Victims of sexual abuse often wait years before coming forward with their claims. By that time, however, the statute of limitations might have expired. Just recently, a new law took effect in Maryland, providing abuse victims with expanded rights.
The Child Victims Act 2023 took effect this year on October 1st. This new law lifts the old statute of limitations on claims for victims of childhood sexual abuse. Now, there is no time limit, and victims may file claims any time they wish, even years after the abuse. The law also adjusts how sexual abuse is defined, and the definition is broader and includes more instances of abuse. There are also expansions on damages. Under the law, new limitations have been imposed on claims against private and public defendants. The new law addresses claims against both public and private defendants because many sex abuse claims are filed against individuals and governmental institutions, like schools.
If you were the victim of sexual abuse as a child, you can call our Maryland attorneys for sex abuse victims at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free case review.
How Long Do Maryland Sex Abuse Victims Have to File Claims in Court?
In the past, the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse claims was very strict. People only had 20 years from the date they turned 18 to file a claim in civil court. While two decades might seem like a very long time, it is actually a tight window for survivors of sexual abuse. Many victims do not come forward with their claims until they are in their 40s or 50s or older.
The new law passed in 2023 has completely changed the legal landscape regarding childhood sexual abuse cases. According to the new Child Victims Act of 2023, survivors of sexual abuse have unlimited time to file a claim. There is no longer a statute of limitations. This means you can file a claim for abuse a few years or a few decades after it happened. Our Maryland attorneys for sex abuse can help you get justice even years after you were hurt.
The Act is retroactive, meaning that any claims that were time-barred before the Act was signed into law may be revived. For example, if the statute of limitations had expired on your claim before the new law was passed, you are no longer barred from filing.
How Sexual Abuse is Now Defined in Maryland
Sexual abuse has a somewhat broad definition under Md. Code Cts. and Jud. Proc. § 5-117(a). While people typically understand abuse to be physical, forceful, and possibly violent, it may include much, much more.
Sexual abuse may occur when an adult encourages or allows a child to participate or engage in obscene photography, videos, poses, or similar actions. It also occurs when adults knowingly expose kids to pornography, including pictures and films. Other actions that constitute sexual abuse when committed by an adult against a child include prostitution, incest, rape, a sex offense of any degree, and any other sexual conduct that is considered a criminal offense.
What is important to note is that many of these actions or activities do not necessarily have to be perpetrated by an adult against a minor. Instead, sexual abuse may occur when an adult knowingly allows these things to happen or allows the child to engage in them.
For example, suppose an adult sexually assaults a child while the child’s parent is in the other room doing nothing. Next, suppose the parent in the other room knows the assault is happening and allows it to continue. The person who committed the assault and the neglectful parent may be liable for sexual abuse.
How Damages in Maryland Sex Abuse Claims Are Determined
Economic damages are not restricted by any statutory caps. These damages may be as high as your actual monetary costs related to your injuries from the abuse. The thing about sexual abuse cases is that many plaintiffs are unsure about the extent of economic losses. In some cases, economic damages are not significant.
You might claim damages for hospital bills if you received medical treatment after being injured from the abuse. However, many victims never go to the hospital or report their injuries, and no medical bills exist. Often, people wait so long to come forward with their claims that they can no longer remember the money they spent because of the abuse. Even so, our attorney can help you determine what your damages are worth.
Non-economic damages, including pain, suffering, humiliation, and more, tend to be the focus of these kinds of cases. These damages tend to be highly subjective and unique to the plaintiff’s personal experiences.
The recent law changed damage caps for non-economic damages. Defendants who are governmental entities, like public school boards, may be made to pay up to $890,000 in non-economic damages and no more. Private institutions and entities may pay up to $1.5 million.
Who Sex Abuse Victims Can Sue for Injuries and Damages in Maryland
It is not unusual for people to lose track of abusers over time, and they might not know where they are anymore. In other cases, victims were so young when the abuse happened that they cannot remember the identity of their abuser, only that the abuse happened.
Sadly, many defendants in these kinds of cases include the victim’s family members or close family friends. This is also a big reason so many people do not come forward until years later, as they fear what the truth might do to their family.
You might also sue an institution like a school or even a juvenile detention center. Sex abuse from school officials is nothing new. Many cases involve abuse from teachers, administrators, coaches, or even other students. People previously sent to detention centers as juveniles often report sexual abuse from staff, guards, and other juveniles. You can sue the person who abused you in addition to the institution that employed them for allowing the abuse to happen.
Recently, sexual abuse claims against church officials have been making headlines in the news. For years, church officials have gotten away with abuse because church organizations refuse to report the crimes to the police and cover up the abuse. Only when victims are adults can they come forward. Our team can help you identify your abuser and sue them and the religious organization at the center of your case.
Contact Our Maryland Attorneys Sex Abuse Victims for Help
If you were the victim of sexual abuse as a child, you can call our Maryland personal injury lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free case review.