My son was recently involved in a vehicle accident this past Father's Day where the car he was in flipped, rolled over and crashed into a tree, landing upside down. His step sister was driving; she is 19 and he is 18. She lives full-time with her mom and he lives with me & my husband. The story is this: She took him to a local bar that is known to serve minors drinks; they were drinking for nearly 4 hours. My step daughter was taken to the hospital and sustained minor bruises from the impact to her left shoulder/arm and injury to her ego. She was released later the same day. There was another boy in the passenger seat, who came out without a scratch. However, although he didn’t go to the hospital, my son came out the worst with large abrasions above his left eye & temple of his face (it’ll leave scars), and he was complaining that his neck and left side of his head was sore, but not in the area of the abrasion. Just 2 months ago, my son was in another solo vehicle accident, and fractured one of his vertebrae in his neck. I want to find out if I have a case to go after the owner of the bar for serving my underage son drinks, and my stepdaughter’s mother’s insurance for injuries and damages to include the scars, and possibly the aggravated injury to his neck and head?My step daughter's mother's insurance company called my husband yesterday and they asked how my son was doing. My husband told them about the other accident he had, and that my son has a follow up appointment with his orthopedic doctor for his neck this week. Not sure, but my son may have had a slight concussion as well, so I was watching him these past few days just in case.Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
State/Country relating to question: Hawaii
I hope this message finds you well, present circumstances excluded. I will address your questions in the order in which they appeared.
Can you go after the bar or the owner of the bar for serving alcohol to your minor son?
The answer to that is yes...actually yes on two fronts. You can go after him civilly by filing a suit against him for negligence. You may also be able to go after him criminally by going to the local law enforcement and signing an affidavit against the owner of the bar for serving alcohol to a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
In the civil action, you will need to hire an attorney to represent you and your son against the bar for negligence that contributed to your son's accident. Obviously, in the criminal setting you can file charges with local law enforcement and you may want to speak with an assistant district attorney in the district attorney's office that would prosecute the crime.
Can you go after the step-daughter's mother's insurance for injuries and damages to your son?
Once again the answer is yes. Like the civil action against the bar, you will need to hire an attorney to represent you and your son in a suit against the insurance carrier for the damages and injuries, present and those that may persist in the future. Best case scenario, you can find an attorney to represent you in separate actions against the bar and the insurer since the attorney will be familiar with both sets of facts and it will likely therefore be cheaper.
Legally speaking, you are more likely to win or settle with the insurance company than against the bar. However, I think you have a decent chance of succeeding against the bar as well. Since your son was not driving, the chances of success against the bar are a little less than against the insurer.
Even so, I would highly urge you pursue the actions on all three fronts: (1) civil suit versus the bar; (2) civil suit versus the insurer if they are not willing to pay appropriate damages without suit; and (3) filing criminal charges against the bar.
I wish you guys the best and appreciate the opportunity to assist with this important matter.
What about punitive damages? Would an attorney automatically try to push for this against the bar owner/establishment?
Yes. The attorney will always ask for punitive damages and attorney fees. If you can illustrate that the owner's actions are egregious and widespread and are a public issue, you will be in line for punitives as well as attorney fees.
Exeperienced Civil Litigator for both Plaintiffs and Defendants
DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on JustAnswer are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains.
The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).