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What can I recover from a Motor Vehicle Collision?

What can I recover from a Motor Vehicle Collision?

Car Accident Lawyer in South Carolina

In South Carolina, the law is designed to protect a person who is injured in a car or truck accident due to the negligence or fault of another.  It is important to consult with an attorney to determine the type of losses that you may be able to compensated for following a collision. The purpose is to compensate a victim of property damage, injuries or losses and to put the non-fault party, as near as possible, in the same position that he or she was in before the accident occurred.  The ability to recover “actual damages” is what the law permits. In other words, actual damages would be the actual losses and expenses which the plaintiff has suffered because of the at-fault driver’s negligence.

This guide explains the law in South Carolina related to the compensation you are entitled to receive following a collision.  The amount of the compensation is tied to the nature, extent and severity of the injuries and damages incurred, and often times an award can be increased if the driver was drunk, impaired, or other circumstances existed other than simple negligence.

Here is a description of the general types of damages that are recoverable in South Carolina if you are a victim of a motor vehicle collision:

Damages Recoverable for Personal Injuries – Medical Bills, Lost Earnings, Pain and Suffering, Loss of Enjoyment of Life, and Mental Suffering

A person injured in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by the negligence of another person can recover actual damages and expenses incurred as a result of the bodily harm.  The recovery is based on two types of compensation: (1) economic damages and (2) non-economic damages.  Economic damages are things like medical bills, lost wages, loss employment opportunities and non-economic damages would be related to pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

In determining the amount of compensation for the injuries or loss suffered as a result of a negligent driver, a determination of the amount of damages should include past, present, and future damages.  Actual damages for a person who has been physically injured include:  medical and healthcare charges related to the injury or expenses incurred for reasonable and necessary medical treatment; pharmacy charges and related expenses; pain and suffering; mental anguish; lost wages due to absence from work, which is the loss of time and income which resulted from the impairment of the ability to work and earn a livelihood, impairment of health or physical condition, the permanency of any injury, any permanent physical scarring;  and any other losses which are reflected by the character of the injury.

The recovery of damages for a person who has been physically injured include pain and suffering — both past and future — as well as mental anguish, impairment of health or physical condition, and disfigurement.  Pain and suffering compensates the injured person for physical discomfort and emotional response to the sensation of pain caused by the injury itself.  There is no definite standard by which to compensate the plaintiff for pain and suffering.

Similar to pain and suffering, but separate, is recovery of loss of enjoyment of life.  Loss of enjoyment of life damages are designed to compensate for limitations on the ability to participate in, and derive pleasure from, the normal activities of daily life.  In determining the amount of compensation for personal injuries, it is proper to consider past and present aspects of the injury.  This would include physical and mental pain and suffering, expenses incurred for necessary medical treatment, loss of time and income which resulted from the impairment of the ability to work and earn a livelihood, the loss of enjoyment of life suffered as a result of the injury, and any other losses which are reflected by the character of the injury.

Very closely associated with pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life is recovery for mental anguish.  Mental anguish includes: mental suffering, apprehension, shock, fright, emotional upset, stress, humiliation and anxiety, and can be properly considered as an element of damages.

The amount of damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental suffering cannot be exactly measured and is often left to the judge or jury hearing the facts of the case.

The injured party may recover for those future damages that are reasonably sure to result from the injuries.  The principle underlying compensation for future damages is that only one action can be brought and, therefore, only one recovery had.  It is proper to include in the estimate of future damages compensation for loss of capacity for work or attention to the plaintiff’s ordinary business, future medical expenses, and pain and suffering which will, with reasonable certainty, result.

Vehicle Property Damage – Repair or Value of Vehicle

The amount of damages to a motor vehicle is the difference between the value of the vehicle immediately before it was struck and the value of the vehicle immediately after it was struck.  If repairing the vehicle would put it in as good a condition as before the accident, then the measure of damages would be the cost of repair plus any amount by which the value of the vehicle was decreased due to its involvement in a collision.  This is also called depreciation.

If the vehicle cannot be repaired, the measure of damages would be the value of the vehicle immediately before it was struck, minus any salvage value.  This is referred to as “fair market value.”

