We are the parents of a 17-year old who was the passenger on a motorcycle and killed by a drunk driver. Who do we file suit against and what should we be looking at in the way of damages?

In a drunk driving case, you can be addressing both a criminal and a civil matter. The drunk driver may face manslaughter charges and jail time, which gives momentum to a civil case. If he had insurance coverage, you can file a civil action for wrongful death and for your own emotional damages and losses, as well as funeral costs and everything else associated with the loss. Your attorney will be looking to settle your case at a higher value, possibly with punitive damages, because of the DUI (driving while under the influence) element – which is the crime of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs. Complete intoxication is not required; the level of alcohol or drugs in the driver’s body must simply be enough to prevent him from thinking clearly or driving safely. State laws specify the levels of blood alcohol content at which a person is presumed to be under the influence.

It is important to look at other legal issues such as state laws about minors being passengers on motorcycles. For example, it may be argued that it is child endangerment for a motorcyclist to take a minor on the bike.

It’s also important to find out the limits on the insurance policy. However, insurers don’t give out that information easily; an attorney’s intervention is often needed.

The driver of the motorcycle may also have some liability for taking on this passenger. The motorcyclist’s insurance may provide coverage — but it’s possible it may refuse to pay if having a minor passenger was not within either the law or the policy. You will need to see the fine print of the policy.

It’s possible to go after the personal assets of the drunk driver. While this is not recommended in other types of injuries, it may be appropriate here if insurance coverage is insufficient.

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