Even after decades of public awareness campaigns on the dangers of drinking and driving, far too many people still make the poor decision to get behind the wheel after having a few drinks too many. As a result, DUI accidents are on the rise all across the country—and South Carolina is no exception. According to research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Palmetto State ranks sixth in the nation for drunk driving fatalities, despite ranking 23rd in population. NHTSA research also shows that drunk driving deaths account for approximately one-third of the state's total traffic accident fatalities.
Drunk driving is a serious crime and those who engage in this unlawful conduct may face criminal prosecution. South Carolina law also allows DUI victims to seek financial compensation for injuries and other losses in the civil court system. If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, here's what you need to know about taking legal action.
Important Evidence in Drunk Driving Personal Injury Cases
Though drunk driving cases may seem relatively open and shut, evidence can make a strong personal injury claim even more credible. After an accident, DUI victims—or, in some cases, their attorney—should gather the following evidence:
- Police accident report
- Video footage from the responding officers' body and dash cameras
- Results of the defendant's BAC test results or drug screening records
- Video footage of the defendant's Breathalyzer test
- Photos or videos of the accident scene, property damage, and injuries
- Contact information and statements from witnesses
- Records detailing the defendant's activities before the accident, such as social media posts or cell phone records
- Your medical records
- Your accident-related medical bills
- Pay stubs, wage statements, or other proof of accident-related lost income
Potentially Liable Parties
In a DUI accident, the responsible party may seem pretty obvious: the drunk driver. However, in some cases, South Carolina courts have determined that other parties should share in liability. These potentially liable parties include:
- Passengers who encouraged drivers to consume alcohol while driving
- Homeowners or party hosts to provide alcohol to minors or over-serve guests
- Bars, restaurants or other alcohol-serving establishments that continue to serve a patron alcohol after they were visibly intoxicated
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine which parties should be named as defendants in your lawsuit.
Possible Damages Available for DUI Victims
Like all personal injury accident victims, DUI victims can seek compensation for a wide variety of economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Accident-related medical expenses
- Vehicle repair or replacement costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of income
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of enjoyment of life
DUI victims may also be eligible for punitive damages, which are awarded when a defendant's conduct is particularly heinous.
DUI Victims and Wrongful Death Lawsuits in South Carolina
Sadly, not all DUI victims are fortunate enough to survive their injuries. When a DUI victim dies as a result of a drunk driver's negligence, the victim's surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit to pursue compensation for damages. However, not all family members are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit—or collect damages recovered. If you have questions about a wrongful death lawsuit, our skilled South Carolina attorneys can help.
Are You a DUI Victim? Consult an Attorney About Your Accident Case
DUI victims may be entitled to compensation for injuries and other losses sustained in an accident caused by a drunk driver. At the Law Offices of Shane Smith, our experienced attorneys can help you understand your rights and examine all options for financial recovery. Contact our South Carolina law office today to request a free initial case consultation; we'll be in touch within 24 hours to set a time for your appointment.