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If you have been hurt in a drunk driving accident in South Carolina, you may be able to file a claim against the at-fault driver. In addition, you can potentially sue the bar or restaurant that over-served the drunk driver under our state’s dram shop laws. Through this type of personal injury lawsuit, you can recover financial compensation for your property damage, lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Based in Simpsonville, the Derrick Law Office represents injury victims who have been hurt in all types of accidents – including DUI crashes. We offer free initial consultations and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. Reach out to our law firm to schedule an appointment with a South Carolina drunk driving accident attorney.
Can I File a Lawsuit for a South Carolina Drunk Driving Accident?
Most personal injury cases are based on a theory of negligence. This legal concept means that a person was careless in some way. An example of negligence might be a driver who speeds or someone who doesn’t look before merging onto a highway.
In some cases, a personal injury claim is based on intentional or reckless conduct. Drunk driving cases fall into this category. If the drunk driver is found to have acted intentionally or recklessly, you can recover financial compensation from them.
South Carolina also has a negligence per se law. Generally, the accident victim (plaintiff) is required to prove that the at-fault party was negligent. However, if the crash was caused because the other driver (defendant) broke a law, then negligence is presumed.
To prove negligence per se, a plaintiff must show three things: (1) that the defendant violated a law; (2) that the purpose of the law is to protect from the kind of harm that occurred; and (3) the plaintiff is a member of the class of people that the law was intended to protect. Here, DUI laws are designed to prevent drunk driving accidents and to protect the general public from the dangers of drunk drivers. If a plaintiff can prove that the at-fault driver was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs at the time of the crash, they will likely be able to have the doctrine of negligence per se applied to the case.
Importantly, if you were hurt in a drunk driving accident, you may also be able to sue a bar and/or restaurant under South Carolina’s dram shop liability rules. These laws provide that if an establishment is responsible for getting a person drunk, then they can be held financially responsible for any harm that results. Generally, you will need to prove that the restaurant or bar over-served a patron, as South Carolina law prohibits knowingly serving alcohol to a patron who is intoxicated.
Liability in drunk driving cases is often more straightforward than in other types of car accident claims. However, there can still be complexities – such as figuring out whether a bar, tavern, club or even a social host can be held responsible for a drunk driving crash. If you have any questions about whether you can file a lawsuit against a person who caused your accident, reach out to a South Carolina personal injury lawyer to schedule a free consultation.
Compensation in a DUI Crash Case
In a typical personal injury case based on negligence, you can recover financial compensation for your losses. This includes two types of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic damages. In drunk driving cases, you may also be entitled to a third type of compensation – punitive damages.
Economic damages cover an injury victim’s direct financial losses. This may include property damage, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, medical expenses, and future medical treatment. These damages are usually proven through documentation like medical bills, invoices, estimates, and pay stubs.
Non-economic damages pay for intangible losses – the type of losses that aren’t easy to document but are no less serious or important. Examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, scarring, and disfigurement. Noneconomic damages are often a crucial part of making an accident victim “whole” again.
Both economic and non-economic damages are available in personal injury cases that are based on a theory of negligence. When a claim involves intentional or reckless conduct, however – such as in a drunk driving accident – then you may also be eligible for punitive damages. These damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
In South Carolina, punitive damages are subject to a cap. In most personal injury claims, punitive damages are limited to the greater of compensatory damages (economic plus noneconomic damages) or $500,000. A jury awards punitive damages.
Finally, if a loved one dies as a result of a drunk driving accident in South Carolina, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This claim is filed by the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate, to recover damages on behalf of their surviving family members (such as a surviving spouse and children, parents, and/or other heirs). Damages in a drunk driving wrongful death action may include money for funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, loss of financial support and benefits, pain and suffering, loss of the deceased person’s care, companionship, and protection, and loss of the deceased person’s experience, knowledge, and judgment.
Why Should I Hire a South Carolina Drunk Driving Accident Attorney?