Fair market value is not determined by how much you paid for the car or your emotional attachment to it. Fair market value is simply the amount of money a person would pay you to take ownership of the car.  Unfortunately, the money that you can receive for a totaled vehicle is not what you may owe on the vehicle or what you think the value of the vehicle should be, but based on the market value of the vehicle of similar make, model, and condition.

Under South Carolina law, any vehicle that has a loss of 75% or more of the fair market value must be declared a total loss.  Insurance companies can choose to declare a vehicle a total loss if it has sustained less than 75% of the fair market value or if the fair market value of the vehicle was less than $2000.  Vehicles declared a total loss will be marked as “salvage” unless at least one of the following is true about the vehicle: (a) it is marked “non-rebuildable”; (b) it has been damaged less than 75% and has not sustained water or fire damage; (c) the value of the vehicle is less than $2,000; or (d) it has been titled as an antique vehicle.

Loss of Use of a Motor Vehicle

A victim of a motor vehicle collision also may be entitled to recover for the loss of the use of a vehicle during the time that the plaintiff was unable to use it.  Actual damages for this purpose may be measured by determining what it would have cost the plaintiff to rent a similar vehicle while the plaintiff’s own vehicle was being repaired.  In some situations, damages for loss of use of a vehicle may be awarded even if the plaintiff did not rent a car and even if the plaintiff borrowed a car.  However, the plaintiff is required to make all reasonable efforts to minimize the damages, which is referred to as “mitigation of damages.”

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are sometimes available to a victim of a motor vehicle collision.  Punitive damages are only reserved for cases where the negligence driver was driving recklessly, under the influence, or operating with a conscious disregard for the safety of others.  Often times a court can consider awarding punitive damage if an at-fault driver violates a specific safety statute found in the South Carolina Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways, as contained in S.C. Code 1976, § 56-5-10 et seq., such as running a red light or disregard of traffic signs.  As discussed below, punitive damages can be the hardest to prove so this remedy is not available in most everyday collisions.

Punitive damages are different from actual damages and are not the same as pain and suffering.  Punitive damages are intended to punish at-fault for extraordinary and outrageous misconduct and to prevent the at-fault driver and others from committing similar acts in the future.  Punitive damages can only be awarded when conduct of the at-fault driver has been something more than mere negligence.  The evidence must establish the acts or omissions giving rise to the collision were grossly negligence, reckless, or willful and wanton, meaning there was a conscious failure to exercise due care or a conscious indifference to the rights and safety of others or a reckless disregard thereof.

To support an award of punitive damages, the court requires proof by clear and convincing evidence that the conduct complained of included a consciousness of wrongdoing at the time of the conduct.  Clear and convincing is more than just a preponderance, or greater weight, of the evidence, which requires only proof which persuades you that a party’s claim is more likely true than not true.  On the other hand, clear and convincing proof is not as high a standard as the burden of proof in criminal cases, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Clear and convincing proof leaves no substantial doubt in your mind.  It means that the evidence is not ambiguous, doubtful, equivocal or contradictory.  Convincing means persuading by proof or argument, causing one to believe in the truth of what is asserted.  Clear and convincing proof establishes in your mind, not only that the fact is probable, but that it is highly probable.  An punitive damage award imposed should take into account (1) the defendant’s degree of culpability; (2) the duration of the conduct; (3) the defendant’s awareness or concealment; (4) the existence of similar past conduct; (5) the likelihood the award will deter the defendant or others from like conduct; (6) whether the award is reasonably related to the harm likely to result from such conduct; (7) the reprehensibility of the conduct, the harm caused, (8) the defendant’s awareness of the conduct’s wrongfulness, (9) and any concealment.  Thus, any penalty imposed should bear a relationship to the nature and extent of the conduct and the harm caused, including the compensatory damage award. Secondly, any penalty imposed should take into account, as a mitigating factor, any other penalty that may have been imposed or which may be imposed for the conduct involved, including any criminal or civil penalty or any other punitive damages award arising out of the same conduct.


How to Recover from Injuries Sustained by a Drunk Driver?

