The Child Abuse Victims Act of 2022, signed into law in April 2023, defines child sexual abuse by listing the kinds of acts that constitute such abuse. It also makes other changes that support survivors of clergy and institutional sexual abuse in Maryland, allowing many to pursue justice even when their time to do so previously elapsed.
If you endured sexual abuse during your Maryland childhood, you could have a chance to seek justice, compensation, and accountability from the institution or agency that allowed the harm to occur. You could have a valid clergy abuse case even if an attorney previously told you time had run out. Attorneys representing survivors are reviewing cases for free now.
The Definition of ‘Child Sexual Abuse’ Under the Child Victims Act of 2023
According to the Child Victims Act of 2023, sexual abuse occurs when there is any act that involves an adult causing, allowing, or encouraging:
- Obscene photography or videography, posing, or similar activity
- Pornographic photography or videography, posing, or similar activity
- Other types of sexual offenses
- Other illegal sexual conduct
As you can see, this includes a wide range of activities. In addition, it does not only target the perpetrator of the abuse. Those who allow these acts, such as institutions that cover up abuse and allow a perpetrator to continue working with children, are also liable under this definition.
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What Is the Child Victims Act of 2023?
The Child Victims Act of 2023 is a Maryland law passed in early 2023 and signed into law by state Gov. Wes Moore in April 2023. This law serves several purposes, including:
- Defining what child sexual abuse is under Maryland law
- Eliminating previous limits on how long survivors had to file a civil case
- Allowing survivors to retroactively apply it and file claims from decades past
- Increasing caps on non-economic damages recoverable in these claims
Under this law, many adults who endured institutional sexual abuse as children can seek fair compensation and hold the liable parties accountable. This is the only option to get justice in many of these cases.
How Does the Child Victims Act of 2023 Affect Civil Child Sex Abuse Cases?
The Child Victims Act of 2023 directly affects child sex abuse cases in several ways. In addition to making it clear that those who allow these abuses to occur are also liable for them, it does the following:
It Alters the Timeline for Legal Action
The Child Victims Act of 2023 eliminates the current statute of limitations on filing a child sex abuse claim. Until this law goes into effect on October 1, 2023, survivors have 20 years following their 18th birthday to take legal action. After October 1, there will not be a deadline for filing these claims.
It Allows Those Who Could Not Sue Before to Act
Before 2017, survivors only had a few years after their 18th birthday to sue the perpetrator or institution that allowed the abuse to occur. The court would likely refuse to hear the case if they did not begin their claim by their 21st birthday.
In 2017, Maryland lawmakers increased the statute of limitations, giving child sex abuse survivors until their 38th birthday to file a civil suit. However, the 2017 law prevented those who had previously run out of time from applying this period retroactively. The Child Victims Act of 2023 eliminates this obstacle. Child sexual abuse survivors can file retroactive lawsuits.
It Increases the Caps on Damages
The new law increases the damage caps for private institutions and government agencies. This includes the liability for non-economic damages (emotional distress and psychological suffering) from private organizations and overall payouts from school systems and other government agencies.
Under the new law, these limits include:
- $1.5 million per case for non-economic damages from private entities
- $890,000 per claim from government agencies
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Is This Law About the Baltimore Clergy Abuse Cases?
While the news of widespread clergy abuse in Baltimore did not entirely drive the passage of this law, this did play a role. The same month Gov. Wes Moore signed the legislation into law, the Maryland Attorney General published a report on the four-year investigation of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
In this report, the Attorney General’s office included a list of 115 perpetrators and discussed the accusations of more than 600 children and teens who endured clergy abuse at the hands of those they trusted within their churches.
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What Should I Do If I Am a Survivor of Baltimore Child Sexual Abuse?
The Child Victims Act of 2023 could change your legal options for reporting and taking action based on the sexual abuse you experienced before your 18th birthday. You should discuss your options with an attorney handling these claims to learn more.
By seeking justice and holding the at-fault parties accountable, you might be able to recover compensation for:
- Past and current bills related to your mental and emotional health care
- Past and current income losses and/or reduced earning capacity
- Past and current non-economic damages, such as the emotional distress you experience
By working with a Maryland child sex abuse lawyer, you have someone on your side who can provide not only legal guidance but also compassionate support and understanding. Your attorney and their team will answer your questions and address concerns about the case.
They will also handle the entire process and represent your interests throughout. This should allow you to focus on your everyday life and what is best for your emotional health while they manage your legal case.
Discuss Your Legal Options With One of Our Clergy Abuse Attorneys for Free
Jenner Law is accepting child sex abuse cases against the Archdiocese of Baltimore and other institutions now. We provide free initial case consultations. Speak with our team during a confidential, complimentary, and no-obligation case assessment today.
Call us or use our online contact form to get started. We are here to answer your questions, explain your rights, discuss the new law, and determine your next steps to get justice.