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Have You Been Injured by an Intoxicated Driver in Charleston?
If a drunk driver injures you in Charleston, contact the Charleston drunk driver attorneys at Hughey Law Firm for a free consultation today.
According to the NHTSA, in 2013, alcohol-impaired crashes accounted for 31% of all traffic fatalities in the United States. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes. See full article here. Drivers who are impaired by alcohol or drugs are a danger to everyone around them including other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists and even to themselves.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident in which the at-fault driver was found to have consumed alcohol, there are claims that may be filed on your behalf other than those against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance and your underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance coverage. If the at-fault driver became intoxicated at a public venue such as a restaurant or bar, you may have a claim to recover for your injuries against that venue under South Carolina’s “dram shop” liability. You may also have a claim against a private party, known as a social host, for allowing the at-fault driver to consume alcohol while a minor under age 21. As these claims are highly technical and often require a great deal of resources to prosecute, it is likely in your best interest to seek experienced legal representation to obtain full compensation for all your damages.
How a Charleston Drunk Driving Accident Injury Lawyer Can Help You?
A Charleston drunk driver accident lawyer can help you in many ways. An attorney can start by providing valuable advice about your case, and, if you both choose, they can move on to represent you and manage the nuts and bolts of your case. From disruptive insurance adjuster calls to legal paperwork, your lawyer can work on your behalf.
A lawyer can dispel uncertainty you may have about your claim. For instance, you may wonder whether you can bring a claim if the drunk driver is criminally prosecuted—the answer is no. A civil action is your right and completely separate from their criminal case. A Charleston drunk driving accident lawyer will understand the law and limitations applicable to your case
Your lawyer has your best interests in mind—the insurance companies you’ll look to for compensation do not. By relying on your attorney’s experience, you have someone on your side who knows how to counter insurance company tactics designed to confuse accident victims and avoid obligating them to pay out claims.
For instance, you might get a quick offer from an insurer for what seems like a lot of money. It might seem too good to be true—it is. To put it more specifically, this offer isn’t truly what you deserve for your injuries. Insurance companies offer quick settlements to avoid paying out more, to avoid paying out what victims deserve.
However, insurance companies generally do not want claims to drag on, and certainly want to avoid the time and expense of going to trial. If you have a lawyer, they’re likely to bump up their settlement offer. Most personal injury cases result in an out-of-court settlement. How much you settle for depends on a lot of things, one being whether or not you have an experienced drunk driving accident attorney on your side.
How an Experienced Charleston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Can Help You Fight for Compensation?
The shock of a sudden and traumatic Charleston drunk driving accident can confuse you and leave you wondering about how to move on. Waking up in a trauma center after an air ambulance ride is a frightening experience.
As reality about your situation sinks in, you may feel anxious and alone. Fear about your future and how to pay your bills can keep you awake at night when all you need is rest. Seeking the help of a Charleston drunk driving accident lawyer can take much of this burden away.
Time is not on your side, and neither are insurance companies who seek to settle your claim quickly. However, a Charleston lawyer can stand firm to help hold insurance companies accountable for fair compensation.
The legal process for a Charleston drunk driving accident claim is challenging and not one you should attempt alone, especially while recovering from a drunk driving accident. A lawyer not only knows the process but can provide passionate advocacy for you while you focus on healing.
Our Charleston drunk driving accidents work on a contingency fee basis, so we only collect legal fees if we win your case. There are no upfront costs or deposits necessary for retaining our lawyers.
Contact our Charleston drunk driving accident lawyers today for help with your case.
Charleston Drunk Driving Accident FAQs
Despite the known risks of drunk driving, some still take the risk. Unfortunately, stricter laws and increased public safety campaigns have not deterred those who put lives in jeopardy by attempting to drive home after drinking. If a drunk driver injures you in Charleston, contact the Charleston drunk driver accident attorneys at Hughey Law Firm to start looking into your options to recover compensation for your accident injuries. The following frequently asked questions might help you as you explore your legal options:
Why Do Some People Drink and Drive?
People drive drunk for all kinds of reasons. Researchers have found that alcohol releases endorphins in the brain, making a person feel good. In their intoxicated state, people may then believe that a serious accident will never happen to them.
Even given the prevalence of rideshare services, such as Uber or Lyft, to provide a safe way home, some choose to take the chance and drive. Maybe they drove to the bar and don’t want to leave their car unattended. Maybe they don’t want to pay the fare for a cab or rideshare service.
