17, 2024, Palm Beach Sexual Abuse Lawyer Blog



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