Recent child sex abuse scandals -- from churches to billionaires -- have put an increased focus on the statute of limitations when it comes to lawsuits involving past sexual assault. An array of factors can keep child victims from speaking out about abuse until years later, and while they can theoretically sue their abusers, in practice, the time limits on those lawsuits can vary significantly from state to state.
Case in point: New York's Child Victims Act will go into effect this week, and legal experts expect that it will unleash a "tidal wave of litigation."State Statute of Limitation
Under existing New York state statutes, child sex abuse victims have until they reach the age of 23 to sue their attacker. Additionally, victims can't sue institutions (like churches or schools) after they turn 21. That means the Empire State has some of the most restrictive civil statutes of limitation when it comes to child sex assault. (Criminal offenses like rape, aggravated sexual abuse, or course of sexual conduct against a child can be prosecuted at any time.)
But the Child Victims Act will now allow survivors could file criminal charges until they turn 28, and a civil lawsuit until they turn 50. It also gives anyone who was previously barred from filing a lawsuit one year to sue over allegations of sexual abuse, regardless of when they said it occurred.
"It's going to be a tidal wave of litigation," Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer who represented victims of Catholic priests in Boston told Reuters. And Jeff Anderson, an attorney specializing in clergy sex abuse cases, said his firm has now assigned almost 100 employees to New York cases. The New York Bar Association also noted that judges in state courts "will also receive special training in dealing with cases involving child sexual abuse."Federal Fight
Most cases of child sexual abuse are governed under state law, although the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act provides funding for state-run child abuse and neglect programs that meet certain federal standards. And in high-profile nationwide cases like the abuse reported within Catholic dioceses, the Department of Justice may investigate.
Otherwise, it is left to victims, their families, and their lawyers to navigate restrictive statutes of limitation to hold abusers accountable. If you think a child is being sexually abused, or have other questions about child sex abuse claims, contact an experienced attorney today.Related Resources:
- Find Assault Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory)
- Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Assault, Harassment: Top 10 Cases and Questions (FindLaw's Injured)
- When Can You Sue a Church Leader for Sexual Assault? (FindLaw's Injured)
- When Can Sexual Assault Survivors Sue for Defamation? (FindLaw's Injured)
Like any car, Teslas have had their fair share of accidents, and fatalities. As of this writing, there have been four reported fatalities in accidents involving Tesla's Model S, Model X, and Model 3 automobiles, all in the last three years. (That's compared to an estimated 40,000 deaths in car crashes in 2018 alone.) Perhaps what's most striking about the deaths involved in Teslas, however, is that many of the victims were using the company's autopilot at the time of the accident -- a feature many believe will make driving safer.
Case in point was Jeremy Banner, who was killed when his Tesla slid under a turning semi-truck while travelling 68 miles per hour on a Florida highway. Banner's family is now suing the car manufacturer, claiming its Autopilot system failed and should have braked or swerved to avoid the truck.Autopilot Accidents
According to investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, Banner engaged the Autopilot system about 10 seconds before the crash and his hands weren?t detected on the steering wheel for eight seconds before the collision, which should have set off the car's automated warning system. The Banner family's attorneys claim Tesla falsely advertised its Autopilot system as self-driving technology that would "eliminate the risk of harm or injury to the vehicle operator caused by other vehicles or obstacles." The lawsuit also alleges that Banner "reasonably believed" his Model 3 was safer than a human-operated vehicle based on Tesla's marketing campaign.
"My family is devastated due to the untimely and tragic death of a loving husband and father," a statement from Banner's wife, Kim, said. "It is difficult to discuss and relive what happened to Jeremy at this time. Our family has faith in the legal system that justice will be done and those responsible for his death will be held accountable."Defective (Self) Driver
Tesla has not responded to the lawsuit yet, but released the following statement following the crash in May: "Our data shows that, when used properly by an attentive driver who is prepared to take control at all times, drivers supported by Autopilot are safer than those operating without assistance."
Auto manufacturers have a legal duty to ensure their cars and trucks are safe, and there are three main types of product liability claims that injured drivers and passengers can make:
- Design Defects: The design of the autopilot feature is flawed in a way that renders it unreasonably dangerous
- Manufacturing Defects: The vehicle is manufactured in a way that departs from the intended design, causing it to malfunction
- Warning Defects: The manufacturer failed to provide adequate instructions or warnings regarding the dangers present when using the autopilot feature
If you have questions about autopilot reliability -- or legal liability -- talk to an experienced car accident attorney for help.Related Resources:
- Find Car Accident Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory)
- Tesla Sued After High Speed Fatality in Florida (FindLaw's Injured)
- Tesla Sued by Driver Over Autopilot Crash, Broken Foot (FindLaw's Injured)
- Pregnant Woman Pinned to Garage Wall by Tesla Model X Sues (FindLaw's Injured)