Drinking impairs judgment, so while these reasons don’t seem adequate to a sober mind, they may for someone under the influence of alcohol. With often devastating consequences. A serious drunk driving accident can result in traumatic injuries to the drunk driver and others on the road.
What Damages Can You Expect from a Charleston Drunk Driving Accident?
“Damages” is the legal term for compensation in personal injury cases. The types of damages in your Charleston drunk driving case may differ from another drunk driving accident.
However, upon an investigation and review of your accident, a lawyer may pursue:
- Emergency medical costs: Medical costs are typically a primary source of damages in drunk driving accident cases; you may recover damages for emergency medical expenses following the accident, from EMS transport to immediate emergency treatment fees.
- Long-term medical costs: Drunk driving accidents often result in serious injuries, which require long-term rehabilitation, medications, and more.
- Loss of pay and future earnings: Your injuries may prevent you from returning to work, temporarily or permanently, resulting in substantial lost pay.
- Pain and suffering: The overall impact of the accident on your quality of life.
Your lawyer can explain the kinds of damages you can claim in your Charleston drunk driving accident case. A certain amount of compensation is never guaranteed, and the kinds of compensation you recover can be hard to predict. However, if you suffered serious harm due to the careless actions of a Charleston drunk driver, you may be able to recover substantial compensation.
What Injuries May I Seek Compensation in a Charleston Drunk Driving Accident Case?
A Charleston drunk driving accident claim is about more than physical injuries. Victims may recover compensation for other impacts they experience, like lost wages and pain and suffering. Still, severe injuries are common in drunk driving accidents, and damages for these injuries often make up a substantial portion of a victim’s compensation.
These injuries typically include a long recovery or involve a permanent injury:
- Spinal cord injury;
- Traumatic brain injury;
- Internal injuries;
- Broken bones;
A serious drunk driving accident can also result in emotional and psychological harm that requires therapy and counseling. In addition, the trauma of the impact and the physical effects of your injuries can affect you the rest of your life, down to the most minute daily tasks.
A drunk driver’s decision to get behind the wheel is irresponsible and demands accountability. Furthermore, your injuries are unfair and worthy of pursuing compensation with the help of a licensed, professional attorney.
What if the Driver Is Not Legally Drunk?
Even if a driver passes field, blood, and/or breath tests—for purposes of falling below the criminal standard for blood alcohol content—they may still face civil action for your injuries.
Research shows that drivers sometimes may become impaired at as little as 0.02 BAC.
As the alcohol amount increases, the following typically decrease:
- Visual function;
- Reaction time.
These are just a few examples of how alcohol affects a driver before reaching the legal limit. And they do not wait around for a person to get to 0.08 BAC to kick in. If someone chooses to drink and drive, they put others at risk, even at a low BAC. And, if they cause injuries as a result, they may be held accountable for damages. To take the first step toward pursuing justice in your drunk driving accident case contact Hughey Law firm for a free case evaluation.
Why Must I Act Quickly?
You may be aware that the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit in South Carolina is three years.
You might not know why you must get a start on your claim much sooner than the week before the three-year mark.
When you delay:
- Evidence becomes lost;
- Eyewitnesses become reluctant, forgetful, or impossible to locate;
- The statute of limitations nears, taking away time to settle a case without having to file a lawsuit.
If the statute of limitations expires before you file your drunk driving accident lawsuit, there is no second chance. The time starts the day of your accident. The whirlwind of events that follow—from multiple doctor appointments and procedures to ongoing treatments—can make three years pass by quickly. Your medical care schedule can leave you no time to think about your legal options.
The bills will not wait, and neither should you wait to pursue justice and hold those responsible for the accident accountable for your damages. A lawyer can take the weight of this burden off of you and make sure your claim moves along while you focus on your medical recovery.
Can I Share Information About My Accident on Social Media?
No. You should not share information about your accident on social media. While it may serve as a way to update multiple friends and family at once, it could come back to bite you. Unfortunately, a defendant or their insurer might try to twist anything you post publicly against you.
Photographs of the accident scene, information about your injuries, and other shared details may land in the wrong hands. An insurance company may use your post or anything related to it against you to blame you for the accident or downplay your injuries.
Limiting yourself to telling about the accident verbally to your closest family is generally a good idea to start, and one that can protect your case.
