My father physically and emotionally abused me, my mother, and my siblings for a period extending from 2004 to the present. He has consistently sought to intimidate, coerce, and abuse me and my kindness in any way that he possibly can. This abuse ranges from verbal threats, and attempts to make me feel inadequate, to physical altercations that have extended as far as a fist fight.
Through all of this, he made continual financial promises regarding my healthcare and college tuition, yet he never paid any of it.
As a direct result of his actions, I am now unable to work and receiving constant treatment for depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and insomnia, with an increased financial burden via credit cards and student loans that were necessary to fund my schooling and frequent medical bills. I am currently 24 years old.
My question is, can I sue my step-father in civil court for promised tuition, medical bills, and punitive damages due to the suffered and ongoing emotional distress caused by his actions? How do I pursue this? Thank you.
Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.
You can certainly sue your father, but unless you have a legal basis upon which to argue your case, your lawsuit will fail. The time span in which the physical and mental abuse existed was approximately twelve (12) years. Inasmuch as it is now 2016, the abuse appears to have begun when you were about twelve (12) years old.
Under South Dakota Codified Laws Section 15-2-14, a person has three (3) years from the date of an injury to either settle a civil claim or file a lawsuit against the party who inflicted the injury. This is referred to as the statute of limitations.
However, that statutory period can be “tolled” if the injuries were inflicted during the victim’s minority (before the victim turned 18) until a minor reaches the age of majority. For purposes of civil lawsuits based on personal injury, the age of majority is eighteen (18).
To toll the statute of limitations means an injured party has three (3) years from the date he or she turns eighteen (18) to either settle a personal injury claim or file a lawsuit. Read South Dakota’s statute of limitations here.
In South Dakota, if a personal injury claim isn’t settled or a lawsuit filed within three (3) years from the date of injury, or the date a victim becomes eighteen (18), the victim loses his or her legal right to pursue a claim for civil damages.
In your case, you would have had to file a lawsuit against your father within three years from the date you turned eighteen, or at some time during your twenty first year. Unfortunately, you did not file a lawsuit within that statutory period. As a result, you likely have lost your legal right to pursue your father for any damages you may have sustained.
Learn more here: About Child Abuse & Restitution
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.
Best of luck with your claim,
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