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Understanding Statute of Limitations in Florida Sex Abuse Cases

April 30, 2024
Sexual Assault and STD

Sexual assaults have become a tragic epidemic across our country, and these cases must be handled with the utmost care, especially when children are involved. Most victims of sexual assault know that their assailant can be held criminally liable, but they don’t always know that they can be held civilly liable or that there may be third parties who can also be held accountable. 

Third-party liability is usually where most of the financial compensation comes from. Finding an experienced attorney who knows about your rights as a survivor of sexual abuse will enable you to navigate the statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims, and be able to fight for justice and compensation for your family during this horrific time. 

What Does This Mean?

Every state has a set statute of limitations for criminal offense charges. However, Florida laws provide multiple exceptions that can make navigating them tricky. Things like the crimes that are charged, the age of the victim, and other complicated circumstances adjust the time that you have to file a claim against your abuser, or any third parties. 

In some instances, there isn’t even a statute of limitations. The best thing that you or a victim of sexual assault can do is to report the abuse to authorities and consult with a Florida sexual abuse lawyer. This will ensure that you don’t miss any deadlines and that you are able to get justice for the abuse you or a loved one has suffered.

The Standard 4-Year Window

In Florida, survivors of sexual abuse have a four-year window to file a civil claim. It’s important to have an experienced attorney by your side as soon as possible because exceptions and specifics change your legal options. In regards to the four-year window, an experienced sexual abuse attorney will understand that that window of time starts from the last instance of abuse if it is an ongoing situation. 

Also, lawmakers and society collectively realize that there are many reasons why victims would wait years, or even decades, before coming forward to seek accountability from their abusers. That is why that window also starts from when a victim realizes the abuse if it has been a suppressed memory. 

If you or anyone in your family have suffered at the hands of abuse our compassionate lawyers at Mase Seitz Briggs are here to answer your questions and guide you through the process as gently as possible.

What is Cause of Action?

Personal injury cases, including sexual abuse cases, are based on the cause of action which are the facts that are the foundation of your case. Your lawyer will build a case based on these causes of action to recover compensation and justice. These causes of action include:

  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • Negligent infliction of distress

Exceptions for Minors

The biggest exception when determining the statute of limitations in a sexual abuse case is the age of the victim. When minors are abused they can suppress their memories to protect themselves, and sometimes they don’t face it or remember it until they are long into their adult years. 

Known as the delayed discovery rule, sexual battery involving a minor under 16 years of age there is no statute of limitations. Florida established this criteria so victims can file a lawsuit, not based on the date of the crime, but based on their knowledge of the abuse and the time they acquired that knowledge. 

The Discovery Rule

The discovery rule mainly deals with those victims who have suppressed their memories. Establishing that you need to file your civil sexual abuse lawsuit four years from the time of the discovery. This rule restores a victim's right to pursue justice regardless of the state’s statute of limitations.  For many survivors of childhood sexual abuse discovering and uncovering that abuse could take a lifetime and this exception to the state’s deadline is supporting those victims.

Dependency Rule

The dependency rule works with children who have been sexually abused and were minors who were dependent on those who were abusing them. This rule states that you must file your claims four years after the time the victim leaves the dependency of the abuser. \

This exception to the statute aims to provide victims with an extended period to file their lawsuits. When you are separated from your abusers that you were dependent on, it takes time to process your abuse, and in some cases establish an opportunity to report it. 

Age of Majority

The age of majority statute starts when a victim reaches the age of 18. You must file your sexual abuse lawsuit within seven years after the victim reaches the age of 18. These statutes provide victims with the chance to build the courage and process their grief to have the ability to come forward. 

It’s vital to still report the abuse as soon as possible so evidence can be gathered, especially in criminal cases, but remember that this is pertaining to civil lawsuits against the abuser and any other third parties. 

Choosing the Right Attorney for Your Case

The team of sexual assault attorneys at Mase Seitz Briggs in Miami, Florida has more than enough experience to help you and your loved ones navigate through this traumatic time. Sexual assault cases need to be handled with care but also with experience. 

Our attorneys understand the intricacies of the statute of limitations within the state, but also understand that you can hold third parties liable for the abuse victims have suffered. Helping survivors receive compensation and justice to help them on their journey to healing is our priority. 
Choosing the right attorney to handle this delicate and important matter is of the utmost importance. Contact us at Mase Seitz Briggs to help guide you through. You are not alone.

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Mase Seitz Briggs
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