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Victims of drunk driving accidents may think the only responsible party is the intoxicated driver who caused the crash. However, in some circumstances, South Carolina laws provide additional remedies for injured people when alcohol is involved. Specifically, injured accident victims can hold other parties liable for injuries and other losses resulting from drunk driving crashes depending on how the driver became intoxicated and where they consumed the alcohol.
If a drunk driver injured you in a vehicle collision, you have the right to request compensation for your damages. In South Carolina, you can file a claim against the intoxicated driver and possibly a dram shop claim against the person or business that served the driver, depending on your circumstances.
Dram Shop laws provide additional protection for people injured by an intoxicated driver when a commercial business overserves them. Dram shop liability is complicated and difficult to prove. To know if you can use Dram Shop laws to pursue compensation for your injuries and losses, turn to an experienced Dram Shop Lawyer for answers.
When You Need a Lawyer Who Understands South Carolina Dram Shop Laws
At the Louthian Law Firm, we have decades of experience helping South Carolina victims of drunk driving collisions. Combined, we use our more than 80 years of legal know-how to help seriously injured people who were often in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our dedicated legal team understands the law and how to enforce it. You can count on us to gather crucial evidence, negotiate with opposing parties and their insurance companies, and build the strongest possible case on your behalf.
We will walk you through the negotiation process to ensure you don’t accept an unfair settlement offer. If a reasonable settlement is not possible, we are ready, willing, and able to bring your case to trial and request the maximum award possible. Our mission is to protect you and help you regain peace of mind.
Dram Shop Laws are an Old Concept
What’s a dram shop? You may be scratching your head over this phrase. This historic term came from the 18th century when English establishments sold gin by the spoonful, or “dram.” In those days, if an over-served pub patron later harmed someone else, the injured person had no legal right to seek payment from anyone other than the intoxicated person.
Eventually, “dram shop laws” established the liability of those who sell alcohol to visibly inebriated patrons when those patrons cause injury or death to third parties. Such laws allow DUI victims or their families to sue bar owners (or owners of other establishments that serve alcohol) for monetary damages.
While South Carolina does not have a specific Dram Shop Act, it does have similar statutory and common law rules. In general, it is against the law for a business to knowingly serve alcohol to an intoxicated person who then causes an alcohol-related car accident.
If an intoxicated driver injured you, you might have more legal rights than you thought. You might be able to file a dram shop claim against the negligent establishment. When you share your story with a Columbia dram shop attorney at the Louthian Law Firm, we’ll explain the relevant law and the potential compensation available.
What’s the Difference between Dram Shop Laws and Social Host Liability Laws?
In Columbia, when a drunk driver causes a crash after being served at a bar, club, or restaurant, dram shop laws may apply. South Carolina dram shop laws pertain to businesses that sell alcohol in a public, commercial establishment.
However, if that same driver became intoxicated at a private party, the party host may also be responsible for injuries caused by the intoxicated driver under different laws. For example, you may have heard of cases where party hosts were serving, but not selling, alcohol at a private gathering and were sued for a drunk driving accident caused by one of the guests at the party. Cases like these may fall under “social host liability laws,” which only apply in limited situations.
Social host laws primarily address situations when an adult host serves alcohol to someone they know is less than 21 years old. The host may be liable for injuries or damages suffered by the underage drinker or others harmed because the host served alcohol to the underage person.
Proving Fault in a Dram Shop Case
We at the Louthian Law Firm share your disapproval and outrage against those who drive under the influence and wreak havoc and injury upon innocent victims. But those serving alcohol to clearly inebriated patrons also deserve our scorn. Our mission is to hold these businesses legally responsible for their actions as well.
To prove fault in a dram shop case, the injured person must show the following:
Visible intoxication can be a subjective opinion. Eyewitnesses may confirm the person was staggering, falling down, slurring their speech, or showing other obvious signs of intoxication.
