When it comes to accidents involving a drunk driver, we often picture the impaired driver swerving, speeding, and hitting another car. While driving under the influence can lead to these types of accidents, a drunk driver is not always automatically responsible for an accident.
Making a car accident claim requires you to prove that the other driver caused the accident and therefore is responsible for your injuries.
Of course, a drunk driver will always be ticketed for driving under the influence since it’s illegal in every state. And while this shouldn’t be confused with being at fault for the accident, impairment will be a major factor in proving fault in a car accident.
Several elements must be proven to establish liability and successfully make a car accident claim. These elements include:
- Duty of care owed: every driver on the road must uphold the rules of the road and act in a way that doesn’t put another driver at risk. By both parties being drivers on the road, this element is met.
- Breach of duty: this means that the other driver acted so negligently or poorly that, as a result, it put you in danger. If this negligent action caused an accident, they have breached their duty. Drunk driving can be used to prove they breached the duty of care owed.
- Direct Cause: you must show that the other driver’s negligent actions were the direct cause of your injuries in the accident. At this point, it would be determined if the drunk driver was responsible for the accident. To receive compensation for a personal injury claim in South Carolina, the other driver must be at least 50 percent responsible for the accident.
- These elements will prove you suffered losses resulting from the other driver’s negligence and that the law covers all damages sustained.
While drunk driving is illegal in the U.S., this doesn’t make someone who is under the influence automatically at fault in an accident. For example, maybe you glanced down at your phone and hit someone from behind or didn’t yield when turning left. In cases like these, because you were the cause of the accident, the other driver would not be found at fault, even if they were drunk.
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Driving under the influence is extremely dangerous, and it increases the likelihood of an accident because it slows down brain function, muscle coordination, and the ability to reason. Due to these factors, drunk drivers cause most accidents because of their impairment. Sadly, even though these types of accidents could simply be avoided by not driving after drinking, the National Highway Traffic Association has reported the following statistics:
- 32 people are killed per day in the U.S. from a drunk driving accident—that’s one person every 45 minutes.
- In 2020, 11,654 people died in alcohol-impaired accidents—a 14% increase from 2019.
- Between 2011-2020, 10,500 people died from drunk driving accidents.
- 30% of fatal car accidents in the U.S. involve a driver with a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of .08 g/dL or higher.
Due to the impaired functions and slow responses of a drunk driver, most commit dangerous driving practices like:
- Swerving in and out of lanes or other erratic behaviors
- Not stopping at traffic lights and ignoring traffic signs and signals
- Driving too slowly when trying to overcompensate
- Excessive speeding
In South Carolina, you can seek compensation from another driver as long as you are not more than 50 percent responsible. Called comparative negligence, this means that both parties can share fault for an accident.
When it comes to an accident involving a drunk driver, any of your actions that contributed to the accident, like speeding, will be counted against you and reduce the amount of compensation you can recover. Whatever percentage of fault is assigned to the other driver is the amount you can seek in your claim. For example, if you were determined to be 30% at fault, you can file a claim for compensation for the 70% contribution of the other driver.
If a driver you thought was intoxicated doesn’t get ticketed for driving under the influence, you can still prove their liability in the accident. While it’s always important to let the responding officer know that the other driver might be impaired, it is possible that they weren’t. The main thing you must prove is that the other driver’s actions were the cause of the accident and, therefore, responsible for the injuries you sustained.
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Get the Help of an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Today
If you’ve been injured in an accident, whether it involved a drunk driver or not, get the help and expertise of a personal injury lawyer. Determining liability is not a simple process; if your injuries are severe, you deserve fair compensation.
At the Hammack Law Firm, we will do everything in our power to fight for the settlement you are entitled to after an accident. Our experienced team of lawyers can expertly handle any circumstance—whether at trial or negotiating with a stubborn insurance company. Let us help you so you don’t have to experience any more loss. Call us today and schedule a free consultation!