Without a doubt the best way to fully recover financially for injuries sustained by a drunk driver is to hire the best attorney you can find and not talk with the insurance company representative or adjuster without legal representation.  Our firm has the experience and reputation in South Carolina of fighting against drunk and impaired drivers.  Our firm works with M.A.D.D of South Carolina (Mothers’ Against Drunk Driving) to ensure that impaired drivers, and those that enable the intoxicated motorists, are punished financially for the injuries and harm that they cause to innocent victims of these crimes.

Injuries Caused by Drunk Drivers Require an Attorney Who Can Secure the Evidence Before it Gets Destroyed.

ambulance
If you or a member of your family were involved in a motor vehicle collision caused by a drunk or impaired driver, it is important to contact an experienced and respected personal injury attorney without delay.  A collision that is caused by drunk or intoxicated drivers can be much more complex, both factually and legally, than an ordinary automobile collision.  It is important to not delay in hiring an experienced attorney to ensure that critical evidence is obtained and a thorough investigation is performed prior to important evidence being destroyed or not preserved.  In certain cases involving intoxicated drivers, our firm will obtain a full accident reconstruction and hire experts (such as private toxicologists) to prove, as required by law, that there amount of alcohol or drugs consumed would resulted in appreciable impairment of the ability to safely drive.  The evidence that needs to be obtained includes evidence related to the types and amount of alcohol or drugs consumed, surveillance videos, police body camera footage, patrol car footage, social media, credit card receipts, and cell phone data.  You should never rely on the police or law enforcement to correctly gather this information.  Further, it is important to hire an attorney to assist the police and the prosecutor’s office in providing correct victim impact evidence that may be used to prosecute the drunk driver in criminal court.

You May be Entitled to Punitive Damages against a Drunk Driver

Another reason you need a lawyer to help recover for injuries sustained by a drunk driver is the availability of punitive damages.  Punitive damages are not the same as money for pain and suffering.  Punitive damages are different than pain and suffering, and can result in a high settlement or judgment in your favor.  If you have been hit by a drunk driver, the insurance company will most likely attempt an early settlement with you to avoid paying the full amount of damages you are owed, including punitive damages.  One of the reasons the insurance adjuster will try to act early to settle a claim involving a drunk driver is because of punitive damages.  The insurance adjuster does not want you to learn about your ability to obtain extra compensation in the form of punitive damages. Our firm has as track records of pursuing and winning settlements and judgments against the drunk driver and the insurance company for punitive damages.

Punitive damages are typically available for recovery against a drunk driver if your case is handled correctly.  Punitive damages are reserved for cases in which the at-fault driver’s conduct was particularly reprehensible.  A court may impose punitive damages when the at-fault driver is acting recklessly or driving while intoxicated which is considered a conscious disregard for the safety of others.  There are many factors that are considered in determined the amount of punitive damages, which include:

  • The severity of the injuries the victim sustained;
  • The degree of reprehensibility of the action which caused the injury;
  • The comparative negligence of the injured party (the extent to which the injured party contributed to the accident);
  • The ability of the defendant to pay punitive damages.

In order to be awarded punitive damages, an injured party must be able to prove reckless, willful, or wanton conduct by clear and convincing evidence. In South Carolina, the General Assembly as placed limits on the amount of damage awards.  If a jury finds that punitive damages are appropriate, it can award an amount up to three (3) times the amount awarded during the compensatory damages determination, or $500,000, whichever is greater. However, these limits or “caps” on punitive damages will be removed entirely if “the defendant acted or failed to act while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, other than lawfully prescribed drugs administered in accordance with a prescription, or any intentionally consumed glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to the degree that the defendant’s judgment is substantially impaired.”  This “alcohol exception” to the punitive damages cap can result in a large award of punitive damages against a drunk driver.

Drunk Drivers Kill and Severely Injury Innocent People – The Statistics Are Alarming!

Drunk drivers inflict great harm on people in our society and the statistics are alarming.  In 2018, there were 10,511 deaths alone from drunk-driving crashes, and 29% of all traffic fatalities were caused directly by drunk or impaired driving as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  This is an average of 1 alcohol-impaired driving death every 50 minutes. Sadly, 231 of the deaths from drunk drivers were children ages 14 and under. The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018 was 3.4 times higher at night than during the day.n 2018 among the 10,511 alcohol-impaired- driving fatalities, 67 percent (7,051) were in crashes in which at least one driver had a BAC of .15 g/dL or higher.  Also, 87 percent of alcohol related driving deaths or injuries occurred on non-interstate roads compared to 13 percent on interstate roads, and 56 percent occurred in urban areas whereas 44 percent occurred in rural areas.

