The statute or limitations is extended for cases involving childhood sex abuse and molestation cases. Most personal injury cases (sex abuse falls into this category if you’re talking about a lawsuit – a criminal case is separate) have a deadline of about two years. This means that you have two years in most Illinois injury cases to file your lawsuit against any potential defendants.
For childhood sex abuse, Illinois law gives you a larger window to consider what you want to do. The statute of limitations is at least 20 years in most cases. This is the law as of 2011. Older cases might have different deadlines. It’s important to know what applies in your case because if you miss the deadline, you can lose your chance to sue forever.
It’s fairly clear why this deadline is extended for childhood sexual abuse. There are a couple of different reasons. First of all, this kind of abuse is often hidden, and family members are unaware of what’s going on. Secondly, it can take a while for a victim to be ready to come forward. In some cases the memory of what happened is repressed for years and resurfaces later in life. If the deadline were just two years in these cases, many victims wouldn’t get their day in court and the chance to get some sort of justice. If the deadline were short, a lot of perpetrators of the abuse would be able to escape a lawsuit holding them accountable for the harm they caused.
The statute of limitations is 20 years in most cases and those 20 years don’t start until the victim turns 18. Minors aren’t expected to take responsibility for the deadline in such a case. In situations where the memory of the abuse has been repressed, the victim has 20 years from when they realize what happened to them. So for most people who suffered childhood sexual abuse and molestation, the deadline to take legal action is their 38th birthday, which is 20 years after they turn 18. For those who realized the abuse after they turned 18, they have 20 years from whenever it was realized.
Despite these extended deadlines, it’s always better to sue sooner rather than later. Memories are fresher and witnesses are easier to find. Suing 20 years after the fact can be more difficult, although people have definitely done so successfully.
This specific law is a reminder that the statute of limitations isn’t an easy issue. It can change based on the type of case you have and even the specific facts involved. Don’t assume it’s too late for your case, or that you have tons of time to think it over. Talking with an experienced attorney is the best way to be sure of the deadline in your case. If you miss it, you could completely lose your chance to sue.
Finally, if this happened to you, please know that we are very sensitive to how difficult in can be to talk about. If you call us for legal advice or a lawyer referral we promise to treat you with dignity, respect and keep your information confidential. We will also do whatever we can to help you.