Charleston Drunk Driver Accident Lawyer
Helping Victims of Drunk Drivers in South Carolina
Drunk drivers took the lives of 28 people in Charleston County in 2018 and injured hundreds more. Despite years of public safety campaigns and driver education, drinking and driving crashes have been on the rise in recent years. Everyone knows that drinking and driving is dangerous, but that doesn’t keep people from going out for drinks after work or to a club on the weekend, or from ordering wine with dinner at a restaurant. Some people don’t realize they are intoxicated and shouldn’t be driving until it’s too late and they get into an accident. Some bars overserve people whom they know to be drunk and soon to be on the road, and those establishments can bear some of the responsibility for a crash that follows.
At the Gus Anastopoulo Law Firm, Charleston drunk driving accident lawyer Gus Anastopoulo holds drunk drivers and local bars accountable for the tragedies they bring about through drinking and driving car accidents. If you’ve been hurt by a drunk driver in Charleston or North Charleston, call the Anastopoulo Law Firm for a free, confidential consultation on your claim. We’ll help you get the medical care and compensation you need and deserve to deal with the harm done to you by another’s negligent and wrong decisions.
Will the Drunk Driver’s DUI Case Impact My Civil Claim?
A drunk driver who causes an injury crash is likely to be arrested and prosecuted for driving under the influence (DUI). As the injury victim, nothing prevents you from pursuing a civil claim for money damages against the driver either before or after their drunk driving case or even at the same time. The fact that the driver was arrested or convicted of DUI can be helpful in your case. It provides strong evidence of negligence and works as a kind of shortcut toward proving the driver’s liability.
Although the driver’s arrest or conviction for DUI can be helpful to your case, it isn’t necessary. For one thing, civil and criminal cases are held to different standards. Civil cases are proven when the weight of the evidence lies more in favor of one side than the other, but criminal cases have to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Just because a person was not found guilty of DUI in criminal court doesn’t mean that a savvy plaintiff’s attorney cannot have that same person found liable for causing a drunk driving crash in civil court.
It’s also important to note that drunk driving might be negligent behavior, but it doesn’t prove fault all by itself. Even if you can show the other driver was drinking, you still have to show that they caused the crash by some negligent act (running a red light, crossing over into your lane, rear-ending you at a stop sign, etc.). Charleston car accident lawyer Gus Anastopoulo will take the proper steps to build your case and settle with the insurance company or take them to court.
When Can a Bar Be Liable for Serving Someone Who Causes a Crash?
Dram shop liability is the traditional legal term for holding a bar or liquor store liable for selling liquor to an intoxicated person or overserving a patron who later causes a drunk driving crash. In South Carolina, it is illegal to knowingly sell beer or wine to a person under 21 or to an intoxicated person. The South Carolina Supreme Court has on numerous occasions ruled that establishments that violate this law can be held liable for crashes that result. When bars overserve their customers, it’s like they are sending people off their premises with a loaded gun or a ticking time bomb. No one understands the effects of alcohol impairment more than bar owners and employees who make a living serving intoxicating liquors.
Holding a bar owner liable for dram shop liability is not a simple matter, though. The law against overserving requires that the server “knowingly” served an intoxicated person. Bars can be crowded, dark and noisy places, and servers can be very busy serving multiple customers simultaneously. These factors can make it hard to prove the knowledge element and give bar owners an easy excuse for why they served someone who had already had enough to drink.
Proving a violation of the statute is the responsibility of a county prosecutor. Just as discussed above regarding a DUI prosecution of a drunk driver, it is not necessary that the bar was found guilty of violating the law in order to pursue a civil claim for dram shop liability. While you still might have to prove the “knowledge” element in your civil case, your burden of proof will be the “preponderance of the evidence” and not proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
If you were injured in a car crash in Charleston or North Charleston with a drunk driver or a minor (under 21) in possession of alcohol, you might have a claim against a retail store or bar as well as the driver who hit you. Not every personal injury attorney bothers with dram shop cases, and many will give you excuses why they don’t think these cases are worthwhile. Attorney Gus Anastopoulo doesn’t think that way. At the Gus Anastopoulo Law Firm, we want you to receive a full amount of compensation and a full measure of justice in your personal injury case. Our firm has carved out a niche pursuing dram shop cases in Charleston, so please give us a call and let us help you if you’ve been the victim of a drunk driving car accident in Charleston or North Charleston.
Can I Get Punitive Damages from a Drunk Driver or the Bar That Served Them?
Punitive damages are a special form of damages meant to punish people or businesses for especially bad conduct or deter others from engaging in similar conduct. Punitive damages are limited to cases where you can prove that the defendant’s behavior was “willful, wanton, or reckless.” This behavior must also be proven by “clear and convincing” evidence, which is a higher standard than the “weight of the evidence” described earlier to prove other elements in a civil case. The issue of punitive damages is tried in a separate stage, only after the jury has decided the defendant is liable and has awarded compensatory damages to the plaintiff. Factors that influence the size of a punitive damages award include the degree of culpability, the severity of harm, the plaintiff’s own conduct, similar past conduct (such as previous DUI convictions or arrests), the defendant’s ability to pay, the deterrent effect of a punitive damage award, and any criminal penalties or civil fines assessed against the defendant.
Punitive damages might certainly be appropriate in a case involving a drunk driver, especially if the driver was heavily intoxicated, refused offers of a ride home, or has a history of drunk driving offenses. Similarly, a bar that overserved an individual who was obviously intoxicated and let them leave although clearly impaired and intending to drive might also be subject to punitive damages. Bartenders are trained to observe signs of intoxication and know when to cut someone off. Their desire to please their customers shouldn’t overcome their duty to society by sending someone out on the road after loading them with alcohol.
Attorney Gus Anastopoulo Is the Lawyer to Call After Getting Hit by a Drunk Driver in Charleston
If you’ve been the victim of a drunk driver who caused a crash in Charleston or North Charleston, call the Gus Anastopoulo Law Firm for a free consultation at 843-310-5555. We’ll investigate all your options for full compensation and let you know how we can help.