I was hit by a Drunk Driver, what can I do?

 

photo of drunk driver after accidentOne of the types of cases the Goings Law Firm handles the most involves drunk driving car collisions.  We are offended by drunk drivers, and we fight hard to make sure those drink drivers stay off the road and pay our clients a lot of money for the harm they cause.

Injuries caused by drunk driving are often times result in civil lawsuits.  Drunk drivers can face serious criminal charges, with penalties including suspend licenses, fines, and jail time, but in order for you to be compensated for your injuries or the death of a family member, you will need to bring a civil claim.  Because of the egregious nature of alcohol related collision, juries can award large verdicts to punish and deter the drunk driver from doing this again to others. Because of this, the most important thing you can do if you were hit by an intoxicated drive is call an experienced personal injury and wrongful death attorney.  In order to be fully compensated from a DUI collision, an aggressive team of attorneys with the Goings Law Firm will answer all of your questions.

Our firm take an aggressive approach to prosecuting the drunk driver in civil court for the needless harm that they cause our clients.  In the legal profession, our firm is best known for fighting against drunk drivers.  Drunk drivers kill.  Every day, almost 30 people in the United States are killed in drunk-driving crashes—that’s one person every 48 minutes.  South Carolina ranks as the 2nd worst in DUI related fatalities in the nation based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Drunk drivers also cause serious bodily injury.  We understand the devastating effects that drunk drivers can cause and that is why we are one of South Carolina’s leading litigation firms aimed at protecting injury victims that result from DUIs or other alcohol related collision. Because the actions of the drunk driver are illegal and reckless, we believe that you should be paid much more.  We fight drunk driving cases hard so you receive the best results in not only fully recovering all for your medical expenses, disability, pain and suffering, but also “punitive damages” design to punish and deter this reckless conduct.

The Case Against the Drunk Driver

The legal claims against the drunk driver is based on negligence and violations of statutory laws that prohibit impaired or intoxicated driving.  In South Carolina, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in South Carolina with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.  Often times the drunk driver will refuse to take a breathalyzer test or provide a blood sample to legally establish blood alcohol content when they are arrested.  The failure to administer these tests does not prevent our firm from proving the driver was drunk.  Even in these cases, we have the tools to find the evidence to prove that the drunk driver was intoxicated through assembling strong fact and expert witnesses to testify against the driver.  Also, under the rules of civil discovery, we routinely subpoena phone records, bank records, medical records, and other relevant documents of the at-fault driver that would aid in proving that the driver was drunk.  We will also put the driver under oath in a deposition or a court proceeding.  If the driver pleas the Fifth Amendment in the deposition, we ask the court to give an ‘adverse inference’ that if the driver did answer the question he would admit that he was intoxicated.  We will fight  to ensure that you get the full amount of recovery against the drunk driver.

The Case Against Who Illegally Served Alcohol to the Drunk Driver

The efforts of our firm to collect money for our clients does not stop with the intoxicated driver.  We investigate thoroughly to determine who served alcohol to the driver or those that enabled the illegal conduct prior to the driver getting behind the wheel. The State of South Carolina allows you to file a civil case against the private host who provided alcohol to an underage or obviously intoxicated guest. This state has laws in order to discourage serving alcohol to already drunk guests and to hold party hosts accountable if their intoxicated guests leave and cause an accident.  We pursue claims against the party host, and regularly bring legal claims against the convenient stores, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and businesses that may have illegally served alcohol to them as permitted under South Carolina’s dram shop and alcohol liability laws.

The Case Against the Owner of the Vehicle

Additionally, we will explore if a “negligent entrustment” claim exists against the owner of the vehicle.  If the drunk driver is operating a vehicle he does not own, you may have the option to sue the vehicle owner for negligent entrustment.  In the past, we often successfully argued that if the owner gave the drunk person the keys to their vehicle, it is likely that they were aware of the intoxication and unable to drive.  If a negligent entrustment claim is successfully proven, the vehicle’s owner is also liable for the vehicle accident.

Workers Compensation Claim if the Drunk Driver Hits You On the Job

Another consideration is whether workers’ compensation applies.  If you were hit by a drunk driver while working or on the job, then you could be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  Many of the DUI related collisions that we handle involve a workers’ compensation claim because the collision occurred while driving for work.  The workers’ compensation carrier would have a “lien” on any civil court recovery but it is important to handle these cases through an experienced attorney so that you do not waive any rights to recovery.  Because the Goings Law Firm handles both workers compensation and civil litigation claims, so we have the knowledge and expertise to successfully manage both cases in order to maximize your total recovery.

Contact an Highly Rated Drunk Driving Injury Attorney in South Carolina

The best advice is to contact today a highly-rated law firm that handles DUI injury and wrongful deaths to request a free consultation.  Our proven track record of success in South Carolina against drunk drivers is what we are known for.  The Goings Law Firm has the reputation of representing victims of serious injuries or deaths throughout South Carolina, and is ready to help you get the answers you deserve and the compensation you are entitled to receive.  It is important to contact our firm before you speak with an insurance company or provide a statement to an insurance adjuster.  Even if the insurance company representative tells you that you that your claim will be processed, it is our experience that you may not get the benefits that you are entitled to receive without the best legal representation. In order to be fully compensated from a DUI collision, an aggressive team of attorneys with the Goings Law Firm will help you today.  Call us at 803-350-9230 for a free, no obligation, consultation.

 


South Carolina Alcohol Liability and Dram Shop Laws

What are the Alcohol Liability and Dram Shop Laws in South Carolina?

