Injured by a family member with permanent damages. Can I sue?

Considering suing my uncle after he intentionally fired an air horn meant for bears in my ear, and now I have what appears to be a permanent ringing in my ear. I have a big family, with around 20 cousins, 10 aunts and uncles, and several others who always show up to family reunions. I’m a male in my 20s.

Last weekend we had a family reunion in a cabin resort in the woods. On the last night there, while everyone was sitting by the campfire, my uncle (by marriage), snuck up behind me and blasted an air horn about a foot or two away from the back of my head. This air horn was not a normal little one you often see at sporting events. This campground has bear around, so they keep several large air horns around the place to be used to scare off a bear in case they get too close.

As soon as he did it, everyone called him an asshole and got angry at him. He showed no remorse whatsoever. He laughed about it, telling us how he and his friends from work have blown air horns at each other before as a prank.

I was so furious when it happened that I didn’t know what to do. I sat there quietly stewing in my rage for a while. I wanted to beat the shit out of him or hold him down while I emptied half of the air horn directly into his ear. But instead I walked away eventually and spent the rest of the night in my room. It’s important to know that this uncle was hosting this reunion. It’s a “corporate retreat campground” that his company lets employees use.

He clearly knew he fucked up because he attempted to apologize the next day, but it was a pretty shitty apology. While everyone was sitting down for breakfast, he snuck up behind me, put his arms on my shoulders and quietly said, “I heard your ears were ringing. Sorry about that.” He didn’t even say it to my face, or say it loud enough for anyone else to hear. I grumbled something about “it’s okay,” but I absolutely do not forgive him.

This happened last Saturday, a week ago. For the first couple days my ears were literally sore, and any loud noises were painful to hear. Since then, my ears have been constantly ringing. It’s the worst when I’m in a quiet environment, like trying to work or go to sleep. I hear this high pitched sound that is driving me nuts. Sometimes it’ll start to subside, but it still comes and goes. I think I could have permanent hearing damage.

This guy has been giving me shit since I was a young kid, so this was not a one time occurrence, though this was definitely the worst thing he’s done to me by far. I’ve contacted a personal injury lawyer in my area to learn about my options, but I figured some people here might have good info as well. I won’t hear back from the lawyer until tomorrow at the earliest. Any info is appreciated. Suing my uncle would tear a huge hole in my family, but I really don’t care about that if I end up having a ringing in my ear for the rest of my life. It’s interfering with my ability to sleep and work. Thanks for any help.

Citation: [MI, USA] Considering suing my uncle after he intentionally fired an air horn meant for bears in my ear, and now I have what appears to be a permanent ringing in my ear

by u/GoonDaFirst in legaladvice

“I have sued my own uncle before.  It was on behalf of my grandmother.  Suing a family member isn’t abnormal in the legal system.  In this scenario the uncle’s actions may be covered by his homeowners.  I’d consult with a lawyer ASAP.  The statute of limitations on a case like this can be one year.”

-Brian Dettman

Helpful Tips:

It sounds like you might be experiencing a condition known as tinnitus, which is often characterized by a ringing or buzzing noise in the ears. This can be caused by exposure to loud noises, among other things. Here are some steps you should consider:

1. Medical Consultation: Visit a healthcare professional as soon as possible. This could be a general practitioner, but ideally an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist or an audiologist. They can conduct a hearing test and examine your ears to determine the extent of any potential damage.

2. Rest and Hydrate: Try to rest and keep yourself hydrated. Sometimes, tinnitus can be temporary and may improve with rest and hydration.

3. Avoid Loud Noises: Try to avoid exposure to further loud noises. This can potentially worsen the condition or cause further damage to your hearing.

4. Use White Noise: If the ringing is particularly bothersome in quiet environments, consider using a white noise machine or a fan. This can help mask the sound of the ringing.

5. Legal Advice: If your hearing doesn’t improve, you may want to consult with a lawyer to understand if you have any legal recourse against your uncle for the injury.

6. Consult an Audiologist: An audiologist specializes in hearing and can assess the quality of your hearing. They can conduct detailed tests to determine the extent of any potential hearing loss.

7. Visit an ENT Specialist: An Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist can assess any physical damage to your ears, balance issues, or infections that may have occurred. If there’s significant damage to the temporal lobe, they may refer you to a neurologist.

8. Primary Care Doctor: Your primary care doctor can coordinate your care and ensure that your audiologist and ENT specialist are working together. They can also facilitate referrals, making the process smoother.

9. Potential Legal Action: If your hearing doesn’t improve, you might have a solid case for a lawsuit. Your uncle intentionally performed an act without regard for the potential harm it might cause. This could be considered reckless, breaching the standard of care he should have exercised.

10. Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer: A personal injury lawyer can provide a comprehensive view of your situation, considering angles you might not have thought of. For instance, if your uncle owns and works for the company that runs the campground, the lawyer might investigate who supplied the air horn. If the company provided it, they should have safety training and procedures in place for its use. If they were aware of the misuse of air horns and did nothing, their liability could potentially be increased.

Remember, it’s important to seek medical advice as soon as possible. While tinnitus can sometimes be temporary, it can also be a sign of more serious damage that needs to be addressed.

Every case is different and this information may not apply to your case.  Consultations at Dettman Law are always free and we don’t get paid until there is a recovery.


If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligent or reckless actions of another party, it is important to seek legal representation to hold the responsible party accountable and secure the compensation you deserve. Our team of experienced injury lawyers is here to help you every step of the way. Don't hesitate, contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your legal options.

Your case may fall into more than one category. Choose the option most applicable to your situation, and we will have the appropriate team member contact you shortly.

This form goes directly to Brian Dettman.