Plaintiffs in assault, violence, and abuse cases must follow statutes of limitations. These statutes require injury lawsuits to be filed within certain timeframes.
The claim will be denied if the filing date is missed. Short statutes of limitations and victims’ inability to report trauma and abuse make assault and battery prosecutions challenging.
These sensitive matters require attorneys to comprehend restrictions regulations and time strategies.
Statutes of Limitations Basics
Assault and battery claims, depending on the state, must normally be brought within one to three years of the cause of action accruing, or the date the damage occurred.
The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit against a government agency or employee might be as short as 6 months to 2 years in some areas.
The short deadlines for filing reflect policy goals of speedy dispute resolution and avoiding claims that are too old, at which point important evidence and recollections of key witnesses may be lost.
However, time limits that are too short can unfairly prevent victims from pursuing legitimate claims by preventing them from being emotionally and legally prepared to confront abuse. An astute attorney will explore all legal options for postponing or rescheduling deadlines.
Key Strategies to Beat the Clock
Scope out time limit specifics in the relevant jurisdiction regarding:
- Exact limitation period for assault/battery claims
- When the clock starts ticking – from date of injury or date a claim is discovered?
- Possibilities to extend the deadline – arguing “tolling” exceptions
- Defendants against whom deadlines are shortened – governments, municipalities, minors
Even if you aren’t sure whether or not legal action will be taken, you should start gathering evidence as soon as possible following an incident. In the event of a lawsuit down the road, it will be helpful to have documentation of medical care received, documentation of injuries, witness statements, and documentation of mental distress.
In cases of repeated wrongdoing, you may want to investigate whether “continuing tort” claims are admissible in your country. Liability for more recent crimes may be possible even if the statute of limitations has gone for initial events if each incidence of abuse establishes an individually actionable claim.
See whether there are any tolling provisions in your jurisdiction that put the clock on hold in certain situations, such as:
- Defendant’s ongoing fraudulent concealment of misconduct
- Failure by defendant or government agency to perform a legal duty
- Plaintiff being under age of majority or incapacitated
If you want to keep the case from being dismissed after the deadline has passed, it’s best not to name specific culprits in your early pleadings. In the beginning, use generic defendant names like “John Does” and then, as discovery yields more information, formally add names.
In cases where a liable party may be identified, such as an employer, a school, or a church, reparations should be sought from those entities. These corporations typically face longer statutes of limitation than people. While it may be too late to sue the perpetrators themselves, suing businesses they have relationships to can still provide some measure of justice.
Ask the government to change the time limit for filing abuse cases if necessary. To provide victims time to work through the trauma of sexual abuse in childhood, many jurisdictions have established laws extending the reporting deadline to adults. In cases where the existing restrictions are too low, you should push for similar changes.
The Obstacles Delayed Reporting Poses
However, it is considerably more difficult for trauma victims to file a lawsuit within the allotted time frame of one to three years. Most people wait years, perhaps decades, before coming forward because they are ashamed, blame themselves, fear retaliation, and are emotionally unprepared.
The median age of a survivor of sexual abuse is 21 years. When you consider the total number of victims, it’s clear that fraudulent claims are still widespread.
Due to the inconsistency between reporting delays and statutes of limitations, lawyers need to exhaust all possible strategies. Torts that can be “continued” or “tolled” become crucial. Sometimes the only option is to lobby for changes in public policy in order to loosen up unreasonably restrictive norms.
Creatively structuring the accrual date or pursuing related organizations beyond the banned abuser are two other ways to get around strict deadlines. When abuse was hidden from public view, for instance, an argument that time begins ticking upon its detection would make sense.
Lawyers who have empathy and perseverance can help clients file late but valid assault and battery claims by carefully overcoming statute of limitations obstacles.
The fact that a statute of limitations exists because it is required by law does not make it fair. Victims should be excused from deadlines where the harm is great and the reporting is delayed for valid reasons.
Lawyers may make sure wrongdoers don’t dodge civil justice by using tolling arguments, public activism, corporate accountability, and an unwavering dedication to exposing the truth wherever possible.