The estimated economic cost of all alcohol-impaired crashes (involving alcohol-impaired drivers or alcohol-impaired non-occupants) in the United States in 2010 (the most recent year for which cost data is available) was $44 billion.  Included in the economic costs are: lost productivity, workplace losses, legal and court expenses, medical costs, emergency medical services, insurance administration, congestion, and property damage. These costs represent the tangible losses that result from motor vehicle traffic crashes. However, in cases of serious injury or death, such costs fail to capture the relatively intangible value of lost quality of life that results from these injuries. When quality of life valuations are considered, the total value of societal harm from motor vehicle traffic crashes in the United States in 2010 was an estimated $836 billion, of which $201.1 billion resulted from alcohol-impaired crashes.

Hire an Experienced South Carolina Attorney with the Reputation and Skill of Fighting Against Drunk Drivers

At the Goings Law Firm, we stand up for victims who were injured because of a drunk or impaired driver.  Let us stand up and fight for you.  Making  drunk drivers pay are what we are known in South Carolina, so allow us to put our experience and reputation to work for you today. We have a 5 Star rating from our clients, and our firm has been considered one of the most recognized firms in South Carolina in the fields of personal injury and wrongful death as featured in Best Lawyer, Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, and many other publications that rate attorneys. Call or text us at (803) 350-9230 for a free, no-obligation consultation about your legal rights.


New Years Eve is one of the most dangerous holidays for DUI crashes

Driving Statistics

As you enjoy the last day of 2019, make sure you’re being safe this is one of the most dangerous holidays of the year in South Carolina and throughout the nation.  In fact, South Carolina ranks as the third most dangerous state based on highest crash rates based on the number of licensed drivers.

According to nationwide statistics from AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrationthe odds of getting in a car accident on New Year’s Eve skyrockets because there are more drunk drivers on the road. New Year’s driving statistics from SafeAuto.com show that between 2008 and 2012, January 1st had the highest percentage of alcohol related deaths when compared to other days and holidays. During the holidays, more drivers are alcohol impaired because so many people are going to holiday parties, and drinking alcohol in excessive amounts.

Here are some statistics to keep this New Year’s Eve:

  • The five states with the highest crash rates (most dangerous states) were: (1) Mississippi; (2) Oklahoma; (3) South Carolina; (4) Wyoming; (5) Texas
  • During the Christmas and New Year’s period last year, there were 285 drunk driving-related traffic deaths in the United States.
  • January 1st is the day of the year with the highest percent of deaths related to alcohol from 2008-12.
  • Across the country, 36 people, on average, were killed every day in crashes involving alcohol between 2001 and 2005.
  • DUI arrests peak between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
  • Between Christmas and New Year’s, 40 percent of deadly crashes involve drunk drivers.
  • More pedestrians are killed on New Year’s Day than any other day of the year.
  • The hours between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. are the most dangerous during the New Year’s holiday.

Five Years of Fatal Crashes on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in South Carolina

The reported crash rates in South Carolina for the last 5 years on New Years Eve and New Year’s Day is 1.25 crashes per 100,000 licensed drivers.  The statistics are as follows:

  • 50 Motor Vehicle Collisions in South Carolina that involve fatalities.
  • 19 Motor Vehicle Collisions in South Carolina that involve fatalities caused by drunk drivers.

Have you been injured due to a Drunk Driver on New Year’s Day?

If you or a member of your family has been injured as a result of the reckless or drunk driving of someone on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, please contact the personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the Goings Law Firm today to learn about your rights to financial compensation.  We have the experience to fight against drunk drivers to ensure that you receive full and fair compensation.  We vigorously pursue legal action against the impaired drivers, and the bars, restaurants, and party hosts that over serve them.  Call or text us today at (803) 350-9230 for a free, no obligation consultation.

DISCLAIMER:  We are not “BILLBOARD LAWYERS” or “TV LAWYERS”.  We are real lawyers that go to court to fight for truth and justice!


