According to ChildWelfare.gov, there are legal penalties for individuals who fail to report child abuse. This includes parents, teachers, caregivers, and doctors. However, just because someone reports the abuse of a minor does not mean that a criminal investigation will occur or that the victim will receive any compensation to cover medical bills or ongoing therapy needs. This will require filing a civil lawsuit, which the victim can file or a parent.
In general, filing a lawsuit on behalf of a minor requires guardianship or responsibility for the child. In most cases, a teacher or clergy member would not be able to file a civil lawsuit on behalf of a minor.
Your Relationship to the Victim
Your relationship to the victim of child abuse or sexual assault will determine whether or not it is possible to pursue a civil case on behalf of a minor. These may include:
- Self: If you are the person that is the victim of child abuse, then you are able to file a lawsuit on your own behalf. In most states, you have until a set time after you reach the age of 18 to file a lawsuit.
- Parent: The parents of a minor that still have their parental rights are able to file a lawsuit. They are the primary people responsible for this as they have an inherent right to protect and represent their children. If a parent has had his or her parental rights removed, a court may not recognize their attempt to file a lawsuit.
- Stepparent: Stepparents who have legal authority over their stepchildren can also file a lawsuit. They assume the role of the parent in all legal purposes.
- Grandparent: Grandparents on both sides of the family have the right to file lawsuits on behalf of a minor.
- Legal guardian: Legal guardians can file lawsuits if they have legal authority over the minor.
- Foster parent: A foster parent can file a lawsuit on a minor’s behalf because a foster parent has temporary legal authority over the minor. This presents some level of difficulty finishing the lawsuit as custody of a minor can change before or during a trial.
These are just some of the individuals who can file a lawsuit on behalf of a minor. However, every situation is different. If you have any questions about whether you could potentially file a lawsuit for a loved one who may be too young to seek justice for themselves, it is worth taking the time to talk through what happened with a child sexual assault lawyer. You can ask them questions about the process and see what your options are for moving forward.
Victim’s Rights and Minors
According to the United States Department of Justice, even children retain victim’s rights in the court system and have the right to testify on their own behalf. If the victim does not want to file a lawsuit and is old enough to make decisions on their own, this is something that the legal system may consider in the case. However, this may not mean that you cannot file on behalf of a minor. You can discuss the situation further with your lawyer to learn what you can expect in your case and state.
Settlement vs. Trial
In sexual abuse cases with minors, your lawyer may try to seek a settlement over proceeding with a courtroom trial, whenever possible. This can be easier for children and their families, as they may not have to testify in open court. With minors that may not be comfortable giving witness testimony or that are not on board with filing the lawsuit, this can be beneficial. In the event that this is not possible, a child sexual assault attorney is prepared to continue your case in the courtroom.
Possibly Recoverable Compensation
When it comes to compensation, the amount that is possible varies based on the case and the damage caused by the abuse. With children, it can be difficult to assess the full extent of the damage until later, when the trauma of the sexual assault fully presents itself. If the sexual assault required medical intervention and ongoing therapy to treat, this amount of money could be recoverable. You could also pursue pain and suffering damages on behalf of your loved one.
Contact a Child Sexual Assault Lawyer to Discuss Your Case
If your child or loved one is a victim of child sexual abuse and still a minor, it is possible that you could pursue legal action on their behalf. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 794-0444 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your potential legal case. There is no cost for the consultation, and you can get the answers you need to make a decision about whether to pursue legal action on behalf of your minor child.