In a drunk driving case, liability is often straightforward. This is particularly true if the drunk or drugged driver is arrested and charged with a DUI. In this situation, you may wonder if it is worth it to hire a lawyer – especially if an insurance adjuster has already approached you and told you that they accept responsibility for the crash.
In almost every case, you should be represented by an attorney – even if there is no question as to who was at fault. The simple fact is that the insurance company isn’t on your side, and doesn’t want you to get the most possible money for your claim. After all, any settlement that you get comes out of their profits – so their goal is to resolve the case for as little money as possible.
In the days and weeks after a drunk driving accident, you will probably be approached by an insurance adjuster who will ask you to make a statement or sign papers. They may even offer you a settlement. You should never talk to the at-fault driver’s insurance company without consulting with a lawyer.
Remember: anything that you say to the adjuster can be used against you. Even if the adjuster seems nice, they will be carefully asking questions and picking apart your words to try to assign some level of fault to you. For example, if you admit that you were looking at your phone when the accident occurred, the insurance company may use this fact to try to reduce your settlement amount through South Carolina’s comparative negligence laws.
Studies show that people who are represented by counsel recover significantly more than people who represent themselves in personal injury claims. On average, people who have an attorney recover 40% more than people without representation in personal injury cases.
Having an attorney by your side means that you have someone who knows South Carolina law and is skilled at negotiations. Your lawyer will thoroughly investigate the case, interviewing witnesses, analyzing medical records, reviewing police reports, and seeking out photos and videos of the accident scene to determine who may be at fault. In a drunk driving accident, this may also include a social host or business owner based on dram shop liability.
After the investigation is complete, your attorney will research South Carolina law to put together a strong claim for damages. This typically includes working with expert witnesses to ensure that you get the money that you deserve for both your economic and noneconomic damages. They will also take the possibility of punitive damages into account, which can be a strong negotiation tool.
Insurance companies typically don’t want to take a personal injury claim to trial. This is particularly true with a drunk driving case, where jurors are unlikely to be sympathetic to their insured – and where the possibility of punitive damages is on the table. Your South Carolina drunk driving accident attorney understands this reality – and will use it to help you get maximum compensation for your injuries.
Initial offers from insurance companies are almost always lowball offers. If you accept the offer, then you may need more money to cover the full scope of your losses. To avoid this scenario and to protect your interests in a drunk driving accident case, you should always consult with a lawyer – and you should never give a statement or sign anything without talking to an attorney first.
Being in any type of motor vehicle accident can be traumatic, and can leave long-lasting physical and mental scars. While money won’t make you whole again, it can go a long way towards giving you the financial stability that you need to move forward. It can also help you achieve some measure of justice against a person who acted recklessly and caused a great deal of harm.
The idea of hiring a lawyer may be a bit scary, particularly if you are worried about money. Fortunately, personal injury law firms typically work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay nothing upfront. Instead, if your lawyer recovers money for you, a percentage of the settlement or verdict at trial will be paid to them as an attorney’s fee.
Contingency fee arrangements ensure that anyone can hire a lawyer, regardless of their financial situation. They also align your interests with your attorney’s, as you both want to recover as much money as possible – as quickly as possible. With this type of fee agreement, you don’t have to worry about how you will pay a legal bill – you can just focus on your recovery and your loved ones.
Hurt in a Drunk Driving Collision? Give Our Law Firm a Call.
Drunk driving is against the law in all 50 states and is punishable by jail time, fines, and even the loss of driving privileges. Despite these harsh penalties, far too many people still get behind the wheel after drinking or using drugs – which hurts and kills thousands of South Carolinians each year. If you have been hurt in a drunk driving accident, our legal team is here for you.
The Derrick Law Office is a fierce advocate for the rights of injury victims. We work hard to help our clients get the best possible outcome for their case, whether we negotiate a settlement or take the case to trial to ask a jury to return a verdict in your favor. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a South Carolina drunk driving accident lawyer, give us a call at 864-531-7765 or fill out our online contact form.