What Do I Do If a Charleston Drunk Driving Killed a Loved One?
According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA), one person dies every 52 minutes in the United States due to a drunk driver. The loss of a loved one in a drunk driving accident may qualify you for pursuing a wrongful death claim and lawsuit. A Charleston lawyer can determine if you qualify for compensation.
Drunk driving is preventable, and any driver who killed your loved one should pay for your damages. The death of a spouse may call for damages to reimburse lost income, funeral costs, and the loss of companionship.
As with personal injury cases, you must file your Charleston wrongful death case within the statute of limitations. The same deadline of three years for personal injury cases applies to wrongful death cases. Filing your case as soon as possible is imperative for building a strong argument for fair compensation.
What Can I Do to Protect My Legal Rights in a Charleston Drunk Driving Accident Case?
In addition to not posting accident information on social media, you can help your drunk driving accident case by providing your lawyer with your evidence.
These items may help your lawyer as they investigate your accident:
- A copy of the official police report: This report may contain important details, including charges against the responsible driver.
- Photos of the accident scene: Images of the crash are sometimes a valuable tool in proving negligence.
- Contact information for witnesses: Your lawyer may want to interview bystanders concerning what they witnessed.
- Information regarding your injuries and your medical bills.
- Information regarding wages you lost as a result of the accident and other information relating to your inability to work due to the accident.
The top priority for you after a Charleston drunk driving accident is your health and recovery. If your injuries are too severe for you to gather the above pieces of evidence, a lawyer can find it later. Although, anything you have on hand for your lawyer can help speed along the claim process.
No one expects to be caught in a drunk driving accident. An out-of-control drunk driver gives you no warning and no way to go to escape serious injury. Work with an experienced Charleston drunk driving accident attorney to pursue the compensation you deserve.
What Should I Do if a Drunk Driver Hits Me in Charleston?
If you are physically able, call the police as soon as possible so they come to the scene of the accident. Law enforcement will arrive, gather information and do a preliminary investigation of the accident. While you are waiting, use your time to exchange contact and insurance information, and also get contact information from any eyewitnesses. It’s also in your best interest to use your cell phone to take pictures of damage and any visible injuries. In severe accidents, emergency response teams typically arrive, and you might be transported to the nearest hospital via ambulance. If you refused medical treatment at the scene, you need to get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that alcohol affects people differently; some become angry and belligerent. You may not immediately notice whether the other driver has been drinking, so you should always proceed with caution. If you are able to move from your vehicle, you should make sure emergency services are on their way if the other driver is trapped in his car. Yet, unless the driver specifically addresses you, don’t strike up a conversation. Wait until law enforcement arrives. If the driver is angry and screaming at you, stay in your car, if it is safe, until others arrive.
How Can I Recover Damages After a Charleston DUI Accident?
South Carolina is a tort liability state, which means that insurance companies assign fault when a car accident occurs. When one of the drivers in an accident gets a DUI, they have a higher chance of being held liable. Your first step in recovering damages is to file an insurance claim with your carrier, who will seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s carrier. In severe accidents, it’s not uncommon for medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses to exceed policy limits. In these cases, you will need to file a personal injury suit against the at-fault driver with the help of a qualified attorney. If a court rules in your favor, you have a good chance of recovering losses not covered by insurance.
Will the Court Award Punitive Damages in a Charleston DUI Accident Case?
In personal injury cases, a court awards punitive damages to punish the defendant and deter them from repeating the same negligent behaviors. Punitive damages rare and courts only award them in cases of intentional harm and extreme cases of gross negligence. Whether or not you receive punitive damages depends on the details of your case and the circumstances surrounding the intoxicated driver.
The Drunk Driver Who Hit Me Doesn’t Have Insurance, Now What?
Under South Carolina law, motorists must carry uninsured motorist coverage at the same level required for liability insurance. South Carolina drivers must have $25,000 bodily injury liability per person, $50,000 per incident, and $25,000 property damage liability in case they are involved in an accident. Uninsured motorist coverage will cover you for a drunk driver without insurance, and if the driver leaves the scene of the accident. Without this coverage, you would face paying for expenses and damages out of your own pocket.
Can I Sue the Bar Where the Drunk Driver Was Drinking Before He Hit Me?
