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The Adult Survivors Act – NY
The statute of limitations is one of the many challenges victims of sexual assault in New York face when seeking civil action against the abuser or their enablers. Unfortunately, given that these lawsuits are time-barred, many victims of sexual assault live the rest of their lives struggling with trauma, depression, low self-esteem, and other effects of sexual abuse. But that’s no longer the case thanks to the Adult Survivors Act, signed into law by New York Governor Kathy Hochul.
What Is the Adult Survivors Act?
The ASA is a historic law that allows for the creation of a “lookback period” for victims of sexual assault and abuse over 18 years to pursue time-barred claims in court. The main purpose of this law is to create an opportunity for sexual assault survivors to seek compensation in court for sexual crimes that would have otherwise been time-barred by the usual civil statute of limitations for such crimes.
Why the Adult Survivors Act Was Formed
Sexual assault victims respond to abuse or assault differently. For most victims, it takes some time to process the incident. Some victims don’t even realize that they were assaulted or abused until many years later. For such victims, they may not be able to seek legal action under the usual statute of limitations, but they can now file a claim against the abuser or enabling institution, thanks to the ASA.
To further understand the importance of the ASA, let’s take a quick look at the Child Victims Act.
The Child Victims Act was passed in November 2019. This new law allowed individuals who were sexually assaulted while under the age of 18 to take civil action against their abusers. As a result of the new law, more than 9,000 victims of child sexual abuse came forward, taking legal action against their abusers and the enabling institutions. Before the introduction of this law targeting the then minors, such cases would have been time-barred under the regular statute of limitations. This would have been unfair, making it almost impossible for victims of child sexual abuse or assault to file a claim against their abusers or enablers.
Considering the effectiveness of the Child Victims Act, it became increasingly important to create a similar law but targeting adults. This concept led to the creation of the Adult Survivors Act, allowing victims of sexual assault and abuse who were 18 years and older at the time of the incident to file a claim against the abuser or enablers.
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When Does the Adult Survivors Act Become Effective?
The ASA goes into effect on November 24, 2022, meaning victims of sexual assault and abuse have up to November 24, 2023, to file a claim. The law casts an even wider net to hold abusers and enablers accountable for their actions.
As a result, sexual assault victims under the ASA act can file a claim against institutions such as companies, churches, schools, etc., if they knew or should have known about the abuse. These institutions are considered “negligent” institutions if they fail to act to stop the sexual assault or abuse incident.
For example, a sexual abuse victim might be able to file a claim against a company if the abuser also worked for the company and had a known history of sexual assault or exhibited warning signs the company knew about or should have known about. Cases of negligence, such as poor employee screening by companies, provide loopholes for abusers to find their way into the workplace and mingle with their innocent victims before abusing or assaulting them. For this reason, New York has enforced these strict laws, allowing sexual assault victims to sue not only the abuser but also the enabler.
What Happens After the One-Year Window Set by the Adult Sexual Survivors Act?
Here’s how the ASA works.
If you were sexually assaulted at age 18 or older and couldn’t file a claim against the abuser or enabler because your case was time-barred, this new legislation gives you a one-year lookback window. When the window expires, the civil statute of limitations is once again reinstated.
What Sexual Crimes Apply Under the Adult Survivors Act?
What Allegations Can You Bring Under New York’s Adult Survivor’s Act Lawsuits?
As mentioned before, if you or your loved one was sexually assaulted but couldn’t file a claim due to reasons relating to the statute of limitations, you may be able to file a lawsuit by bringing any of these two allegations, or even both:
Under this category, you’re filing a lawsuit against the party that directly assaulted you or your loved one.
You can also file a negligence claim against the party that enabled the abuser’s actions, directly or indirectly. For example, suppose a school failed to respond to allegations of sexual abuse on campus, allowing the abuser to assault the survivors. In that case, the school might also be held responsible on the grounds of negligence.
What Damages Can You Recover in Adult Survivors Act Lawsuits?
