Can I hold a juvenile accountable for assaulting my child?
(Spring Hill, Florida, USA)
My 13-year-old daughter was attacked in public by a 14-year-old girl who has been harassing her at school all year. This child has been suspended at least 3 times this year and 2 times last year for fighting at school.
My daughter's eye was huge and swollen shut, and we took her to the emergency room to be checked after we made our report to the deputies. The other kid ran home when she heard others making 911 calls.
There were no "independent" witnesses and conflicting stories, according to the deputy who received this case, so no arrests were made and only two sworn statements were taken that night - one by the other kid who assaulted mine and one by a kid who said my daughter didn't even throw a punch and the other kid started it.
The sheriff's department is calling this an "affray" when they try to explain to me why no arrest was made. In the meantime, we have printed off this kid's Facebook post BEFORE she went out that night that said if anyone said anything to her tonight she was going to "fu** them up" and her posts afterward that contradict her sworn written statement.
We got a restraining order, but I want to hold her more accountable than that. What are my options? Thank you.
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ANSWER for "Can I hold a juvenile accountable for assaulting my child?":
Children should not assault other children and yet it happens every day. Certainly a restraining order was an excellent decision. You do not need the permission or blessing from the police department to take legal action.
When a child causes deliberate and unprovoked injuries to another and the injuries rise to a level which includes hospitalization and related out of pocket expenses, the parents of the minor who caused the injuries can be held legally accountable for their daughter’s actions.
Your daughter’s injuries were serious enough to require emergency treatment. You have a right to file a lawsuit against the parents in Small Claims Court. Small Claims Court is designed so that people do not have to hire an attorney. The maximum amount you can usually sue for in Florida is $5,000. When filing the lawsuit you should name the girl and her parents as the defendants.
Before you file suit though make sure you contact the police department and request copies of 2 very important pieces of evidence. They are:
• The actual 911 call you made; (many people don’t realize copies of 911 calls are available to the public for a nominal fee of $5 or $6 dollars)
• The police report made by the deputies.
Take a close look at the police report. Normally the report will contain the names and addresses of any witnesses. If the witnesses are sympathetic with your daughter’s plight ask them if they took any photos or videos of the assault with their cell phones. If so download them so they can be used as evidence in court.
In your lawsuit you are usually allowed to ask for actual damages in the amount of the medical bills and out of pocket expenses associated with your daughter’s injuries. In addition you can sue for pain and suffering and mental anguish for the amount remaining after actual damages. Your total lawsuit therefore can add up to $5,000 dollars.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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