The alcohol liability and dram shop laws in South Carolina can protect victims of alcohol related injury or death.  Alcohol has proven to be a lead factor in the cause of injuries and deaths on the highways of South Carolina.  South Carolina currently ranks 2nd for the most DUI fatalities per capita in the United States.  In recovering for our clients, we do not stop with the drunk driver.  We pursue those that cause and enable the drunk driver.

The Goings Law Firm regularly sues restaurants and bar owners, social clubs, and individuals in cases arising from accidents involving the service of alcohol to intoxicated persons and minors.  Dram Shop laws are intended to prevent restaurants, bars, and clubs from serving alcohol to minors and serving alcohol to intoxicated persons. If a restaurant, bar, or club violates such Dram Shop laws and someone is injured as a result, the establishment can be held responsible for the injuries. Our attorneys are well versed in these laws and experienced in representing both injured victims involving the sale and service of alcohol.

South Carolina has specific statutory and common law that governs the liability of restaurants, bars, social clubs and even individual people (social hosts) with respect to the service of alcohol under certain situations.  These laws govern what is known as dram shop liability, tavern owner liability, liquor liability and social host liability, and they may allow an injured party to hold a restaurant, bar, club, or individual responsible for injuries or death caused by the service of alcohol.

While South Carolina does not have a “Dram Shop Act,” it is illegal in South Carolina to “knowingly” serve alcohol to any person who is intoxicated. To pursue a Dram Shop action, the injured party must apply the criminal statutes governing alcohol control (S.C. Code Ann. § 61-4-580) and demonstrate that an establishment knowingly served alcohol to an intoxicated person. If the injured party can establish that a restaurant or a bar knew or should have known that it was serving an intoxicated person, whether by signs of visible intoxication or based upon the type, number and time period over which the customer consumed alcoholic drinks, that restaurant or bar is liable for the resulting injuries and damages proximately caused by the drunk driver. Additionally, if a restaurant or bar knew or should have known an alcohol purchaser is under 21 years of age, then that restaurant or bar could be liable if the purchaser’s intoxication caused an injury. Similarly, an adult social host who knowingly serves, or causes to be served, an alcoholic beverage to a person he knows or reasonably should know is between the ages of 18 and 20 is liable to the person served and to any other persons for damages proximately resulting from the host’s service of alcohol.

In a recent case, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld a $10 million verdict against The Getaway Lounge & Grill and its owners. See Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge & Grill, Inc., 388 S.C. 407 (2010). The case involved a customer who spent a night visiting a number of bars, including The Getaway, before getting into a motor vehicle collision, which killed the customer and seriously injured the driver of the other vehicle. One of the owners of The Getaway testified that the customer did not appear intoxicated while he was there.  Fluid samples taken from the customer’s body indicated that his blood alcohol content (“BAC”) was .212. At trial, a forensic chemistry expert, using a method known as “retrograde extrapolation,” estimated that his BAC when he left The Getaway must have been between .18 and .20 and that, therefore, “he would have been grossly intoxicated and exhibiting symptoms of intoxication.” The Court stated that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to support the forensic chemist’s expert testimony. Notably, the Court also held that a customer need not be “visibly intoxicated” for the imposition of dram shop liability; rather, “knowledge” of intoxication may be acquired through different mediums. The complexities of the Getaway case demonstrate that it is critical to retain an attorney with experience and knowledge in the area of dram shop litigation.

Dram shop liability is a specialized area of law, both from a practical and a legal perspective.  Dram shop cases are often fact-intensive and require extensive resources and experts to prove the elements of the case.  Dram shop cases often turn on the issue of liability, making the timely collection and analysis of police reports, receipts, video, social media, and eye witness statements crucial.  Dram shop claims involve unique aspects of the law as well.  For example, South Carolina’s modified joint and several liability system does not apply to conduct involving the use, sale, or possession of alcohol.  This has significant consequences in multi-defendant litigation, resulting in the ability to collect 100% of the damages awarded from a restaurant or bar that is found just 1% liable.  Also, there is no cap on punitive damages under for negligence based on alcohol liability.  Thus, having an attorney experienced in dram shop litigation is crucial to both bringing and defending these claims.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a drunk driver and you believe a bar or restaurant may be responsible, call us today at 803-350-9230 or contact us online for a free consultation today,


Alcohol Liability Insurance Required for Bars and Restaurants in South Carolina

If you are involved in a car and truck accident in South Carolina in which alcohol was involved, multiple parties may be held liable for the damages and injuries that were caused in the alcohol related collision.  The obvious liable party is the intoxicated driver, as the at-fault for the accident.  In South Carolina however, the injured party may also have a claim against the establishment (bar, restaurant, tavern, convenience store,  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.  In particular, the Supreme Court of South Carolina ruled in Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge and Grill, Inc., that a bar can be held liable for injuries an intoxicated patron causes if the bar violated South Carolina state law by over serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated customer .  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.

One of the problems is purusing a lawsuit against a bar has been the lack of ability to meaningfully recover against the establishment.  However, in 2017, the South Carolina General Assembly passed  a new law requiring establishments licensed  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.  This law creates an avenue for an injured person to recover from a bar or restaurant that allows a patron to get drunk or overly intoxicated.

The Goings Law Firm has many years of experience holding these alcohol permit holders legally responsible when allow a patron to get drunk and then drive on our roads endangering innocent lives.  We are Real Lawyers who know how to get Real Results for DUI related injuries and deaths.  Contact an experienced dram shop and alcohol liability attorney at the Goings Law Firm today at 803-350-9230.