Were you injured in an Accident on the Interstate in South Carolina today?

SC-Interstate-and-County-Map

A high percentage of serious roadway collisions and fatalities in South Carolina occur on the Interstates. The old saying from the South Carolina Department of Transportation is that roads “can be highways or dieways, the choice is yours.” The only way to prevent collisions and fatalities is to should enforce traffic laws, engineer safer roads and educate drivers of their duties and responsibility behind the wheel.

Several major Interstate roads run through South Carolina, including I-85, I-20, I-95, and I-26.  The reason that a high number of serious injuries and fatalities occur on these Interstate highways is due to a combination of heavily traveled and congested roadways, large commercial trucks, and multiple lanes and and motorists are traveling at high speeds.  To make matters worse, many of the Interstate highways and bridges in South Carolina are poorly maintained and need immediate repairs.  The deteriorating conditions of the roadways are simply not safe for many drivers. The roads and highways of our neighboring states, North Carolina and Georgia, are much safer.  Fortunately, in the last several years, the the State of South Carolina has begun much needed road construction to these Interstates.  While construction efforts are ongoing, this also leads to more collisions due to the inherit dangerous of driving through construction zones.

Traffic Collision Statistics in South Carolina

  • 141,00o+ traffic collisions in South Carolina in 2017

  • Greenville and Charleston Counties had the highest amount of traffic collisions in 2017, totaling 34,000 collisions

  • About 39,000 collisions resulted in injuries

  • About 925 results in fatalities

  • On average 1 traffic collision every 3 minutes

  • Most collisions occur between 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm

  • Most fatal collision occur between 9:00 pm and midnight

  • 1 person injured every 8.7 minutes

  • 1 fatality every 9.5 hours

  • One person killed in a DUI .08+ Collision every 28 hours

  • One Unrestrained Vehicle Occupant killed every 27.5 hours

  • One Bicyclist killed every 21.5 days

  • One Motorcyclist killed every 3.1 days

  • One Pedestrian killed every 2.3 days

  • One Child Under 6 seriously injured or killed every 9.4 days

  • Traffic collisions cost South Carolina citizens more than $4.5 billion in economic loss

Primary Causes of Motor Vehicle Accidents in South Carolina:

  • Speeding

  • Failure to yield right of way

  • Improper lane usage

  • Failure to maintain distance from other vehicles

  • Distracted driving

  • Driving Impaired or Intoxicated

We Help Injured Drivers in South Carolina

The Goings Law Firm is a South Carolina law firm dedicated to helping people who were injured in motor vehicle collisions caused by the negligence and reckless driving of others on the roadway.  Don’t confuse us with as one of those advertising lawyers on TV.  You will not find us on TV.  We are Real Lawyers who work hard to obtain Real Results.  Instead of making cartoons on TV, we are in court working hard to get the best possible financial outcome for our clients.

The Goings Law Firm is a highly-rated law firm featured in publications such as Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America.  Robert Goings was recently named the Top Personal Injury trial attorney in the Midlands of South Carolina in a recent best attorney review publication.  Many of the cases we handle involve large commercial trucks and eighteen wheelers that cause large collisions on the Interstate.  We aggressively fight against the trucking industry from allowing unsafe drivers to violate federal and state motor carrier safety laws. Because of our track record of success obtaining large settlements and verdicts for our clients, we are often called to handle cases throughout the entire state in cases involving major collisions that result in serious injury and death.

If you were injured or family member or loved one has suffered a fatality from a car accident or truck accident in South Carolina, contact the Goings Law Firm today at (803) 572-4337 to find out about your legal rights.  We are aggressive, yet compassionate.  We will ensure that you get the compensation that you deserve though a personal injury or wrongful death legal action.


