New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed into law a bill giving victims of sexual abuse more time to file lawsuits against their abusers. This change—more than 20 years in the making—signal major progress for those who were sexually abused, but until now have been unable to take legal action.
The sex assault lawyers at Sanders Phillips Grossman are prepared to file lawsuits for eligible victims. New Jersey victims of Catholic sex abuse will soon also be able to file claims with a compensation program. If you or a loved one was sexually abused or assaulted, or recently realized that abuse occurred in the past, discuss your legal options with our attorneys during a free case review.
What the New Law Means for New Jersey Sexual Abuse Victims
New Jersey’s state Assembly voted 71-0 in March to approve legislation that makes significant changes to the state’s sex abuse filing deadlines. The bill will go into effect on December 1, 2019, and provide the following:
- A two-year window (from December 1, 2019 to November 30, 2021) to file a civil lawsuit alleging adult or minor sexual abuse that occurred in the past;
- Anyone under the age of 18 who was sexually abused in the past would be able to file a lawsuit within the next two years;
- Those who were sexually abused as children who miss the two-year filing window would be able to bring their cause of action until the age of 55; and
- Those aged 55 and older who were abused as children but only recently “discovered” or realized the past abuse would have seven years to file a lawsuit.
The changes affect civil lawsuits, as opposed to criminal lawsuits. Civil lawsuits allow victims to recover money for emotional and psychological injury, as well as for monetary losses, such as the inability to work or a loss in earning capacity, related to their abuse.
Importantly, the bill would also allow victims to hold accountable both the abusers and the institutions that protected them. For example, if the abuser was a priest, it may be possible to bring civil action against the priest, as well as the church, or against a teacher and the school where they worked.
Lawmakers have been trying to change New Jersey’s statute of limitations for sex assault for decades, but advocates say the Catholic Church’s political power in Trenton kept efforts from succeeding. According to CHILD USA of Philadelphia, since 2002, around three-quarters of states have changed their child sex abuse statutes of limitations.
“New Jersey will now be a national leader for identifying hidden child predators, shifting the costs of abuse from the victims and the state to the ones who caused it, and educating the public about this pandemic,” Marci Hamilton, CEO of CHILD USA, told NJ.com.
Do you have questions about how the new law affects your rights? Speak with a New Jersey assault victim attorney.
New Jersey Dioceses Launch Abuse Survivors Fund
In February, all five Roman Catholic Dioceses in New Jersey (Newark, Camden, Metuchen, Trenton, and Paterson) approved a state-wide Independent Victim Compensation Program aimed at people who were sexually abused by clergy members while minors.
The Compensation Program will be administered by Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, who have run similar programs for the Catholic Dioceses in New York and Pennsylvania. But unlike in those states, where each individual Diocese decided whether and how to establish such a program, there is unity among the New Jersey Diocese about the Compensation Program.
Terms of the Program include:
- Claims must be submitted by December 31, 2019;
- The Program administrators have sole discretion in deciding who is eligible for compensation, and in what amount;
- The Diocese will not be able to appeal the administrators’ decisions;
- All payments will come from Diocese funds;
- Persons who have had their Diocese sex abuse claims settled by a court or arbitrator are not eligible for the Program; and
- Victims who accept the amount of compensation offered must agree to take no further legal action against the Diocese.
Minor victims of Catholic priest abuse have an even more important decision to make, since it may not be possible to both file a lawsuit against the Diocese and make a claim with the Compensation Program. During this time, it is crucial to receive counsel from a competent and experienced sexual abuse lawyer.
Free Consultations for Sex Abuse Victims
The sex assault and abuse lawyers at Sanders Phillips Grossman work in partnership with former prosecutors who have tried hundreds of sex crimes. Together we’ve handled high profile cases against churches, schools, medical professionals, massage therapists, and others, and won six-figure settlements for victims.
Our attorneys are available to provide legal advice. It is crucial to speak to a qualified lawyer before making any decision about your case. Schedule your free case review today: Call 888.888.8888 (Toll-Free) or send us a message.