Driving is risky business.
No matter how careful you are, there's always a chance that you will have an accident when you're piloting a two-ton hunk of steel. And, few things increase the likelihood of an accident more than a driver who is impaired by alcohol or other drugs.
Like the Myrtle Beach driver who police say was so intoxicated that he passed out behind the wheel after plowing into the rear of another vehicle earlier this year.
The driver "seemed disoriented," had trouble standing, and was unable to walk a straight line or follow directions when he was asked to take field sobriety tests, according to police.
When officers searched him, they found a white substance that the suspect identified as heroin. In his car, police found several pills that were determined to be benzodiazepines.
Drunk Drivers in SC Put Us All at Risk
You were out, doing your thing, driving your car and minding your own business. Then you see it coming - a car swerving all over the road. You realize that you can't do anything to get out of the way. The other vehicle slams into yours, and you get hurt, all because someone decided to drive drunk -- a common problem on South Carolina roads.
As the victim of a DUI-related crash, your suffering is likely to go beyond the physical damage done. It can take a significant toll on you emotionally and even hurt your bank account as well. Who's going to pay for all of this?
About a third of all traffic fatalities - more than 10,000 each year - are caused by impaired drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Tens of thousands more people are injured by drunk drivers every year.
How Can My Personal Injury Attorney Help?
When you are hurt by a drunk driver, the bills can start piling up fast.
Because impaired drivers are likely to be at fault in an accident and because juries don't have a lot of sympathy for them, your Myrtle Beach personal injury attorney stands a good chance of helping you recover these costs - and, possibly, punitive damages as well.
Insurance companies know this, and they will try to cut their losses by settling quickly. Don't fall for it - if you are hurt by a driver who was impaired by alcohol or other drugs, contact your SC DUI accident attorney before you even speak to insurance company representatives.
What Kind of Damages Can I Recover if a Drunk Driver Hit Me?
Your SC auto accident attorney can help you recover damages for:
- Medical bills and future medical costs;
- Missed wages;
- Future lost earnings;
- Pain and suffering;
- Property damage;
- Psychological trauma; and
- Any other compensable costs that arise from the accident.
You can collect these damages even if the other driver isn't convicted of DUI. In civil court, you don't have to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the at-fault driver was drunk - that is the standard in criminal court.
In a civil case, you must prove by "a preponderance of evidence" - a lower standard of proof that means "more likely than not" - that the driver's impairment caused the accident.
Punitive Damages in SC DUI Accidents
You can also seek punitive damages if you are injured by a drunk driver. When deciding whether to allow punitive damages, the court will consider the severity of your injuries, the defendant's liability for your injuries, the defendant's blood alcohol level, and whether the defendant has previous DUI convictions.
South Carolina has no limit on punitive damages when the defendant was impaired by alcohol or other drugs.
Wrongful Death Caused by a Drunk Driver
When a drunk driver kills someone, they are subject to criminal charges for felony DUI but they are also subject to a wrongful death action that your attorney will file on behalf of the survivors.
Who Do I Sue When a Drunk Driver Hits Me?
Depending on the facts of your case, there may be multiple defendants and multiple sources of recovery including the driver of the other car, the establishment that served the alcohol to them, and possibly the owner of the car that they were driving.
The first person that you may attempt to hold responsible following a DUI-related crash is the drunk driver. Not only will this person likely face criminal charges for the event, but they are also responsible for fully compensating you for the damage that they caused.
South Carolina has what is called "dram shop laws," which allow victims of drunk drivers, under the right circumstances, to sue the establishments who sold the defendant the alcohol. Dram shop liability requires:
- Proof that the establishment sold alcohol to the driver;
- Proof that the server knew that the driver was intoxicated at the time they sold them the alcohol; and
- Proof that the driver's impairment caused the accident.
The Owner of the Car...
South Carolina law also lets you sue the owner of the car that the drunk driver was in if they:
- Knew or should have known that the driver was an alcoholic or addicted to drugs;
- Knew or should have known that the driver was likely to drive while intoxicated; and
- Entrusted their vehicle to the driver anyway
For example, in Jackson v. Price, the SC Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict against the owner of a vehicle, who was also a passenger at the time of the accident, when the owner knew that the driver had three beers within an hour and a half of the accident and let him drive anyway (because the passenger had more to drink than the driver).
What if I Was a Passenger in the Car?
If you were a passenger in a car who was injured when a drunk driver crashed, you can also file suit against the driver of the car, the owner of the car, or the establishment that served the driver to recover damages for your injuries.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a SC car crash with a drunk driver, we want to help you recover full and fair compensation from every source of recovery that is available.