Sexual assault survivors usually struggle to live a normal life. Some struggle to get into or maintain relationships, others isolate themselves from family, friends, and relatives, while others live with never-ending trauma. Sexual assault or abuse is the kind of crime that has long-term effects on the survivor’s life. In fact, many survivors lose their urge to engage in sexual activities due to the trauma caused by abuse and assault.
Then there’s also the cost of treatment. In an attempt to free themselves from the painful and haunting memories of sexual assault and abuse, some victims seek various kinds of remedies. Examples of such remedies include therapy and counseling. Some survivors also have serious post-traumatic stress disorder for years or the remainder of their lives. As a result, visiting therapists and counselors becomes a part of their lives, something they shouldn’t have to do had it not been for the horrific incident. Remember, counseling, therapy, and other forms of treatment are not cheap—they require a lot of money and resources.
In addition, survivors of such incidents often face a lot of humiliation. As a result, they’re constantly stressed and depressed, something most of them have to deal with for the rest of their lives.
It’s even worse when sexually transmitted infections are involved. Some survivors have had to make secret trips to the doctor to seek treatment for sexually transmitted diseases they acquired through rape and other forms of sexual crime. Such individuals may not have the courage to speak about their experiences due to the fear of being judged, misunderstood, or even discriminated against by friends, family, and society in general. In addition to counseling and therapy, such survivors might need expensive treatments depending on the kind of diseases acquired through sexual assault.
Each sexual assault or abuse case is different. For this reason, you may need help calculating how much you or your loved one deserves as compensation. An experienced Adult Survivors Act lawyer in New York can help calculate your damages, helping you understand what you may be entitled to as compensation. The attorney will review damages such as medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of wages if you couldn’t work due to the injuries, etc.
The Benefits of the Adult Survivors Act Explained
The most noticeable benefit of the ASA is that it allows survivors of sexual assault to take civil action against the abuser and their enabler in situations where such claims would have been time-barred. However, that’s not the only advantage it comes with. There’s more.
Thanks to ASA, survivors of sexual assault can now recover maximum compensation, allowing them to feel whole again. Before the ASA, sexual assault survivors whose statute of limitations had expired could barely recover anything from their claims. A good example is the Harvey Weinstein case. A compensation of $17.1 million was to be shared among 50 claimants after a successful class-action lawsuit against the former film producer.
It was quite obvious that $17.1 million was too low for the survivors, but part of the reason for this low settlement is that the statute of limitations for most of these claims had already expired.
However, things would have been completely different had these claims been filed under the ASA, although this law hadn’t been passed at the time. The class-action claim would have attracted a higher compensation due to the renewal of the statute of limitations for one more year, referred to as the “lookback window.” This would mean that none of these claims would have been time-barred.
How Morgan & Morgan Sexual Assault Attorneys Can Help
If you’re a sexual assault survivor in New York whose claim was previously time-barred, you have a chance to file a claim against the parties responsible for the incident. However, time is crucial. There’s so much that can happen within a year. For this reason, it’s crucial to contact an experienced sexual attorney right away to explore your options.
As mentioned before, the civil statute of limitations comes into play when the one-year “lookback window” expires. For this reason, you don’t want to miss your chance to file a claim against the other party—again.
At Morgan & Morgan, our sexual assault attorneys in New York understand how the Adult Survivors Act works and how it can benefit you as a sexual assault survivor. We can help you file a claim against the other party and also fight for your rights, finally holding them responsible for their actions. The same applies when filing a claim against a negligent institution that enabled the abuse in the first place. They need to be held responsible for their negligence.
Failure to act in these situations creates the perfect environment for more abusers to continue their terrible actions without worrying about the consequences. While financial compensation might not erase your pain and trauma, it can make you feel whole again. You may be able to recover compensation for your pain and suffering, mental trauma, expensive trips to your doctor, or any other expense incurred due to the sexual assault incident.
Additionally, the judge might award you punitive damages to punish the abuser or institution that enabled the abuse. This award sends a strong warning to other abusers or institutions that they won’t get away with their actions or lack of.
So if you or your loved one is a sexual assault or abuse survivor, contact Morgan & Morgan for a free case evaluation. Remember, the Adult Survivors Act only provides a one-year “lookback window.” Contact us today.