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Colorado’s Child Sexual Abuse Act Allows Survivors to File Civil Claims
Colorado’s Child Sexual Abuse Act Allows Survivors to File Civil Claims
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Colorado’s Child Sexual Abuse Act Allows Survivors to File Civil Claims

Posted in Blog on February 2, 2022

Kurt Zaner talking to another attorney

A new bill has been passed in Colorado that opens the way for more survivors of child sexual abuse to file a civil claim. Previously, Colorado law required survivors of child sexual abuse to file a lawsuit within six years after their 18th birthday. 

The new bill, SB21-088, allows people who were previously barred from bringing a claim because they turned 24 years old, to sue for child sexual abuse incidents that occurred as early as the year 1960. The new changes also affect the way government entities can be sued, as well as limitations on damages awards for survivors of abuse. 

At Zaner Harden Law, we welcome these new changes and see them as a positive step towards reinforcing survivors’ rights. We understand the immense burdens that survivors of childhood sexual abuse carry with them throughout their life, and we sympathize with their struggles. It is our job not only to help survivors seek justice, but also to ensure that the conditions allowing abuse to happen are revealed and removed from our communities. 

Who Can Be Sued Under the New Child Sexual Abuse Law? 

Under the new rules, civil claims for sexual misconduct can be brought against individual actors. Claims can also be filed against organizations that operate or manage a youth-related activity or program if they knew or should have known of a risk of sexual misconduct against minors. The sexual misconduct must have occurred while the victim was participating in a youth program managed by the organization. 

In addition, public employees or public entities may be sued. Usually, public entities are greatly protected against civil actions being brought against them under principles of “sovereign immunity.” However, the act waives sovereign immunity, allowing public entities to be sued, for instance, if the abuse happened in an after-school district program.  

What Does the New Law Say About Filing Deadlines? 

A civil action is available for survivors of sexual misconduct that happened on or before January 1, 1960. If the incident happened between January 1, 1960, and January 1, 2022, the claim must be filed before January 1, 2025.

For incidents that happened on or after January 1, 2022, there is no limitation on the time to bring a claim for sexual misconduct. 

Thus, the Bill essentially lifts the statute of limitations (filing deadline) for cases happening on or after January 1, 2022. This is highly important, as a survivor of child sexual abuse can often be hesitant to file a report or come forward to discuss their experiences, even many years or decades later (more on this below).

SB21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act Key Takeaways

How Does the Child Sexual Abuse Act Affect Damages Awards? 

The new law does place certain limits on the amount of damages that can be paid out to plaintiffs. When suing a government agency, the maximum amount that can be recovered is $387,000. This is the limitation on damages set forth in the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act.

For all other claims, the maximum amount recoverable is $500,000. There is, however, an exception here: A court may increase the award to a maximum of $1,000,000 if:

  • The defendant failed to take action against a person that they knew or should have known posed a risk of sexual abuse against a minor; AND
  • The court finds that the application of the $500,000 limitation would be unfair. 

Understand that each sexual assault case is different; the way that damages are calculated depends on several factors, including the facts surrounding the incident as well as the skill of the attorney handling the case. 

Do you need to know how the Child Sexual Abuse Act affects your legal rights? Contact a lawyer at Zaner Harden at (720) 613-9706 to discuss your options in a private, safe setting.

What Does This Mean for Survivors of Child Abuse in Colorado?

As a result of this bill, the new changes open an avenue for more survivors to pursue legal action for the injustices they experienced. As mentioned, Colorado law previously required child sex abuse survivors to file a claim within six years after their 18th birthday. These restrictions severely curtailed legal options for those who were affected by abuse in the past. 

One of the main considerations amongchild sexual abuse survivors is a phenomenon known as delayed disclosure.” This is where survivors refrain from speaking about their abuse until much later on in life. In many instances, this is due to feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt, and pain associated with the traumatic events.  

According to Child USA, the average age of reporting for child sexual abuse is 53 years old. This means that under previous Colorado rules, many survivors have missed their opportunity to bring a legal claim in court. 

Under the new rules, more survivors can file lawsuits even later on in life; this has the net effect of exposing more instances of institutional abuse, which is often systemic and recurring over time, such as the incidents associated with the Archdiocese of Colorado.

How Can I Speak With a Lawyer About My Case?

Dealing with the trauma associated with childhood sexual abuse can be overwhelming. While you may feel that reviewing past incidents is difficult, many survivors find that seeking legal action provides a sense of closure and security moving forward. 

At Zaner Harden Law, our attorneys approach this subject with the utmost care and respect for our clients. All communications are private and conducted in the strictest confidence. We understand the pain you are experiencing and will do all we can to facilitate your healing. 

Get in touch with us at (720) 613-9706 to schedule a no-obligation consultation. From the first consultation to the final ruling, we will be at your side to fight for your justice. 

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