Most states have a Dram Shop law that exists to prevent bars, restaurants, clubs, and other social hosts from serving alcohol to intoxicated persons and those who are younger than 21. South Carolina does not have an explicit Dram Shop law, but existing alcohol control laws provide an avenue to prosecute or sue a liable party. It is illegal to knowingly serve alcohol to any intoxicated person or a underage patrons or guests. If you can prove that an establishment knew someone was intoxicated, or reasonably should have known by the number of drinks consumed, and the person causes an accident and injury, the establishment will typically be liable for damages. The same applies for serving underage patrons or guests, and for social hosts who serve alcohol at a private party.
How Long Do I Have to Take Legal Action Against the Driver Who Hit Me?
Under South Carolina law, you have three years to initiate a lawsuit from the date of your accident. In rare cases, the court might extend the statute of limitations. For example, if the drunk driver left the state after the accident, but before you initiated your lawsuit, the court might stop the clock until the defendant returned to South Carolina.
I’m Partially to Blame for the Accident Even Though the Other Driver Was Drunk. Can I Still Sue for Damages?
South Carolina applies comparative negligence to personal injury lawsuits. Once a South Carolina court hears a personal injury case and determines the defendant was negligent, they assign a percentage portion of fault to each party named in the lawsuit. If the court finds you are partially at fault for the accident, they will reduce any awarded damages accordingly. If the court finds you are 50 percent or more at fault, South Carolina law prohibits you from collecting damages.
I Was Riding in a Car With a Drunk Driver and Injured After an Accident. Can I Sue?
Yes. You face the risk of the court possibly assigning some fault to you for getting into a motor vehicle with an impaired driver, but if the driver caused an accident and you were injured, you can file a claim under South Carolina law.
South Carolina’s Dram Shop (Alcohol) Liability Explained
Unlike some states, South Carolina does not have a specific dram shop act or statute in place regulating this field of tort liability. Instead, a series of South Carolina Supreme Court decisions cemented our state’s recognition of the moral reprehensibility associated with drunk driving and a willingness to punish all those involved with a terrible act.
In these cases, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that establishments licensed to sell alcoholic beverages may be civilly liable for violations of criminal statutes. See Tobias v. Sports Clubs, Inc., 332 S.C. 90, 92, 504 S.E.2d 318, 319 (1998).
One common statutory violation resulting in civil liability occurs when a restaurant or bar knowingly serves an intoxicated patron. See, Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge and Grill, Inc., 388 S.C. 407, 697 S.E.2d 558 (2010). A restaurant or bar can also be held civilly liable for serving a minor. In these two instances, statutes that may have been violated include:
South Carolina Code Ann. §61-4-580: Prohibited Acts
(A) No holder of a permit authorizing the sale of beer or wine or a servant, agent, or employee of the permit may knowingly commit any of the following acts upon the licensed premises covered by the holder’s permit:
- sell beer or wine to a person under twenty-one years of age
- sell beer or wine to an intoxicated person.
South Carolina Code Ann. §61-6-4080: Sale to Person Under The Age of Twenty-One Years
(A) A person engaged in the sale of alcoholic liquors who knowingly sell alcoholic liquors to a person under the age of twenty-one is guilty of a misdemeanor.
South Carolina Code Ann. §61-6-2220. Sales To Intoxicated Persons.
A person or establishment licensed to sell alcoholic liquors or liquor by the drink pursuant to this article may not sell these beverages to persons in an intoxicated condition; these sales are considered violations of the provisions thereof and are subject to the penalties herein.
In South Carolina, any patron with a blood alcohol content greater than 0.08 (>.08 BAC) may be considered intoxicated. The jury will be instructed that they may, therefore, infer that patron was knowingly served while intoxicated.
How Our Charleston Drunk Driver Accident Lawyers Can Help You
At Hughey Law Firm, our team of lawyers uses any and all available resources to discover the extent of your claim, including accident re-constructionists, private investigators, dram shop liability expert witnesses, medical experts, and more. Since our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, we will front the costs to prosecute your claim and won’t recoup these costs unless we are able to recover a monetary award from the at-fault parties or their insurance companies. Our lawyers have all the necessary experience to effectively prosecute all of your claims to the fullest extent of the law to obtain a just reward for your injuries suffered as the result of a drunk driving auto accident.
Contact us today for a free consultation to review your case and determine if retaining a Charleston drunk driving accident lawyer is in your best interest.