Calvin Casson killed by tractor trailer truck in head-on collision

Tragedy can happen unexpectedly on our highways everyday.  Unfortunately, a gentleman named Calvin Casson of Columbia was killed on Monday, April 15, 2019 when when a tractor trailer truck collided head with him on Fernandina Road in Lexington County, South Carolina. According to the South Carolina Highway Patrol, a pickup truck driven by Casson was traveling east on Fernandina Road just after 7:00 p.m. when a large tractor trailer truck on I-26 went off the right side of the road, made its way through a fence, and collided head-on with the Mr. Casson’s truck.   After striking Mr. Casson’s truck, drove into a Dick Smith car dealership on Fernandina Road, hitting parked cars.  The first responders reported that Mr. Casson became entrapped in his vehicle and died on the scene. He was 51 years old.   The driver of the tractor-trailer suffered minor injuries.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Mr. Casson. Dealing with the loss of a family member from a collision is an unspeakable tragedy.  While the cause of this collision is still under investigation by the South Carolina Highway Patrol, our firm knows that often times these collisions are preventable if drivers of large commercial vehicles would follows the safety laws enacted to protect other motorists.  When traffic laws are violated, innocent people can be killed.

At the Goings Law Firm, it is our mission to ensure that families of loved ones who are killed on our roadways are fully compensated for the loss of their family member.  While no lawsuit against a tractor trailer company or its driver can fully bring back what was lost, our job is to leave the family in a better place that we found them.  A wrongful death case can provide monetary relief to a grieving family.  Wrongful death actions are designed to compensate for the current and the future financial and emotional costs to the deceased’s family. These damages include the following:

  • Medical bills and funeral costs
  • Lost wages, including future earnings
  • Lost benefits
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of support or companionship
  • Funeral expenses (unless these are recovered through a survival action)
  • Punitive damage (for willful, wanton, reckless, or intentional conduct)

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Against Tractor Trailer Drivers

South Carolina’s wrongful death statute, S.C. Code Section 15-51-10 through 60, allows a lawsuit to be brought on behalf of the deceased’s spouse and children when a family member has died due to the deliberate, reckless, or negligent actions of another. If there is no spouse or children, then the lawsuit is for the benefit of the deceased person’s parents. If there is no spouse, children or parents, then the lawsuit is for the benefit of the deceased person’s heirs (heirs are persons who are legally entitled to inherit property from the deceased). Under South Carolina law, the wrongful death action must be brought by (or in the name of) the executor or the administrator of the deceased person. An administrator or executor is a person or an institution that carries out the terms of a deceased’s will or, if there’s no will, distributes the deceased’s property according to South Carolina’s probate laws.

Lawyers for Wrongful Death in Columbia, South Carolina

If you need a wrongful death lawyer in South Carolina, please contact our office to assist you and your family. We can help you to with the wrongful death process to ensure that you and your family receive the compensation that you deserved.  It does not cost you anything for a consultation to learn about your rights under the law.


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 intoxicated drivers stay off the road.  We demand that drunk drivers  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.

 


Uninsured Motorist Accident

More frequently we are hearing that motorist are being struck by vehicles that do not have insurance. Uninsured drivers are a danger to us and our families on the roads. Without insurance, victims of automobile collision are often left without any ability to be compensated. In South Carolina, it is illegal to drive without proper insurance coverage. South Carolina law requires that you purchase liability and uninsured motorist coverage to drive in the state, which is divided into two coverages: bodily injury liability and physical damage liability.

Many uninsured motorist collisions involve hit and runs, drivers who are not authorized to operate a vehicle, or even driving a vehicle that was stolen.  The most recent study, performed by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) in 2017, shows that approximately 13.0 percent of motorists, or about one in eight drivers, are uninsured.  Stated differently, approximately 29.7 million drivers who are uninsured. Usually, in a car accident, the insurance of the driver who is at fault covers initially the injuries and damages. But, with 13% of drivers uninsured, victims of auto accidents have many questions about what to do when involved in a collision with an uninsured motorist.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage Will Allow Compensation

The law in South Carolina allows a victim of an uninsured motorist to receive compensation.  South Carolina motor vehicle insurance laws are intended to protect citizens against uninsured drivers. In fact, the law requires that every auto insurance policy sold in our state includes “uninsured (UM) motorist coverage.”  Uninsured Motorist Coverage can provide you protection, but successfully bring an uninsured motorist coverage claim often requires an attorney to get you the best recovery.

