Although drunk driving is one of the most preventable causes of motor vehicle accidents, our experienced car accident lawyers in Greenville, South Carolina, know that drunk driving remains a top cause of traffic fatalities in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), almost 12,000 people are killed in drunk driving traffic accidents each year. This is out of roughly 43,000 traffic fatalities, meaning drunk driving accounts for almost one-third (1/3) of all traffic fatalities. These statistics are troubling, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 32 people die each day in the United States due to drunk drivers.
Were You Injured by a Drunk Driver in South Carolina? Our Car Accident Lawyers in Greenville, SC, Explain Your Rights to Compensation
When it comes to drunk driving accidents in South Carolina, statistics show that our state is the seventh (7th) worst state for drunk driving accidents. This includes having almost double the alcohol-impaired driving fatalities per 100k population than the national average. Despite strong campaigns against drunk driving, the number of drunk driving accidents has increased in recent years in South Carolina by roughly 14%.
Here at Hammack Law Firm, we find these statistics and trends troubling and unacceptable. That’s why our compassionate and experienced car accident lawyers in South Carolina offer victims and their families a FREE consultation to learn more about their rights to compensation under the law. This includes asking questions and getting answers that are relevant to your specific case. To learn more about your rights, call us today to set up your free case evaluation.
For a free legal consultation, call 864-740-8653
Common Question: Can I Bring a Civil Lawsuit Against a Drunk Driver in South Carolina?
When it comes to questions following a drunk driving accident, one of the most common is whether a victim and their family can bring a civil lawsuit against a drunk driver in South Carolina.
The answer is YES.
Many insurance adjusters will try to tell you that all you are entitled to is payment for your medical bills and property damage—not true! This is why you should never accept a settlement check from an insurance company until after you speak with an experienced car accident lawyer in Greenville. Let us explain.
Criminal Cases and Civil Cases are DIFFERENT: Crimes versus Torts
Most people associate drunk driving accidents with the police. This is partly because of the anti-drunk driving campaigns, like “drive sober or get pulled over” or “DWI, You Can’t Afford It.” These TV commercials, print ads, or internet banners all show some form of red and blue lights, handcuffs, and car keys drowning in a glass of liquor. They give the impression – rightfully so! – that drunk driving cases all start and end with the police and law enforcement.
Crimes Like Drunk Driving
To that extent, it is correct. Driving while impaired by alcohol is a crime. When a drunk driver causes an accident, the police are called. They will conduct certain tests to determine whether an individual is impaired or not (and, therefore, whether an individual committed a crime or criminal offense). If so, that individual will be arrested and face criminal charges. These charges result from breaking the law and lead to appearing in criminal court in front of a judge. They are charges that are brought by the People of the State of South Carolina as a crime committed against society in general. The District Attorney is the one that will prosecute on behalf of the public.
Although the victim can influence a District Attorney or judge by giving a victim impact statement or by otherwise requesting that charges be pressed or dropped, these facts do not control what actually happens. That’s because the victim does not control how the case will go against the defendant. Instead, a crime is against the public in general, and the District Attorney is the one responsible for carrying out the public’s interest.
The penalty for a crime can be incarceration, fines, or other alternative measures ranging from alcohol/drug treatment to boot camp to years of probation. A victim is often not compensated; if they are, it is for reimbursement of property damage or medical bills through a criminal disposition.
Torts for Drunk Driving
In contrast, a civil wrong is called a tort. Unlike a crime, a tort is considered a right held by the victim. That means the victim is the one that controls the outcome, including whether to sue, settle, drop the case, or go to trial. Although some torts are completely unique from crimes (for example, a slip and fall), many torts correspond in some way with the criminal law (for example, drunk driving, assault, or nuisance).
However, just because there is an overlap between a crime and a tort does not mean that one displaces the other. In a drunk driving accident, a victim can bring a civil lawsuit against a defendant who is also being prosecuted by a crime. In fact, the law recognizes that most defendants will also “plead the fifth,” meaning they will not testify or make incriminating statements and afford victims extra time (through a “stay” or pause) to file a civil lawsuit. This allows a defendant to go through the criminal process. Then the victim can get statements made in a civil case without the defendant worrying about incriminating themselves (double jeopardy).
In a civil case against a drunk driver, the causes of action (or claims) will be for negligence (failing to act as a reasonably prudent driver) and negligence per se (violating a traffic law that was meant to prevent harm to the victim, such as not driving while impaired). Unlike a criminal case which allows for incarceration, victims in a civil case may be entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and other damages caused by the drunk driver that is unique to them and their family. This is a huge difference because pain and suffering is often the largest component of a drunk driving case.
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After a Drunk Driving Accident, What Happens Next?
If you or a loved one were injured in a drunk driving accident, after the police are called, the defendant is arrested, and you receive medical treatment, you may be at home wondering what you should do next. This is another common question our experienced car accident lawyers in Greenville, South Carolina, get asked all the time.
The best answer we have is just to call us and focus on your healing. We’ll take over and gather police accident reports and investigations, collect and organize your medical records, and begin our investigation. We will file a claim with the insurance carriers to put them on notice of your losses, and we’ll identify all possible points of insurance coverage that you may have against a drunk driver, another defendant, or under your excessive insurance coverage policies (such as underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage known as UM/UIM).
From there, we will evaluate the criminal case against the defendant and follow it to determine whether the defendant pleads guilty, contests the charges, or gives any incriminating statements that we can use in your civil case. Depending on the policy coverage available and your injuries, we may be able to recover a settlement with the insurance carrier or carriers before the criminal charges are resolved. Other times the insurance carrier will wait until the criminal case is resolved before offering any money. Many factors go into this assessment, which again highlights why you need an experienced car accident lawyer in South Carolina like us.
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Were You Hurt by a Drunk Driver in South Carolina? You May be Entitled to File a Civil Lawsuit! Call Our Personal Injury Law Firm to Speak With One of Our Experienced Car Accident Lawyers in Greenville, SC
With the prolific rise in ridesharing, expanded bus services, and great taxi companies in South Carolina, there’s no reason for drunk driving accidents anymore. Despite these alternative and fairly reasonable means of transportation, drunk driving accidents and fatalities continue to increase in South Carolina. And despite this clear criminal conduct, insurance carriers and their defendants continue to protect dangerous drivers.
That’s just not okay.
If you were a driver or passenger injured in a drunk driving accident or any other type of motor vehicle crash, call our personal injury law firm in Greenville, South Carolina. We will go toe-to-toe with the Evil Empire of car insurance carriers and their minions, ensuring your rights are protected and you obtain the compensation you deserve. If the at-fault party doesn’t have insurance—don’t lose hope!—our attorneys may still be able to recover damages on your behalf. To learn more about your rights to compensation and how we can help you and your family fight back, call us to schedule a FREE consultation.