When Is It Too Late to File a Sex Abuse Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?

Published on October 28, 2015

What You Need to Know About the Statute of Limitations for PA Sex Crimes

You may have heard that more than 50 women have accused actor Bill Cosby of sexual assault. Some of these women have filed lawsuits. Others have not. But, many people are wondering, why isn’t Bill Cosby in jail? And, why aren’t all the women filing lawsuits?

There are two reasons. The first is a lack of evidence. In order for a person to be charged with a crime, there must be enough evidence for the state to prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.  Obtaining this type of evidence is difficult after one year and impossible after 30 years.

Fortunately, this reason does not affect civil lawsuits. To win a civil lawsuit, one only has to have compelling evidence that a crime occurred. This brings us to the second reason: the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations refers to the time period after a crime during which the victim may press criminal charges or file a civil lawsuit. In Pennsylvania, an adult victim of adult rape or sexual abuse has two years to file a civil lawsuit and twelve years to file criminal charges. Children have until their 30th birthday to file a civil claim and until their 50th birthday to file criminal charges.

However, for many victims the statute of limitations just isn’t enough time. Many of the women who are speaking out against Cosby didn’t believe that their word was enough to accuse a well-respected celebrity. It wasn’t until others spoke up and shared similar experiences, that these women were willing to tell their story.

Child sex abuse victims are often assaulted by teachers, priests and relatives. Like Cosby’s victims, they aren’t sure that they will be believed. Many aren’t ready to speak about the abuse until others make similar accusations. This may not occur until well after the age of 30.

Current bills in Pennsylvania’s Senate (Bill 582) and House (Bill 661) would increase the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse to 32 years or until the age of 50.  This would give victims more time to seek justice.

Don’t Let the Statute of Limitations Keep You from Seeking Accountability!

There are several exceptions to Pennsylvania’s statutes of limitations. These exceptions include extra time for DNA evidence. If you are considering filing a civil lawsuit in a sexual abuse or assault case, please contact the Sex Abuse Lawyers at Ostroff Injury Law.  Call 855-880-6667 and ask to schedule a free case evaluation with an attorney. The lawyer will your rights and determine whether your case is an exception to the statute of limitations.