Uninsured motorists coverage protects the policyholder directly, along with any person in the vehicle. This coverage pays if you are injured or your property is damaged by a hit-and-run driver or an uninsured driver. South Carolina law requires you to carry uninsured motorists coverage equal to the minimum amounts of liability coverage.  The minimum mandatory coverage in South Carolina is $25,000 per person for bodily injury, $50,000 per collision for bodily injury, and $25,000 in property damage, also referred to as (“25/50/25”).  We strongly encourage everyone to purchase auto insurance with coverage limits greater than just minimum coverage.  In our experience, just one trip to the hospital following a collision can far exceed the this limits.  If your vehicle is totaled, this is often not enough to replace the vehicle, or cover the vehicle loan, and to provide a temporary vehicle

We have found that it does not cost much more money to have double or triple this amount, and often times drivers need in excess of $100,000 or $300,000 for each vehicle.   After you read this article, please check your insurance policy to see how much uninsured motorist coverage you have listed, and call your insurance agent today to get increased coverage.

The compensation that you are entitled to receive with uninsured motorist coverage would cover all legal damages that you are entitled to recover under the law including medical bills, chiropractic treatment, future medical expenses, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, pain and suffering, mental anguish, property damage, and in certain cases, even punitive damages.  Don’t worry, your insurance premiums should not increase for having to file a uninsured motorist claim because this is mandatory coverage and it is not your fault that the at-fault driver was negligent and failed to get insurance.

It can be difficult for victims of an uninsured driver to successfully navigate the laws of an uninsured motorist claim on their own.  It is easy to be mislead by the insurance companies in giving recorded statement, not understanding the forms they want you to sign, or being uninformed about how much compensation you should receive for your injuries.  If you say or do the wrong thing in communicating with the insurance company, you may lose important benefits allowed under the law.  The auto insurance company will have a team of attorneys that will attempt to defend the interests of the insurance company over your own best interests.

Tips After a Collision with a Uninsured Driver

Unless it is a hit and run, many accident victims do not learn at the scene about a driver being uninsured.  We have found that drivers at the scene will provide proof of insurance that has expired or is otherwise fraudulent.  Proof of valid coverage is typically not performed until after a formal claim is made with that insurance company.   Because you may not learn until after the fact that the negligent driver was also uninsured, its important to always take this steps following a car accident:

1. Gather as Much Information At the Scene

As with any collision, try to get as much information as possible about the driver.   Ask the driver for his name, contact information, driver’s license number, and a copy of his insurance card. Take pictures of all the damage to your car, the other cars, and the license plate on any vehicle involved in the collision.  Ask anyone at the scene if they saw or heard the collision, as it is important to get the names and all contact information of any witnesses.  Now these days, the chances that the collision was caught on camera is greater.  Look around to see if there is a traffic camera that could have captured the incident, or any surveillance camera at a neighboring businesses.   Never rely solely on the police officer to get any of this information.  We have seen that police do not take the time to do a thorough investigation, so make it a priority for you to gather as much information on the scene.

2.  Always Call The Police

Whether the other driver is cooperative or not, call the police immediately.  This is especially true if the damage is extensive or injuries are sustain. The police will document the incident and should provide you with an FR-10 Report, which is an exchange of driver information.  Also, the police should prepare a TR-310 Traffic Collision Report, which is the complete accident report. TR-310 Traffic Collision Report is generally available within 30 days after the collision from the SC Department of Motor Vehicles.  These police reports can become critical to any  insurance claim.  For example, without a police report you are barred for recovering for any hit and run collision under South Carolina statutory laws.

3. Contact Your Insurance Company and get Help from an Experienced Lawyer

The insurance company should be contacted the same day of the collision, or as quickly as possible.   Call your insurance company and follow the necessary steps to inform them of the accident.  The insurance company will want you to send in the FR-10 Report.  Notifying your insurance company will not increase your rates if the other driver is at fault, and is essential if the other driver is uninsured. Your insurance company will be able to determine if your policy covers uninsured drivers and offer directions on what to do next.  If you have substantial injuries, you should not give a statement to the insurance company without first seeking the advice of the best attorney you can find to answer your questions.

Our Attorneys Can Help with your Uninsured Motorist Insurance Claim

The Goings Law Firm has years of experience helping victims of collisions caused by negligent uninsured drivers.  Bringing an uninsured motorist claim in South Carolina can be difficult on your own, and without the best attorney for your case, you may not get the compensation that you are entitled under the law.  Contact us today for a free case evaluation or call us at 803-350-9230.


