Alcoholic drink and car keys on a table

Who is legally responsible when a drunk driver causes a wreck?

Examining the law on drunk drivers in South Carolina

Here are some sobering statistics:

  • The South Carolina Department of Public Safety discovered that from 2013-2017 there were 28,235 DUI-related wrecks.
  • 231 children (14 and under) were killed in drunk-driving collisions in 2018.
  • In 2018, nearly 30% of all fatal wrecks involved a drunk driver.
  • South Carolina had a 14% increase in alcohol-related deaths from 2019 to 2020.
  • On average, a person dies every 39 minutes from a drunk-driving crash in the United States.

All of these deaths were preventable.

The drunk driver is obviously responsible, but others may also be liable

You don’t need law degree to know that if a person causes a wreck and injures people, they are legally responsible for their actions. Unfortunately, drunk driving collisions can be catastrophic and fatal. Far too often, the drunk driver does not have enough insurance coverage to fully and fairly compensate their victims.

Dram Shop Liability

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car wreck caused by an intoxicated driver, you may be eligible to pursue a dram shop liability case against the business or individual that served the alcohol to the driver. However, pursuing such a claim can be complex, and it’s essential to hire the right personal injury lawyer to help you navigate the process.

A dram shop liability claim arises from basic idea that an establishment or individual who serves alcohol can be held liable for any damage that results from the patron’s subsequent intoxication. The ability for victims to pursue claims against a business or individual who over-served someone have been around for nearly 200 years. The first case in South Carolina that allowed a victim to pursue a claim against a business that over-served a patron dates back to 1847. In most cases, these claims arise from drunk driving accidents, where the driver who caused the wreck was overserved or sold alcohol even though they were already intoxicated. Restaurants, bars, and businesses know that alcohol and driving don’t mix well, yet still choose to sell alcohol because it generates huge profits.

Hire an attorney that has experience handling dram shop claims

When it comes to pursuing a dram shop liability case in South Carolina, it’s essential to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands the state’s laws and regulations. The attorneys at Hatfield Temple have the experience litigating these cases and can investigate and gather evidence, identify potential liable parties, coordinate with witnesses and experts, and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. They can also help you understand the nuances of the law, explore potential damages and assist you with the complex legal process and investigation.

Moreover, the right personal injury lawyer can also serve as a source of support and guidance during what can be a challenging time. A compassionate attorney can help you focus on your physical and emotional recovery while they work diligently on ensuring that you receive just compensation for the damages and injuries caused. If a bar or restaurant over-served a customer, they may be responsible for helping pay for the victim’s medical expenses, property damage, future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Why would you pursue a claim against the bar or restaurant and not just the driver?

Restaurants, bars, and businesses know that alcohol and driving don’t mix well, yet still choose to sell alcohol because it generates huge profits. Additionally, you may not feel as if you have a choice. For example, if a drunk driver crosses over the centerline and hits you head-on you may end up having catastrophic injuries that keep you out of work for months. If the at-fault driver had the state’s minimum insurance policy limits, that would only provide for $25,000 in compensation. If the drunk-driver hurt more than two people, then that number may decrease as a minimum limits policy only has to provide for a total of $50,000 for all claims arising out of one wreck. With the rising costs in medical expenses, $25,000 may not even be enough to cover the Emergency Department bill. The bar or restaurant’s insurance policy can help by covering other medical expenses, lost wages, future medicals and other damages. After all, why should the victim suffer and deal with debt collectors if the bar or restaurant knowingly violated the law and put you at risk all so they can make more money?

Schedule a free consultation with a local South Carolina personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

In summary, pursuing a dram shop liability claim after a car wreck in South Carolina can be challenging, but it’s essential to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to help negotiate the legal complexities and obtain the compensation you deserve. As with any claim, speaking with an experienced attorney soon after your wreck may prevent the loss or destruction of crucial evidence. So, if you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys to explore your legal options.