A new Maryland law erases the statute of limitations on sexual abuse survivors reporting incidents that occurred before their 18th birthday, effectively allowing claims to occur at any time. The law also increases the liability limits for non-economic damages in these cases. The media and others have linked the passage of this law to the release of an in-depth investigation into past clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
If you are an abuse survivor or have questions about your options for pursuing a sexual abuse case in Maryland under this new law, an attorney can discuss your case in a free, private, no-obligation case consultation.
We know coming forward may be exceptionally difficult. You may have not told anybody before about this abuse you suffered decades ago. But when you’re ready to talk, we’re ready to listen. At your pace.
What Does the Child Victims Act of 2023 Do for Abuse Survivors in Maryland?
The Child Victims Act of 2023 eliminates the Maryland statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases, among other changes to the laws that allow adults to pursue justice for the abuse they suffered as a child.
While there have been several changes to these laws through the years, this legislation eliminates the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse who previously could not act because they ran out of time.
The law also increases the liability limit for non-economic damage claims filed against private entities. Supporters argued that survivors live with the psychological pain and suffering of this abuse throughout their lives. The legislation also increases the cap for government agencies responsible for child sexual abuse.
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What Changes for Child Victims of Sexual Abuse Under the New Legislation?
In April 2023, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed the Child Victims Act of 2023 into law. This effectively repealed both the statute of limitations and the statute of repose on reporting child sexual abuse by survivors.
The Maryland Catholic Conference opposed the legislation, and challenges could arise in court before it goes into effect on October 1, 2023. A few states have similar legislation that allows survivors to proceed with claims at any time. However, this is somewhat rare. Most states have a statute of limitations but also a “look-back” period when young people can report abuse that occurred during their childhood.
With the passage of the Child Victims Act of 2023, Maryland eliminated the need for a look-back period by no longer limiting how long survivors have to begin their cases. The most controversial part of this law might be that it also allows survivors to file retroactive lawsuits. This means survivors who previously ran out of time can revive their case and hold their abusers responsible.
Previous Legislation Limited Options for Survivors
This is not the first update giving adult survivors more time to report sexual abuse that occurred before they reached age 18. Previously, the statute of limitations only gave survivors a few years to report the abuse and file a claim. In 2017, Maryland lawmakers changed this time limit, giving them up to 20 years after their 18th birthday.
In effect, survivors of child sexual abuse had until their 38th birthday to file a civil case against the perpetrator or an agency or private entity responsible. However, this change in the law also added an additional burden that stopped those who had already run out of time by 2017.
Under this law, some people had until they turned 21 to hold their abusers civilly liable because the new deadline did not apply. There was a strict deadline for any survivors who reached their 21st birthday before the 2017 law passed. The Child Victims Act of 2023 allows these survivors to pursue cases.
What Prompted Maryland’s Lawmakers to Consider and Pass These Changes?
There has been a back-and-forth conversation about these laws for two decades. However, the possibility of legislation gained bipartisan support ahead of the release of an investigation into clergy sexual abuse against children. This report, published by the Maryland Attorney General, resulted from a four-year investigation into decades of clergy abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
This report documented more than 600 child victims within the Archdiocese of Baltimore over the previous decades. It also showed a likely conspiracy to hide the abuse or minimize news of the accusations.
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What Are My Options If I Am a Child Sexual Abuse Survivor in Maryland?
Many adults who endured sexual abuse as children in Maryland ran out of time to pursue a civil case and hold the responsible parties accountable under previous laws. With the recent passage of legislation and the Child Victims Act of 2023 going into effect on October 1, 2023, they could have another opportunity.
Sexual abuse survivors can hold agencies, entities, or institutions accountable for the abuses occurring under their oversight. An attorney could help you build a strong case to recover monetary damages that include:
- Past and present psychological care and other medical bills
- Past and present lost income and diminished earning capacity
- Past and present emotional distress and other non-economic damages
When you work with an attorney who handles these cases, you can count on them to:
- Address your concerns
- Manage the process with compassion and understanding
- Help you document your case
- Identify all potentially liable parties
- Identify and calculate your damages
- Represent your best interests
- Take your case to trial (if necessary)
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Discuss Your Legal Options With Our Compassionate Team Member for Free
Jenner Law’s clergy abuse lawyers understand how the new legislation will affect the rights of sexual abuse survivors and how to guide them as they decide what to do to hold the liable parties responsible. We can handle these claims, seek appropriate compensation, and fight for accountability, especially when holding religious, educational, and healthcare entities liable.
Contact us today for a free consultation with our team. Our conversations with clients are always private; no one will ever know you met with a lawyer unless you share it with them. Our team will answer your difficult questions and talk you through your concerns. We are here to help you get the justice you deserve.