States with Extended Statutes of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Over the last few years, victims of child sexual abuse at the hands of clergy members in Maryland have been coming forward to hold their abusers (and the church) accountable.  Our lawyers handle these cases in Maryland and throughout the country.

A groundswell of public support has developed around these victims, and for obvious reasons. The sexual abuse of young children is universally reviled by all cultures. Just the thought of a child being sexually abused by a priest or pastor can send chills down the spine.  The victims of childhood sexual abuse are left permanently scarred and damaged in a very real way.

The wave of abuse allegations and public attention has prompted a movement in favor of holding the clergy abusers and their churches accountable. For the individual clergy members who committed the abuse, accountability often means criminal charges. For the church institutions that allow the abuse to happen, however, accountability has come in the form of civil lawsuits and monetary damages. Over the last decade, religious organizations have paid out over $3 billion in clergy sexual abuse lawsuits.

Until very recently, many victims of clergy sexual abuse have been unable to bring a lawsuit against their abuser or the church because the statute of limitations had already expired. All states have a statute of limitations that says that a lawsuit must be filed within a certain number of years. For clergy sexual abuse victims this often presents a problem because the abuse happened years ago during their childhood.

15 States Have Made It Easier for Sexual Abuse Victims to File Civil Lawsuits

Over the last 3 years, a total of 15 states have amended changed their laws to enable victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring lawsuits. These states have either lifted or significantly extended their existing statutes of limitation to allow sex abuse lawsuits even when the abuse occurred decades earlier.  Frustratingly, Maryland is not on the list.

These new rules vary from state to state. Some states enacted “lookback windows,” which are basically 1 or 2 years periods during which childhood sex abuse victims would be allowed to sue no matter how many years had passed. Other states simply extended the limitations period for abuse claims. Below is a summary of the new laws passed in each of these states:

States with “Lookback Windows” for Sex Abuse Lawsuits




  • 19-month lookback window from June 2019 to January 2021 (all claims allowed)
  • After lookback, limitations period on child sex abuse claims extended to when victim reaches age 30




  • 3-year unlimited lookback window from January 2020 to January 2023
  • After lookback window closes, claims allowed until victim turns 40-years-old
  • Treble damages are permitted if plaintiff can prove institutional cover-up by church
District of Columbia


  • 2-year lookback window from May 2019 to May 2021 (all claims allowed)
  • After lookback, claims allowed until victim reaches age 40


  • Unlimited lookback window opened in 2018 and closed April 2020 (this was the state’s second lookback window period)


  • 1-year lookback window ended May 2020
  • Limitations period on child sex abuse claims now extended until victim turns 27
New Jersey



  • Unlimited 2-year lookback window from December 2019 to December 2021
  • After lookback, child sex abuse claims allowed until victim is age 50
New York


  • 1-year lookback window ended August 14, 2020
  • Extended SOL to allow child sexual abuse claims to be filed until the victim reaches age 55
North Carolina


  • 2-year lookback window from January 2020 to January 2022
  • After lookback period, claims for sex abuse allowed until victim turns 28

States with Extended Limitations for Sex Abuse Lawsuits

The states below did not create lookback windows but amended their existing statutes of limitation to allow cases based on child sexual abuse to be filed many years later in adulthood.

Alabama Extended limit on sex abuse claims from age 21 to age 25
Connecticut Age limit on sexual abuse claims increased from 48 to 51 as of
Michigan Increased age limitation on sex abuse claims from 19 to 28
Pennsylvania Age limitation on sex abuse lawsuits raised to 55 (law not retroactive so future claims only)
Rhode Island Age limit for abuse claims raised to 53 for limited time period (2019)
Tennessee Age limitation on sex abuse claims increased from 19 to 33
Texas Limitation on sex abuse claims raised from age 33 to age 48

New Maryland Clergy Abuse Law

In March 2023, we may be on the precipice of a new Maryland law The Maryland Senate has passed a bill that would remove the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits against public and private entities accused of negligence. The bill would also make the law retroactive, meaning that victims could file lawsuits even if the current statute of limitations has passed. The bill has been sent to the House of Delegates, where it has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

The legislation creates different rules for public and private entities, with public entities having a lower cap on the amount of money that victims could receive compared to private entities. The Maryland Catholic Conference has criticized the bill for creating two classes of survivors and increasing financial harm to the church and its ministries. But that is how it works for all types of tort claims, not just sexual abuse.

Contact Miller & Zois to File a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

If you were sexually abused as a child by a clergy or church member, contact our sexual abuse lawyers today for a free consultation to see if you have a valid claim. Contact us online or call us at 800-553-8082

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