New SC Law Requires Liquor Liability Insurance

Personal Injuries

If you are involved in an accident or incident in South Carolina in which alcohol is involved, multiple parties may be held liable and owe you just compensation for your injuries.  For instance, imagine a scenario in which a person is injured in a car crash with an at-fault drunk driver.  The obvious liable party is the intoxicated driver, as he was at-fault for the accident.  In South Carolina however, the injured party may also have a claim against the establishment (bar, restaurant, etc.) that served the driver alcohol prior to the accident under a theory called “dram shop” law.

Although not recognized by statute in South Carolina, dram shop claims have evolved throughout the years by South Carolina Supreme Court decisions.  Of particular importance was the Court’s ruling in Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge and Grill, Inc., in which the Court held that a bar violated South Carolina state law by serving alcohol to a “visibly intoxicated” adult and thus can be held liable for injuries the intoxicated adult caused to others.  A “visibly intoxicated” adult is one who a reasonable person knew or should have known the adult was intoxicated, often in light of the person’s behaviors or a blood-alcohol test.

While South Carolina courts recognize the liability of establishments who over-serve their patrons, there previously had been no requirement for establishments to insure themselves for alcohol-related incidents.  Due to this lack of mandated risk mitigation, injured persons were often left without proper means to recover expenses incurred from injuries caused by intoxicated individuals, such as medical bills or lost wages.  Essentially, bars and restaurants were allowed to over-serve patrons without adequately insuring themselves in the event any of their intoxicated patrons drove drunk or assaulted someone.

However, this has changed with the South Carolina legislature’s passing of a new law requiring establishments licensed or permitted to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption after 5:00 P.M. to maintain liquor liability insurance of at least $1 million.  The law, which takes effect on July 1, 2017, applies to both new applicants for liquor permits and licenses, as well as those renewing permits or licenses.  Injured persons should now have the ability to hold liable all parties who were responsible for their alcohol-related injuries.

At Hughey Law Firm, we have represented numerous clients who were injured due to the negligence of both intoxicated individuals and the establishments that over-served them.  Oftentimes, these cases are legally complex due to the severity of the injuries frequently resulting from alcohol-related incidents, as well as the multiple defendants and insurance policies with which you have to navigate and prove liability.  It may be in your best interest to contact an experienced personal injury if you were involved in an accident where alcohol may have been a contributing factor.