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.


DRUNK DRIVING AND WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUITS

Car key on the bar with spilled alcohol

Alcohol impairment is one of the leading causes of traffic collisions. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there was an alcohol-impaired traffic fatality every 48 minutes in 2017.  Based on the legal definition of impaired driving, alcohol-impaired crashes are those that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter or above.

According to NHTSA 10,874 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2017. Alcohol-impaired crash fatalities accounted for 29 percent of all crash fatalities. Unfortunately, the DUI arrest rate is much lower.  Statistics show that  with nearly a million drivers were arrested in 2016 for driving under the influence  compared to the 111 million self-reported incidents of alcohol-impaired driving that same year.

If you’ve lost a loved one in a DUI crash, you may be wondering what legal action you can take. Depending on the specifics of the case, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

WHAT IS A WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT?

Wrongful death laws allow survivors to pursue monetary compensation for those whose negligence or intentional act of harm caused a loved one’s death. Each state has its own wrongful death statute which governs how a wrongful death action is brought, the types of civil damages that are recoverable, and which family members are allowed to receive compensation. In South Carolina, a wrongful death claim is similar to a personal injury claim, except the estate of the deceased person steps in to seek compensation on their behalf.  The wrongful death action can only be brought by a person that is determined by the court to be the “personal representative.”  So, not just any family members of the deceased to file the claim.

HOW STATE LAWS AFFECT DAMAGES

Though many DUI crashes result in criminal charges, some do not. If your loved one was killed in a drug or alcohol related collision, and the driver was not charged by the police, you still may be able to file a wrongful death claim in civil court.

South Carolina law also affect how damages are handled. Because a wrongful death case is a civil claim, liability comes in the form of damages, rather than punishment by imprisonment or other penalties that can be decided in a criminal case.  South Carolina law the recovery of “compensatory damages, which includes the following:

  1. Pecuniary Loss – the loss of the deceased’s ability to earn money in which the beneficiary might logically and reasonable have been expected to share, such as money for the care and protection of the deceased’s spouse and children and for the education and training of the deceased’s children. Where the relationship of husband and wife or parent and child exists, pecuniary loss will be presumed.
  2. Mental Shock and Suffering.
  3. Wounded Feelings.
  4. Grief and Sorrow.
  5. Loss of Companionship.
  6. Loss of the use and comfort of the deceased’s society, including the loss of the deceased’s experience, knowledge, and judgment in managing the affairs of the deceased and his or her beneficiaries.
  7. medical and funeral expenses

In cases involving a drunk or impaired driver, South Carolina law may also permit punitive damages, which are designed the punish a defendant who’s found negligent and deter similar negligent actions in future.

WHEN TO FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT

When a loved one dies in an alcohol-related crash, family members are often left stunned and unsure where to turn for help. Seeking legal advice immediately following the accident is advised, as evidence can be collected and eyewitnesses can be contacted. Memories get fuzzy, damages get repaired and the chance of video or photographic evidence being deleted or lost rises as time passes. Acting quickly is the best way to ensure as much evidence as possible is collected.  You should never delay in determining your legal rights.

It is important to know that each state has a unique statute of limitations.  A statute of limitations is the legal principle that sets a time limit for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. In South Carolina, a case generally must be filed within three (3) years of the date of the collision.  In certain situations, this statute of limitations may be shortened to two (2) years if for some reason the case is governed by the S.C. Tort Claims Act.  It is important to understand that if you fail to bring the case within the applicable statute of limitations period, you will forfeit your rights to assert any action.

LEGAL HELP FOR WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIMS IN SOUTH CAROLINA

If you’re considering filing a wrongful death claim, it’s wise to seek the advice of an experienced attorney who can answer any questions you have about your case.

The attorneys at Goings Law Firm, LLC have represented many families who have lost loved ones in tragic accidents. Our team understands the importance of working quickly to gather evidence that can be used to help us fight for the justice you deserve. We have extensive experience representing the families of victims  and other wrongful death claims in Alabama.

If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone getting behind the wheel when they were intoxicated or otherwise acting irresponsibly, call (803) 350-9230 or contact us online for a FREE case evaluation.


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