Charleston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer

When you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, you want justice any way that you can get it. Criminal consequences are only part of the accountability that the drunk driver can face. You can also pursue them for financial compensation, just like you would after any car accident in Charleston.

The amount of compensation can be considerable, but you have to go through the insurance company first. Trey Harrell Auto Accident & Personal Injury Lawyer can lead the fight for you as you seek the settlement check that you deserve.

Speak to our Charleston drunk driving accident lawyer today to begin your case.

Why Choose Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Trey Harrell for Your Case?

When you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, you are going through a difficult time. When it comes to the legal process, you need someone who will take the burden off you, while fighting for your legal rights. Trey Harrell Auto Accident & Personal Injury Attorney has built a reputation in Charleston through attentive service and diligent legal representation. We take the time to understand you and your situation before we move forward with your legal case.

How Does Alcohol Affect a Driver?

Roughly one in every six people admit to driving while intoxicated, and the real percentage is likely much higher. When a driver drinks and gets behind the wheel, it puts everyone around them on the road in danger.

Alcohol impacts practically everything that a driver does behind the wheel, including:

  • Slowing down reaction times
  • Blunting their alertness
  • Causing them to lose inhibitions
  • Affecting the driver’s judgment
  • Causing them to feel overconfident
  • Altering their depth perception
  • Making a driver drowsy
  • Reducing peripheral vision

The exact impact that the alcohol has depends on the particular driver and the amount of alcohol that they have consumed. Some drivers can even feel the effects of alcohol after only one drink.

There is a good reason why .08 is the level where a driver is presumed to be intoxicated. It is still possible for one to be guilty of driving under the influence with a lower blood alcohol content when they are showing the effects of the alcohol.

Drunk Driving Accident Injuries

Drunk driving accident injuries tend to be more serious than those suffered in other car accidents. These crashes occur at higher speeds and involve more reckless conduct. You cannot anticipate the drunk driver’s conduct to try to take any evasive action.

Drunk driving accident injuries include:

  • Fractures and broken bones
  • Internal injuries
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Soft tissue injuries

Chances are that the drunk driver may not be as seriously hurt as you were. When the body anticipates a sudden car accident, it tenses up in anticipation of the impact. The tensing can make your injuries worse. The drunk driver’s body does not experience the same sensation, due to the effects of the alcohol relaxing their nerves. However, you may have tensed your own body, causing you to suffer more serious injuries.

How Is a Drunk Driver Held Responsible?

The drunk driver can face a civil case, just the same as any other driver would. You can file a claim against the drunk driver’s insurance policy, or you can file a lawsuit against them in court.

You would have to prove negligence in a civil lawsuit. You do not necessarily have to prove that the driver was drunk in order to receive compensation. The action that injured you, such as veering from their lane, or speeding, is enough to make the driver negligent.

It may be helpful to obtain the drunk driver’s Breathalyzer or blood test results to strengthen your civil case. Our Charleston personal injury lawyer can subpoena these records if and when you file a lawsuit.

Drunk Driving Criminal vs. Civil Cases

A civil case, where you are seeking financial compensation, is its own separate legal proceeding.

The criminal prosecutor must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a high standard of proof that equates with 100% certainty. In a civil case, you must prove your contentions by a preponderance of the evidence, which means that your facts are more likely than not to have occurred.

It is possible for a drunk driver to be acquitted in a criminal case, but you can still win your civil case. Never make any assumptions about whether you can or cannot receive financial compensation.

You must still go through and try your civil case. The only way the criminal case can impact your civil case is if the driver pleads guilty. In reality, the driver will usually plead no contest when they reach an agreement with the prosecutor because it would not mean they are automatically liable in a civil case.

Obtaining a Financial Recovery in a Drunk Driving Case

Your first step would be to involve the drunk driver’s insurance company. Hopefully, the driver stopped at the scene, and you were able to obtain their insurance information. You could be paid up to the amount of their policy limit.

If the driver did not stop, or if they did not carry enough insurance coverage, you could also file a claim against your own car insurance policy. Hopefully, the combination of the two would be enough to pay for your damages. If not, the driver can be personally responsible in a judgment if you win your lawsuit.

South Carolina Dram Shop Liability

Unlike other states, there is no dram shop law on the books in South Carolina. However, it does not mean that liquor stores and establishments can escape liability when they continue to serve a visibly drunk patron.

In South Carolina, there are different ways to reach the wrongful conduct. You can file a lawsuit against the establishment that sold the alcohol using a common law negligence theory. Your lawsuit would rest on the premise that it is negligent to knowingly serve alcohol to a visibly impaired customer or to an underage customer. They would owe you a duty of care to stop serving those who are drunk because you would be the one affected by their conduct, even if you never set foot in their establishment.

You would need evidence that shows that the bar continued to serve a drunk patron. This evidence could be:

  • The receipts that showed exactly how much alcohol the patron consumed (excessive amounts could lead to a presumption they were drunk)
  • Security camera footage
  • Testimony from people who saw what happened at the bar

Bars must carry at least $1 million in liability insurance under South Carolina law. If the defendant does not have enough insurance coverage, you can go after their assets in a lawsuit.

Punitive Damages in a Drunk Driving Lawsuit

Punitive damages are not available in most car accident cases. These damages are reserved for situations in which the defendant has exhibited very reckless, indifferent or grossly negligent conduct. These descriptors more accurately fit a drunk driving accident, meaning that there is a possibility that you could possibly obtain punitive damages if your case goes to trial.

Only a jury can award punitive damages. An insurance company will not pay them to you in a settlement. The insurance company may be afraid of facing the jury, but it does not mean that they will be reasonable at first in settlement negotiations. Your lawyer would need to use the prospect of a trial to push them to offer you more in settlement discussions.

Contact a South Carolina Drunk Driving Accident Attorney

One of the first calls that you should make after you have been injured in any type of car accident is to an experienced lawyer. Even if it may seem easier to prove liability, you still need to fight for adequate compensation in your case. Trey Harrell Auto Accident & Personal Injury Attorney will handle your claim in a diligent and aggressive manner, holding the insurance company’s feet to the fire on your behalf when necessary.

You can schedule a free initial consultation by calling us today at 843-636-8739 or sending a message online. Trey helps by ensuring you owe us nothing unless you win your case.

FAQs About Drunk Driving Cases

Is distracted driving worse than drunk driving?

It is hard to say which dangerous habit is worse behind the wheel. Distracted driving takes a motorist’s eyes off the road for a period of time completely. Drunk driving slows the driver’s responses and lowers their inhibitions to the point where their behavior is far riskier.

How long do you have to file a lawsuit against a drunk driver?

South Carolina has a statute of limitations, which controls the amount of time that you have to file a lawsuit. You have three years from the date of your injury to file your civil case. However, there is no reason to wait that long to begin the legal process.

Can someone be liable if they let a person drive drunk?

Someone may be civilly and liable if they knowingly let a person drive their car while drunk under the legal theory of negligent entrustment.

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