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Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
A state senator facing charges of DUI and lying to police is now being sued for the damages he allegedly caused by driving drunk.
The Senator is alleged to have crashed his Mercedes-Benz into the rear of an SUV on I-26 in November. He and his wife were charged with providing false information to police, in addition to the senator’s DUI charges, because they claimed that the wife was driving although at least one witness saw them switch seats…
“I’ve just been told to keep my mouth shut about it and see what comes out in court,” he said. “I think we’ve got a pretty good case.”
If the DUI victim who filed the lawsuit can show that the senator was driving, that he was under the influence (his BAC was .09), and that she was damaged as a result, it sounds like she might be the one with a good case…
As an example of the reputational damage a SC DUI charge can cause, the lawmaker has been publicly urged to resign by a conservative political action group. The incident, including the arrest and charges for lying to the police, have been widely reported on media sites and blogs across the state.
A DUI can be an embarrassing career-ender for anyone – even a powerful politician – but the damage does not end there. When the drunk driver causes an accident and people are injured, their charges can be upgraded to what is called felony DUI in SC, and they are liable for all damage that they caused to the other vehicle’s driver and passengers – including punitive damages.
Personal injury lawsuits are filed – and are often successful – after all kinds of car crashes. But when a drunk driver is involved, the success of a lawsuit is more likely.
A drunk driver is much more likely to be found at-fault, and – as insurance companies know – much less likely to be sympathetic in the eyes of a jury.
The plaintiff in a DUI crash case can recover medical expenses, future medical costs, pain and suffering, psychological damages, lost wages and other elements of damages depending on the nature and severity of the injuries.
These damages can be recovered even if the defendant is not convicted of DUI. In civil court, where this kind of lawsuit is filed, the standard of proof is lower than it is in criminal court. Rather than proving guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” as must be done in criminal court, the plaintiff in a civil case must prove their case by “a preponderance of the evidence,” or “more likely than not.”
In South Carolina, people injured by drunk drivers are also allowed to seek punitive damages.
The standard of proof for punitive damages is “clear and convincing evidence,” and lies somewhere between the level required for a criminal conviction and for civil liability. The plaintiff would have to prove the defendant’s actions were willful, wanton, or reckless to win punitive damages.
In South Carolina, punitive damages awards are almost always limited to three times the compensatory damages or $500,000. But, when the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, there is no cap on punitive damages.
If you or a family member were victims of a drunk driver, you should contact a SC personal injury lawyer who has experience suing drunk drivers immediately – do not give any statements to the other driver’s insurance company and do not sign any documents until you have consulted with your attorney.
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