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An adult who is responsible for a minor may have the option to sue on behalf of the minor in certain situations. If the minor is injured in an accident or other injury, or experiences emotional trauma from some type of abuse, the adult who has legal responsibility for the minor can sue the alleged perpetrator of the situation. A minor is unable under the law to take legal action for him or herself and may rely on the parent or guardian to handle the situation for him or her. When deciding whether or not to sue on the behalf of a minor, the adult should discuss each option with the child and make a well-informed decision about what the process will include, and what the changes are of winning.
Many times, minors avoid the problems they are facing rather than dealing with the emotional implications of facing the person in court. This is where it is important for an adult to take responsibility for the minor and help them to understand the consequences of suing, and what could happen if the situation is avoided.
Important Factors to Discuss
When discussing the possibility of suing the guilty party, the guardian of the minor should discuss the following things in an in-depth manner with the minor who has been injured or traumatized.
- First, the extent of the damages must be assessed and determined by both the guardian and the minor. A realistic and clear-cut discussion about the damages that were incurred because of the event can help the minor to determine what the future will be like, and how difficult the litigation process may be.
- Second, the likelihood of winning the case must be discussed with the minor and the adult, and possibly the attorney that has been hired to handle the case. If it is unlikely that the case will be won, it may not be worth the trauma to the minor to go through the litigation process. An attorney can advise you on the possible outcomes of your case, and the likelihood that you will win or lose your battle.
- Next, discuss how painful the process of litigation will be for the minor. If you choose to sue the offending party, the minor will be put through the process of reliving the event in order to retell the story for a judge and jury. This may happen several times, and if the emotional stability of the minor is in question, there may be other options rather than a vicious court battle.
Once you have discussed the injuries, the likelihood of winning, and the potential emotional trauma to the child, the next step is to determine what will happen with any money that is awarded to the minor. Any settlement or judgment money that is won during a lawsuit will typically be put into a trust for the minor to access at a later time in his or her life. Make sure that the minor knows that they won’t be handed a check to spend immediately if they win their case.
Finally, it’s vital to consider the wishes of the minor. This can be a tricky process, because many young children don’t understand the implications of the future, and may choose to avoid the whole event altogether. As the guardian, you have to think of the child’s future, and how you can ensure that they are taken care of financially. When making a decision of whether or not to sue on behalf of a minor, the final decision should be a balance of doing what the minor wishes to happen and making the right choice for the future of the minor. As the guardian, this choice is in your hands and making the right one is important for the well being of the minor.
The Role of the Guardian
Because minors are unable to take responsibility for themselves in legal matters, it is up to the guardian or the adult in their lives to take the steps to see that they are protected and taken care of. If a minor in your care has been abused by an adult or injured in an accident, the subject of suing the person responsible should be approached delicately and carefully. Treat the financial care of the minor the same as you would the medical care for the injury, and make sure the minor gets what they deserve for what they have endured at the hands of another.
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