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Under-Age Drinking and Under-Insurance Coverage

In a recent settlement, the estate of a 21 year old settled with several defendants and obtained a default judgment against the others. An eighteen year old driver left a party hosted by a friend and consumed alcohol while there. After leaving, she struck and killed the 21 year old man.  The estate of the deceased brought suit against the driver, the hosts of the party, and against the convenience stores which sold the alcohol to minors that used fake ids. The 18 year old only had $200,000.00 of coverage which was paid to the estate, and a judgment in the amount of $6 Million dollars was obtained against the host parents. The convenience stores apparently settled for approximately $250,000.

A couple important lessons can be learned from this lawsuit.

  • First and foremost, do not buy or allow your children or their friends to drink if they are underage.
  • Second, make sure your insurance coverage that you have on your family members’ vehicles includes coverage for both under-insured and uninsured.

Most policy holders have uninsured, which is the situation if your vehicle is struck by someone without insurance. However, your company may not offer you “under-insurance”, which is the situation where the at-fault driver strikes your vehicle and injures you, but has coverage which is insufficient to cover your medical expenses.

Under-insurance coverage protects you and your family in the unfortunate event someone injures you or a loved one. It is recommended that you have at least one-million dollars of coverage for 1) your liability, 2) uninsured, and 3) under-insurance. When you speak with your agent and discuss your rates, you’ll notice that this add coverage does not often substantially increase your premiums.

With recent changes in North Carolina law, it is extremely difficult to hold a convenience store or bar / restaurant liable for its patrons, even though most commercial policies have coverage well into to the six figures.

In the case referenced above, it can be gathered from the facts that the family of the deceased will only recover the $200,000.00 paid from the insurance company, as it is unlikely that the parents (hosts of the party) have the capability to write a check for $6 Million dollars, and will likely file bankruptcy. As you can tell, the amount the family recovered is nowhere close the amount of compensation deserved for the loss of a loved one, especially one so young.

In the unlikely event that you or a loved one has been injured as a result of another driver, please give us a call so that we can assist.


This article was written by attorney Ron Trimyer, feel free to email me at ron@mastfirm.com.