While there is no excuse for driving, with the availability of Uber and other ride services, people nevertheless continue to illegally drive while intoxicated on alcohol and other substances. When a drunk or otherwise intoxicated driver causes a wreck involving serious injuries or death, there are multiple things to consider. Where was the drunk driver drinking prior to causing this wreck? Who supplied the alcohol?
“Dram Shop” liability
South Carolina statutes make it criminally illegal for a bar to sell alcohol to a person to the point of intoxication. South Carolina common law states that when a bar violates the penal statute and over serves a patron to the point of intoxication; and that person injures an innocent third-party, that third party, or his or her estate (in the event of death), has a civil monetary damages cause of action against the seller of the alcohol. This liquor liability cause of action is commonly referred to as a “dram shop” case against the bar or other provider.
An adult drunk driver, or his or her estate in the event of death, cannot recover for his own serious injuries or death, but third-party innocent drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians may be compensated for monetary losses, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, alteration of lifestyle and other intangible losses. Because drunk driving is a willful, intentional, grossly negligent, reckless, and dangerous act, punitive damages are always sought, to punish the wrongdoer and to send a message to the community that this kind of drunk driving behavior will not be tolerated on our highways.
A minor, under the age of 21, who has been served alcohol or drugs at the home of an adult, and who suffers his or her own serious injuries or death while driving intoxicated may bring a claim against the adult homeowner; or a convenience store, bar or restaurant, who illegally supplies alcohol to a minor, has liability for the minor’s own injuries or death, in addition to innocent third-parties.
The first thing police do when an intoxicated person has caused a roadway collision, is to arrest the person for felony DUI, then conduct an investigation into where the person has been over the several hours prior to the collision. Depending on the circumstances, all bars or restaurants who sold the person alcohol prior to the drunk driving collision may share liability for the serious injuries or wrongful death caused by the intoxicated driver, in addition to the driver’s own liability.
Establishments that sell alcohol after 5 p.m. in South Carolina are required to carry a minimum of one million dollars ($1,000,000.00) in liquor liability coverage to compensate innocent people who are injured by intoxicated drivers who leave the bar or restaurant and cause serious injury or death.
The McKnight Law Firm is experienced in handling the most complex liquor liability claims. We have toxicologist experts who perform “retrograde analysis” to determine what level of alcohol a person has in their system at the time of the incident, when blood and urine draws and breathalyzer tests are not conducted until hours following a collision. Further, we employ experts in the field of alcohol service, who evaluate the facts and render expert testimony on the negligence of establishments that have illegally, over-served someone who later drives intoxicated and causes serious injury or wrongful death.
If you or a family member has been injured or killed due to an intoxicated driver, the McKnight Law Firm is ready, willing and able to help you and your family.