Charleston Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
Drunk Driving Accidents in South Carolina
Like every other state, South Carolina has laws prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle while impaired/intoxicated. Unfortunately, these laws do not always deter people from getting behind the wheel of a car or motor vehicle after consuming alcohol—and the consequences are often deadly.
South Carolina consistently ranks among the most dangerous states when it comes to drunk driving accidents. According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS), approximately 28% of all traffic fatalities in South Carolina in 2018 involved alcohol-impaired driving. This statistic translates to an estimated 291 fatalities resulting from drunk driving accidents in 2018, 28 of which occurred in Charleston County.
If you were injured or if your loved one was killed by a drunk driver, you already know the devastating impact drunk driving has on the lives of victims. While nothing can negate the pain and suffering you have experienced, you are entitled to justice. At Clawson Fargnoli Utsey, LLC, our Charleston drunk driving accident attorneys have represented clients in all types of car accident cases, including those involving alcohol-impaired drivers. We know how to fight for your recovery, and we are prepared to aggressively advocate for you during settlement or at trial.
Is a DUI a Criminal Offense in South Carolina?
Driving under the influence, or DUI, is a crime in South Carolina. Typically, DUI is a misdemeanor, though it can be charged as a felony under certain circumstances.
In South Carolina, it is a crime to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of:
- 0.08% if you are 21 or older
- 0.04% if you are a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder
- 0.02% if you are a minor (under the age of 21)
Additionally, if a person is found to have a BAC of at least 0.05% but less than 0.08%, this may be enough to be considered “impaired.” Under such circumstances, the person could face criminal penalties for operating a motor vehicle.
How Is a Drunk Driving Injury Case Different from a Criminal DUI Case?
While a drunk driver may face criminal penalties if convicted of DUI—including possible jail time, steep fines, and possible driver’s license suspension, among others—these penalties do little, if anything, to help injured victims. To recover compensation for their damages, drunk driving accident victims can file personal injury (or wrongful death) claims against drunk drivers. Typically, the drunk driver’s insurance company will try to settle these claims for as little as possible.
A civil drunk driving injury claim is completely separate from criminal proceedings. Even if a drunk driver is not charged with DUI, you may still be able to bring a personal injury claim for damages. Additionally, the outcome of a criminal DUI case does not necessarily affect the outcome of a civil lawsuit. That being said, if the driver is convicted of DUI, this can prove helpful to your personal injury claim.
The purpose of a drunk driving accident/injury claim is to compensate the victim(s) for economic and non-economic damages, such as:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Current and future lost income/wages
- Lost earning capacity due to disability
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma and lost quality of life
- Counseling/mental health services
- In-home care costs
- Modifications to a home
- Property damage repairs
- Funeral/burial expenses (in the event of wrongful death)
Additionally, some victims of drunk driving accidents may be able to seek punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not meant to compensate victims for specific losses but, rather, to hold the drunk driver accountable for wanton/willful neglect and recklessness.
Does South Carolina Have Dram Shop & Social Host Laws?
In some cases, the drunk driver may not be the only—or even the primary—liable party after an accident. Under what are known as dram shop and social host laws, it may be possible to take legal action against a person or party that provided alcohol to the drunk driver.
South Carolina does not have specific statutes regarding dram shop or social host liability. However, there is some legal precedent for these types of cases. It may be possible to hold a restaurant, bar, or similar establishment liable after a drunk driving accident if the vendor provided alcohol to a minor under the age of 21 (Jamison v. The Pantry, Inc.). To bring a successful claim, one would likely need to prove that the accident was reasonably foreseeable, meaning the vendor had reason to believe the minor would drive after consuming alcohol and could potentially cause a crash that might result in injury or death.
Additionally, according to further legal precedent (Steele v. Rogers), it would likely not be enough to prove that a vendor sold/provided alcohol to a minor who then caused an accident. Rather, the plaintiff would need to prove that the minor was intoxicated when the accident occurred.
Additionally, it may be possible to hold an establishment or vendor liable if it overserves a “visibly intoxicated” individual who then goes on to cause a drunk driving accident (Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge and Grill, Inc.), regardless of the age of the individual.
Legal precedent has held that it may be possible to file a claim/lawsuit against a social host who provides alcohol to someone under the age of 21 who goes on to cause a drunk driving accident resulting in injury or death. However, past court cases have ruled that one cannot bring a claim against a social host for providing alcohol to someone of legal drinking age who then causes a crash that results in another person being injured or killed.
Request a Free Consultation with an Experienced Legal Team
After a drunk driving accident leaves you severely injured or struggling to cope with the unimaginable loss of a loved one, you need a compassionate and supportive legal team on your side. At Clawson Fargnoli Utsey, LLC, we have extensive experience in both plaintiffs’ personal injury litigation and insurance defense. We understand how insurance companies and their defense counsel operate, and we know how to use this knowledge to create powerful, personalized strategies for our clients.
When you turn to Clawson Fargnoli Utsey, LLC, our team will handle every detail so that you can focus on healing and moving forward with your life. We provide consistent and direct communication, allowing you to remain up to date and confident in the status of your case. Throughout the process, we are always available to answer your questions and address any concerns you may have. Our goal is to not only maximize your recovery but also provide the compassionate legal support you need to get back on your feet.
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