Much of the attention in a drunk driving case is devoted to punishing the responsible driver. South Carolina makes it illegal to drive impaired or with a blood alcohol content over .08. The state would punish the driver even more severely if they caused serious bodily injury or death.
However, there is still an injured motorist involved in the crash and perhaps passengers too. They may have suffered serious injuries and be dealing with high costs associated with their accident.
The Civil Lawsuit Is Separate From the Criminal Process
You can still file a lawsuit against the driver, even if the state has charged them criminally. The civil and criminal processes are largely separate in a drunk driving case. If the defendant pleads guilty to the drunk driving charges, it can be used as evidence in your case.
However, if they are acquitted, it does not mean the end of your civil case because there are two different standards of proof:
- A criminal case requires the prosecutor to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
- A civil case requires the plaintiff to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence.
The burden of proof in a civil case is lower. Therefore, what happens in a criminal case will not necessarily dictate the result of your civil case. Nonetheless, we will closely monitor the criminal proceedings to learn if there is anything helpful for your civil case.
South Carolina Has Far Too Many Drunk Driving Accidents
The epidemic of drunk driving is even worse in South Carolina than it is nationally. The state has struggled with a high rate of drunk driving accidents and fatalities, and strict laws have done nothing to bring the problem under control.
From 2009 to 2018, South Carolina had more drunk driving fatalities than far larger states, such as Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan. During that time period, there was an average of almost one fatality each day throughout the state in a drunk driving crash. The fact that the fatality rate in South Carolina is almost double the national average is a sign of exactly how bad things are in the state. The problem has gotten even worse during the pandemic, as drivers have adopted more unsafe habits.
While the statistics focus mainly on fatalities, every drunk driving accident injury will have a significant impact on the person who has been injured and their family. Not only are they dealing with serious physical injuries, but they are also incurring high medical costs to treat their condition.
Drunk Driving Accident Injuries
Drivers often suffer serious injuries in a drunk driving accident. They have little notice or warning to evade the drunk driver, whose actions are entirely unpredictable. Oftentimes, the drunk driver is extremely reckless and is traveling well over the posted speed limit. The drunk driver themselves cannot take any action to avoid the accident because their reflexes are lessened from the alcohol.
Common injuries that motorists and their passengers may suffer in a drunk driving accident include:
- Broken bones
- Cuts and lacerations
- Soft tissue injuries
- Organ damage
- Internal injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
Any of these injuries on their own can have serious long-term impacts. Many drivers will suffer more than one injury because of the severity of the crash.
Potential Third-Party Liability in a Drunk Driving Case
Your attorney will pay close attention to where the defendant was consuming alcohol prior to your accident. In many cases, they were not drinking at home. In that case, there is a chance that you can bring an additional defendant into the case.
Under South Carolina’s dram shop laws, the following defendants can be legally responsible if they continued to serve a visibility intoxicated patron who then injures someone else in an accident:
- Homeowners who served the driver
- Other entertainment establishments
Your attorney will investigate the accident right after you hire them, and they will help determine if there are any other parties who can be brought into the lawsuit. If there is a company involved, you might get a larger check because they have more insurance coverage.
Damages in a Drunk Driving Crash
You may be legally entitled to the following damages in a drunk driving accident:
- Medical bills both in the past and future
- Lost wages for the time that you cannot work
- Property damage for what happened to your car
- Pain and suffering for the ordeal that you have had to endure after the accident
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Wrongful death damages if your loved one was killed by a drunk driver
In a usual car accident case, punitive damages are extremely rare. They almost never happen. A drunk driving case is not your usual car accident case. Here, a driver made a conscious decision to break the law when they got behind the wheel intoxicated.
The more serious the case, the better the chance that a jury may award punitive damages. The jury includes these damages in a verdict to send a message to the defendant about how wrong their conduct was.
Insurance companies will not pay punitive damages in a settlement agreement. In addition, you will have to collect the punitive damages in a judgment against the defendant, and that is not always easy.
Insurance Companies May Still Make Your Life Difficult
You would think that insurance companies have every reason to act reasonably in a drunk driving case. The last thing that they want is to have to defend their policyholder in a civil suit when they have been charged with a serious crime and injured another person. However, the insurance company acts the same in practically every case. They will still do whatever they can to save money at your expense.
Even if liability is less of an issue than it would be in a usual case, you still need an attorney to negotiate your financial compensation. If you try to negotiate on your own, the insurance company will take you for a ride by getting away with paying far less than your case is worth.
Call a South Carolina Drunk Driving Accidents Lawyer
If you have been injured by a drunk driver, justice is about far more than seeing them punished. Justice is also about getting the compensation that you legally deserve for your injuries that were caused by someone else’s wrongful actions. Call the Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm today at (864) 280-7660 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation.
Drunk Driver Accident FAQs
What happens if I am injured by a drunk truck driver?
You can file a lawsuit against the trucking company, which is legally responsible for the actions of its employees, even if they involve acts like DWI.
What happens if the insurance company will not offer me enough money?
You can file a lawsuit against the defendant in court, and the insurance company will need to pay what the jury ordered.
How much is my drunk driving lawsuit worth?
Your damages all depend on your own particular injuries and how much you have suffered.