Wheels of Justice
A motorcycle accident brings grief
Question: I heard you on the radio talking about liability associated with automobile accidents. Where do I turn to seek damages for the loss of our 17 year-old daughter who was riding as a passenger on a motorcycle that was hit by a drunk driver? The guy driving the motorcycle had limited insurance and had just turned 18. What can we do to punish the people who took our daughter? Who is going to pay for the medical bills and the funeral? What can I do to save my family?
Answer: First let me express my most sincere sympathy for your loss. I think the most important thing you must do right now is to immediately seek professional help to assist you and your family with the grief and anger you are experiencing. I can tell you that time will heal all wounds, that things will get better and you and your family can survive this tragic loss. However, all of you need someone to talk with who understands what you have experienced or is trained in counseling.
What you are asking concerns civil issues versus criminal issues. My law firm focus is on criminal matters, therefore I suggest you contact a well-known civil attorney in your town or surrounding area and discuss your options with him or her. That said, I’ll give you some ideas about what you may expect or questions you may want to ask.
You mentioned that the automobile driver was drunk. This issue will be a criminal matter and the local district attorney will prosecute the case. The drunk driver could face manslaughter charges and receive jail time. Any conviction of the drunk driver will only help your case and could open the door for punitive damages for you. If the drunk driver had insurance (which is not a given in today’s society) as required by law, you may be able to file a wrongful death case for your emotional as well as your financial losses.
There may be an issue in your state about your minor daughter being a passenger on a motorcycle. And you didn’t mention whether she had a helmet. The helmet issue can loom large if that is a state law requirement or a requirement for the insurance to pay.
Most attorneys in injury cases use what is called a contingency fee. That is where the attorney takes a percentage of the settlement or award if they win, and you pay nothing to the attorney if they lose. Make sure you understand what you will receive if you win and what you may have to pay for if you lose.
Again, I am so deeply sorry about your loss.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., an organization that provides legal defense protection to the nation’s commercial drivers. Jim is a lawyer who focuses on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking, and he holds his Commercial Drivers License.