New York and Other States Pass Child Victims Laws - What Are the Implications for U.S. Insurers?
The New York State Legislature passed the Child Victims Act, which extends the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse and opens a one-year window for expired claims to be filed. Although not the first state to revive actions or extend time to sue, New York’s action may give more energy to the legislative movement now sweeping the country.
What does this mean to insurers of churches, camps, public and private schools, youth organizations, and daycare centers? We examine the new laws and offer a few claim and underwriting observations for carriers writing this business.
New York and More
The Child Victims Act significantly increases the former time limit, which required both criminal and civil charges to be brought by the age of 23. Now victims of childhood sexual abuse can:
- File claims until the age of 55 for civil cases and age 28 for criminal cases
- File claims that were beyond the previous statute of limitations, during a one-year window that begins August 14, 2019
Childhood victims who didn’t previously sue by the time they were 23 will now have a limited opportunity to do so. Victims would be able to seek civil relief from individuals or institutions no matter when the abuse occurred.
It’s very difficult for victims to come to terms with the abuse until years, even decades later. According to statistics from Child USA, most child sexual abuse victims do not choose to disclose sexual abuse, if they do at all, until the average age of 52.1
That is why many states have already created opportunities to revive previously expired claims. The details vary, of course. A few states have no statute of limitation for childhood sexual abuse claims, and some have extended periods or suspended the statutes. Others have already enacted a limited window to sue perpetrators and/or institutions, such as California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota and Utah. Even some of these states are considering additional reforms.
As of mid-May, more than a dozen states are considering legislation taking one or more of these avenues. More recently, the New Jersey and Montana measures were passed and signed into law.
From a claim standpoint, the New York Child Victims Act and similar laws mean that sexual abuse victims can come forward and will not be faced with immediate dismissal based on the statute of limitations.
How many claims will be filed? That is impossible to know, but there are some things that carriers can (and should) do now to get a handle on the potential exposure:
Some insurers may soon see a flood of sexual abuse claims from events that happened decades ago. If we can offer additional insights into these claims and proposals, please contact me or your Gen Re Claims representative.
- For a comprehensive, up-to-date summary of SOL reform laws and legislation, visit www.ChildUSA.org.