With the amount of quality legal articles available on the Internet these days there is a surprising lack of information concerning civil sexual assault lawsuits in British Columbia. Perhaps it’s because this topic can be considered taboo, or perhaps its because there are relatively few lawyers who are experienced in prosecuting these types of claims. Whatever the reason, I thought it would be appropriate to author a few articles addressing this unique area of law. Today’s article will deal with an important topic; limitation periods.
Limitation Periods are legal rules that dictate the time frame in which a lawsuit needs to be brought. If a claim is not brought within an applicable limitation period it can be dismissed by the Court, not on its merits but because it was simply not brought in time.
In British Columbia limitation periods for civil suits are set out in a statute called the Limitation Act. Different limitation periods apply to different types of lawsuits.
Often times serious injury victims struggle with the decision of whether to sue. Time is spent focusing on recovery instead of restitution. When a victim finally decides to sue it can add insult to injury to learn that a limitation period expired.
Sexual assault victims often struggle more so than others with the decision of whether to file a lawsuit. It is not unusual for substantial amounts of time to pass before victims of sexual abuse come to terms with the harm that has been caused. For this reason the law in British Columbia creates a special exception for civil sexual assault claims.
Specifically, section 3(4)(l) of the BC Limitation Act holds that “a cause of action based on sexual assault” is not “governed by a limitation period and may be brought at any time“.
This is important and powerful legislation. The British Columbia Justice System respects the fact that the healing process can be lengthy and does not punish sexual abuse victims with artificial time limits within which they can access the civil courts of this Province.