Illinois Lawyer Referrals and Legal Guidance
Illinois Sexual Abuse and Molestation Statute of Limitations
Findgreatlawyers.com is a free, confidential service, run by lawyers in Illinois. We offer attorney referrals and legal guidance for almost every Illinois legal matter including sexual abuse and molestation cases. When we speak with you one of our staff attorneys will analyze your situation, offer recommendations and if needed refer you to an attorney who has experience suing the scumbags who molest or sexually abuse others. Every lawyer we recommend has a track record of success and they work on a contingency basis which means that there is no fee if there is no recovery. If you would like our help please fill out our contact us form or call us at (312) 346-5320. We are based in Chicago, but recommend experienced sexual abuse lawyers throughout Illinois. As part of our service we try to educate the public. This page discusses the time limits you have for filing a lawsuit when you have been sexually abused. Note that there are some exceptions and every case is different so please do not draw any final conclusions from what you read here.
As part of our service we try to educate the public. This page discusses the time limits you have for filing a lawsuit when you have been sexually abused. Note that there are some exceptions and every case is different so please do not draw any final conclusions from what you read here.
The deadlines, or statutes of limitations, in cases of childhood sexual abuse are longer than the deadlines for most personal injury lawsuits. One reason for this is the possibility of repressed memories. Another is that it can take time for a victim of abuse to process what happened and realize the abuse was wrong. Others delay coming forward because of fear or embarrassment.
On January 1, 2011, a new law went into effect, giving victims of childhood sexual abuse 20 years to take legal action against an abuser. The statute of limitations doesn’t begin to run until the victim turns 18. They then have 20 years to file a lawsuit, or until their 38th birthday.
An exception: If the victim does not realize the abuse until adulthood, they have 20 years from the time they discover both (1) that the abuse occurred and (2) that the abuse was the cause of their injury. Again, the reason is that some victims repress their memories of the abuse. Once a victim has both unlocked the memory of sexual abuse and the realized the harm, the clock starts running.
Example: A child is sexually abused at 12 years of age, but represses the memory and doesn't recall the abuse and its damage until she is 40. Under the new law, she can still take action once she remembers the past abuse, despite the fact that she is over the age of 38 (20 years after her 18th birthday). The victim must show evidence of clinically repressed memories. If the victim stayed quiet due to embarrassment or fear, they would not fall under the repressed memory exception.
Under the previous law, which was in effect through 2010, victims of sexual abuse had 10 years to initiate legal action against an abuser. If the victim was a minor at the time of the abuse then they had 10 years from when they turned 18, or until the age of 28. If the abuse was discovered later, the victim had five years from the date of discovery. This deadline may still apply to many victims. The new 2011 law isn’t necessarily retroactive. Check with an attorney to know for certain which statute applies.
To make things even more confusing, there is an even older time limit to keep in mind.
If you realized your abuse between 2000 and 2003, an old rule may apply and your time to sue may have expired. It would depend on the exact dates. Again, we wouldn’t recommend analyzing this on your own. A personal injury attorney should be able to tell you whether this old rule would apply to your situation. Prior to July 2003, the statute of limitations was two years from the date the abuse was discovered and harm was realized. This two-year rule was in effect until it was amended in July 2003 to the 10-year/5-year rule. If at the time of the 2003 amendment you were within the two-year deadline, the new rule essentially extended your deadline. However, if in July 2003 the two-year deadline had already passed, the new rule would not apply to give you a longer deadline. In other words, if you realized your abuse in June 2001, your deadline under the previous rule was June 2003, before the new rule went into effect. The new rule would not apply. If you realized your abuse in August 2001, the deadline was August 2003 under the old rule. Because time hadn’t run out before the new rule was passed, the new rule would apply. Instead of having a deadline in August 2003, your deadline would be in August of 2011.
Most lawsuits for sexual abuse or molestation are against churches or schools. If you were molested by a relative it can be harder to find an attorney for your case because it is harder to make a recovery against someone that doesn’t have insurance to pay for a judgment.
Please note that while some organizations reprehensibly fight molestation cases tooth and nail, the Catholic Church in Illinois, for all of the terrible acts committed by their priests, has made one very admirable move. In some cases where the statute of limitations has passed, but they verify that an abuse has occurred, they have continued to offer counseling and financial settlements. That is obviously not something you should bank on if you are a victim, but it’s worth noting.
If you have questions about your time limits for filing an Illinois molestation lawsuit or would like an attorney referral please contact us.
Since 2001, findgreatlawyers.com has helped countless people who are the victims of sexual abuse or molestation in Illinois. See for yourself why our free, confidential service is like having a close friend who is an attorney.