The great novelist Tolstoy once wrote that “all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Each conflict between blood relatives is inevitably shaped by a near infinite set of circumstances; personal, economic, political, the list goes on. Sometimes resolution seems impossible, and family members must consider the possibility of formalizing their dispute in a court of law. Filing a claim against a relative can mean serious legal hurdles and irreversible changes in the claimant’s relationship with their family. Malloy Law Offices cannot claim to know the nature of your unique situation, but we think it prudent to consider the following before beginning legal proceedings against a family member.
Before beginning, we should take a moment to specify that this guide will concern legal action taken in civil court. These disputes most often arise over payment (or non-payment) of financial restitution for some injury or harm committed. Their outcome will not result in prison time for anyone involved (although criminal proceedings may accompany civil lawsuits). In a nutshell: civil courts and civil law resolve disputes between individuals, criminal courts deal with individuals alleged to have committed more serious infractions.
Given the costs associated with pursuing a legal case of any kind, a good first step is a frank evaluation of your case. Oftentimes it can be difficult to remove ourselves from our own circumstances and understand the situations we find ourselves in with a degree of objectivity. This is especially understandable when considering filing a claim against a relative.
Oftentimes strong emotions and long-held grudges drive strife within our families. These emotions may be of immense meaning to you, and we do not mean to invalidate them by any means. But a feeling of being wronged does not equate to a strong case in a court of law. Most often some sort of injury or property damage is required to make a case worth pursuing. You may wish to discuss your case with neutral parties you can trust, as well as a reputable attorney. Most legal professionals offer free consultations to evaluate potential cases.
Once the viability of your case is established, the next relevant question becomes: “can you collect if you win?” If indeed you have chosen to pursue compensation from a family member, you should ensure that they’ll actually be able to pay any compensation won, either in court or in a pre-trial settlement.
This spins into a second, broader question. Regardless of the offense committed and the financial compensation sought, each individual should ask themselves whether the effort and emotional labor involved in in pursuing the case is equal to the value of the potential damages won. But just because you have the right to pursue compensation, that doesn’t always make it the best means of resolving your situation.
Continuing on from our prior point; individuals considering filing a claim against a relative ought to consider whether their claim will only exacerbate family conflicts. It may be that the family of the claimant are unanimous in their support of their claim, but these situations are rarely this cut and dry. In short; these questions and their respective answers are ultimately in the hands of the individual. But the individual in question owes it to themselves to seriously consider the collateral damage that even a successful case may cause.
Ultimately the last question any person considering a lawsuit against a relative must consider is, to put it simply: is there a better way? Reaching an agreement without institutional involvement is likely to be the best and most expedient means of resolving a dispute between family members. Even if this is an impossibility, small claims court or professional mediation and arbitration may be a superior route to take. There are alternatives to an exhausting legal battle. Exploring them thoroughly may save everyone involved significant headaches.
In over fifteen years serving people of every background imaginable in the Beltway region, we here at Malloy Law Offices have encountered disputes of all kinds, including between family members. We hope this post has given you a greater understanding of the civil law process and its alternatives. As legal professionals, we seek to fully inform our clients of their options before making a decision. If you or a loved one are considering filing a claim against a family member, contact us today for a free consultation. We’re standing by to help you craft an action plan towards maximum compensation.