Q&A with FeganScott on NY Statute of Limitations Changes

Following news at the end of May that New York has taken a huge step in paving the way for justice for survivors of sexual assault, our FeganScott attorneys wanted to answer a few common questions as survivors and allies navigate this new landscape.

Question 1: What is the Adult Survivors Act?

Recently signed by New York Governor Hochul, the Adult Survivors Act (ASA) gives survivors of sexual assault who were prohibited from filing a lawsuit because of the statute of limitations another chance to do so, but only for one year, during the provided lookback window.

Question 2: What is a lookback window?

A lookback window is an allotted amount of time — in the case of the ASA it is one-year — that allows survivors to assert their claims, even if the statute of limitations on their claims may have expired.

Question 3: How is the one-year lookback window measured?

The one-year window begins six months from the effective date of the ASA, which is November 24, 2022, giving survivors until November 23, 2023 to file a lawsuit. Another way of looking at it is for that one year period of time, the statute of limitations has been eliminated.

The one-year window in the ASA was modeled after the Child Victims Act, which allowed survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file claims during a one-year period, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred. During that period, more than 10,000 lawsuits were filed, according to the New York Office of Court Administration.

Question 4: Why is the one-year window important to survivors?

There are many reasons why a survivor of sexual abuse may not immediately take legal action against their abuser. The recovery and healing process is different for each survivor, and the decision to come forward is extremely personal and difficult.

Statute of limitations, regulating the period during which a survivor can come forward and file claims against their abuser, often becomes an obstacle in reporting abuse when the survivor later decides to come forward. The ASA gives survivors who are now ready a chance to file claims that would have otherwise been barred by the statute of limitations. Meaning that until the lookback window closes in November 2023, lawsuits can be filed, no matter the date of the abuse.

Question 5: What is different about this act from those previously passed to extend statute of limitations?

In September 2019, the NY state legislature extended the statute of limitations period for rape and sexual assault in the third degree to 10 years and rape and sexual assault in the second degree to 20 years, both from a 5 year limitations period. However, the law did not create a lookback window, allowing sexual assault claims that were time-barred in 2019 to be filed. That is, until the passing of the ASA.

Question 6: Does similar legislation exist outside of New York for adult survivors?

Many other states that have passed legislation opening lookback periods for minors, including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Utah, Vermont and Washington, D.C. However, New Jersey – and now New York – are the only states that have lookback windows for adult survivors of sexual assault.

Question 7: Why choose the law firm of Fegan Scott LLC?

We put the survivor first. We have obtained justice for hundreds of people who were assaulted or abused, and have recovered millions in dollars for our clients. Beth Fegan is one of the nation’s leading attorneys representing victims of sexual assault.

To learn about your legal rights and options, contact our firm. We can work with you as your advocate as you navigate the criminal justice system and advise you on your legal rights in the civil justice system. When seeking legal advice, everything you share with us will remain confidential unless you authorize us to share it with law enforcement or in a civil lawsuit.

For an overview of steps you can take to report sexual abuse, click here.