Drunk driving is a serious problem in South Carolina and throughout the U.S. For the most recent year reported, 32% of South Carolina traffic fatalities involved someone driving under the influence. Across the country, more than 10,000 people die in alcohol-related accidents each year, and hundreds of thousands of others are injured.
Unfortunately, driving under the influence remains common. Despite strict drunk driving laws in South Carolina and most other states and aggressive public safety campaigns, a significant percentage of Americans continue to drink and drive.
43% of respondents to one survey said they had driven under the influence of alcohol, and 28% of those said they’d done so in the past six months. That means 12% of the total survey pool admitted to having driven under the influence within the past six months. If 12% doesn’t sound so bad, consider that there are more than 230 million drivers around the country, and about 3.75 million in South Carolina alone.
Some age groups are significantly more likely to drive under the influence than others. For example, 89% of the Gen Z respondents to the survey mentioned above said they’d driven after drinking within the past year. Unsurprisingly, Baby Boomers were the least likely to report having driven under the influence recently.
When you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is typically your responsibility to prove that the responsible party was negligent, and that the negligence was the cause of your injuries and other losses. That’s still true when the responsible driver was intoxicated, but South Carolina law makes the case a bit easier to prove.
Since driving under the influence of alcohol is against the law in South Carolina and that law is intended to protect other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and other members of the public from collisions caused by drunk drivers, a driver who has been shown to be driving under the influence is considered negligent for purposes of a car accident claim.
If the driver who hit you was prosecuted for drunk driving and convicted, they may have been ordered to pay restitution. That means the responsible driver may be legally required to cover certain expenses for you, such as your medical bills and damage to your vehicle. However, you generally won’t be entitled to all of the same compensation in that setting as you would in a personal injury case. So, it’s typically in your best interest to consult a drunk driving accident attorney even if the other driver has been ordered to pay restitution (or you expect that they will be ordered to do so).
A DUI conviction will help your car accident case, because a court will already have determined that the responsible person was driving under the influence. But, it isn’t necessary. If the prosecutor decides not to file charges, you can still proceed with your personal injury case. In fact, you may be able to successfully sue the other driver even if they are found not guilty of driving under the influence. That’s because the standard of proof is different in a criminal case than in a civil case, so someone may be civilly responsible even if they weren’t found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In some ways, a claim against a drunk driver is simplified. But, you’ll still have to prove that the other driver was operating under the influence, and you’ll have to establish the nature and extent of your damages. All the while, the other driver’s insurance company and their lawyers will be working against you. They may offer a lowball settlement intended to quickly cut off your rights before you discover the full cost of your medical care and other expenses. Or, they may try to trick you into saying something that will hurt your case.
An experienced local car accident lawyer will understand how insurance companies operate, and will know how to avoid their traps and level the playing field for you. Your attorney will also take responsibility for managing deadlines and technical requirements that can be overwhelming–especially when you’re recovering from a serious injury.
Get the help you need right now. Call (843) 300-7600 or fill out the contact form at the bottom of this page to learn more about how we can help.