Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other establishments have a legal responsibility not to serve alcohol to patrons who may be intoxicated. In order to hold these businesses responsible, South Carolina has dram shop or social host liability statutes in place to allow the victims of drunk drivers to hold drinking establishments responsible for their negligence. Nevertheless, far too many bars and restaurants continue to over-serve patrons.
In South Carolina, innocent people have been severely injured or died as a result of car accidents caused by drunk drivers being over-served with alcohol. At the Goings Law Firm, LLC, our Columbia legal team understands far too well the devastating effects that drunk driving can have on unsuspecting motorists and pedestrians, and we are dedicated to helping those injured from intoxication fight for the compensation they need after a drunk driving accident. To learn more about how we can help you, schedule a free consultation by calling (803) 350-9230 today.
Do I Need A Dram Shop Liability Lawyer?
Once you’ve been injured as the result of someone else’s negligence, there are plenty of obstacles to contend with. These include dealing with hospital visits, medical bills, ongoing medical treatment, lost wages, filing for temporary or permanent disability, and property damage. In addition to these issues, you may be enduring excruciating pain on a daily basis.
While you are able to file a claim independently, managing the legalities involved in such injury cases is a complicated process. If you are currently coping with an injury, having a competent lawyer on your side to manage the details of your case can be enormously helpful. A seasoned lawyer can help you secure a better settlement and can often achieve an outcome far more quickly than you would be able to alone. Tying a drunk driving accident to a dram shop can be difficult, but a lawyer with experience in this area will know what evidence to gather and what legal arguments to make to give you the best chance of success.
Why Hire Goings Law Firm, LLC to Handle My Case?
The skilled legal team at Goings Law Firm, LLC have been fighting for South Carolina injury victims for years. In our time serving injury victims and their families, we have been able to recover millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for clients who need it most. Though fair compensation won’t undo the ordeal that you have been through, it is a powerful resource to aid you in moving forward. We believe in serving our community through hard work, dedication, and a strong commitment to justice.
Through our efforts both in and outside of the courtroom, we aim to get results for our clients. At the end of the day, our experienced legal team can make a significant difference in your ability to recover both physically and financially. One of our dram shop liability lawyers will meet with you, review the facts of your case, gather the necessary documentation to calculate what you are owed, and pursue the justice that you deserve. Our dedication to our clients’ success has won us numerous awards, including an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, a perfect 10 rating on Avvo, and a placement among the Top 100 National Trial Lawyers.
At Goings Law Firm, LLC we offer free consultations and do not accept payment unless we are able to recover compensation for you. Even if you are facing serious financial obstacles because of your injuries, rest assured that you can still afford quality legal representation.
Our Dram Shop and Alcohol Liability Practice Areas
When bars, clubs, restaurants, and individuals who serve alcohol at parties do not take public safety into account and over-serve their customers, innocent people are often the ones who have to pay the price for this carelessness. Dram shop liability includes a wide range of different types of establishments, and may include any of the following:
Additionally, in certain circumstances, it may be possible to take legal action against an individual who served alcohol to a person under the age of 21 at a private residence if that underage individual then went on to cause an accident in which someone was injured.
Dram Shop Liability Damages
If you have been harmed by someone that was overserved, you may have suffered from serious injuries. Dram shop cases are civil claims and any compensation that is successfully recovered goes toward the losses that you have experienced as a result of your injuries. These losses often include:
- Medical expenses – Even a minor injury can quickly become a significant financial burden to victims and their families. A fair settlement or verdict can give you the resources that you need to have a smooth recovery. Your settlement can also cover future medical expenses if you suffer a temporary or permanent disability.
- Lost wages – Ongoing medical bills coupled with not being able to work can turn into a dire financial situation. If your injuries have hurt your earning potential either temporarily or permanently, the party responsible for your injuries should answer for this.
- Property damage – Drunk driving accidents can cause serious damages to the vehicles involved. Your settlement can cover the repair or replacement costs for your vehicle, as well as any other property destroyed in the wreck, such as cell phones or clothing.
- Pain and suffering – Not all losses can be quantified as easily as medical expenses and lost wages, but they are still a factor in the overall compensation that you may be awarded. Injuries can burden victims with continued physical pain and emotional distress. This can heavily influence how a person is able to enjoy and engage with their own life. For this reason, your attorney can factor pain and suffering into the total amount of your damages.
South Carolina law gives victims up to three years from the time of the injury to file a dram shop liability claim. Though this timeline may seem generous, it is best to take action as soon as you can. Speaking with a lawyer while your memories surrounding the events are still fresh gives your attorney a clearer picture of what occurred. Additionally, since injuries often become a financial burden, beginning the legal process promptly will help you secure the financial resources you need as soon as possible.
The Alcohol Liability Laws in South Carolina
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.
Some other relevant court cases related to dram shop liability include the following:
Jamison v. The Pantry, Inc. – A 19-year old purchased a case of beer from a convenience shop called The Pantry and later went on to cause a fatal car accident. Following the accident, the driver’s blood alcohol level was observed to be over the legal limit. The plaintiffs in the case were allowed to pursue legal action against the convenience store that sold the 19-year-old alcohol.
Steele v. Rogers – A convenience store is not subject to punishment under a dram shop claim for selling alcohol to a minor unless the minor was intoxicated at the time they caused harm to others.
Garren v. Cummings & McCrady, Inc. – This ruling establishes that the hosts of a party cannot be held responsible for an adult guest who consumes too much alcohol and eventually injures others. This, however, is not the case when minors are involved. If a minor is served at a party and as a result of being intoxicated injures others, the hosts of the event may be responsible in a social host claim.
All of this can be confusing, so do not hesitate to contact a lawyer if you are interested in pursuing a dram shop claim.
Contact a Dram Shop and Alcohol Liability Lawyer in South Carolina
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.
If you have been the victim of a drunk driver who may have become overly intoxicated at a bar, restaurant, or other establishment, we can help. Contact the personal injury lawyers from the Goings Law Firm, LLC, at (803) 350-9230 today to learn more about what we can do to help you pursue compensation and see that all responsible parties are held accountable for their wrongdoing.