However, a dram shop case can also be supported by evidence of how many drinks the person consumed over a few short hours and whether the drink contained high amounts of alcohol. Blood alcohol content testing at the time of the accident can also help prove the actual amount of alcohol consumed, even if the establishment claims the patron was not overserved.
These cases are fact specific and can be challenging to prove. You deserve a seasoned dram shop attorney in your corner who knows what to look for and how to create the strongest case possible.
Potential Dram Shop Damages
After being injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver, you have the legal right to request compensatory damages to pay for your losses. Depending on your specific circumstances, you may also qualify for punitive damages.
In general, accident victims in South Carolina can request payment for the following losses:
Additionally, finding evidence that the South Carolina establishment has a history of violating the law by serving alcohol to inebriated patrons or other aggravating circumstances can be significant. With this damaging evidence, you may be eligible to request punitive damages, and the judge can instruct the jury to award compensation to punish the business, not just pay your expenses.
Dram Shop Law and Case Examples
South Carolina allows dram shop cases, although it has no specific dram shop statute. Instead, Section 61-6-2220 of the South Carolina Code prohibits selling alcohol to persons “in an intoxicated condition.” This law makes the person selling the alcohol responsible for serving an intoxicated patron. Therefore, it allows injured people to bring injury cases when a drunk driver was “overserved” at a bar or other establishment and caused harm.
Often these cases are decided in the South Carolina Supreme Court, as in Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge and Grill, Inc. In this case, the Court ruled that the bar had violated state law by serving alcohol to a “visibly intoxicated” adult and, therefore, could be held liable for any injury the overserved person might have caused to someone else.
SC Has the Third Worst Rate of Drunk Driving Deaths in the Nation
South Carolina has the dubious distinction of holding the third worst percentage rate of drunk driving deaths per 100,000 people in the United States. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that SC recently had 1,037 traffic deaths in one year, with 335 of those deaths (32 percent) attributable to driving under the influence of alcohol.
From a nationwide perspective, the national average shows that 28 percent of all traffic deaths are alcohol-related. In our geographic area, North Carolina’s average is 34 percent, and Georgia’s average is 30 percent. At the low end of the study, West Virginia, Kansas, and Kentucky all average 24 percent. These numbers indicate that we still have a long way to go in our quest to reduce alcohol-related deaths.
A few years ago, we saw a major legal victory: the passage of Emma’s Law. Named after a six-year-old who was killed by a drunk driver, the law expands punishment for all convicted drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content level above 0.15 percent. The legal limit in South Carolina is 0.08 percent.
When Life Goes Wrong, We’ll Fight for You
When you or someone you love is hurt or suffers a loss, it can feel like nothing will ever be right or fair again. You don’t have to face the consequences of someone else’s negligence and bad decisions alone. Turn to one of our compassionate dram shop lawyers to guide you through the complicated personal injury maze.
At the Louthian Law Firm, our dedicated lawyers will do what it takes to gather evidence and build a compelling case on your behalf. We’ll visit the accident scene, interview witnesses and experts, and collect your medical records and bills. Throughout the process, we will keep you informed and answer all of your questions.
We have built a solid reputation with over 80 years of combined experience seeking justice for injured South Carolinians. State-wide defense attorneys and insurance companies take us seriously and know we will fiercely fight for our clients.
Don’t Wait to Protect Your Rights
Like many other South Carolina personal injury cases, dram shop law cases can be quite technical. Injury victims have a specific timeframe to bring legal action after the collision. If you miss this filing deadline, you lose the right to ask for compensation from the responsible party in the future.
If you or someone you love has suffered because of an accident you believe is a dram shop law case, contact our Columbia drunk driving accident lawyers who will do everything possible to get you the compensation you deserve. For a confidential case evaluation, call us at (803) 454-1200 or use our online contact form.
We are the Louthian Law Firm. Seeking truth and securing justice for hardworking people and families since 1959.