It is not necessary to prove that the driver who caused your crash was drunk to prove that they were negligent. However, if you can show that they were intoxicated when they struck you or your vehicle, it will be much easier to win your claim and you may be eligible for significantly more compensation. In fact, victims of drunk driving crashes may even be eligible to receive punitive damages, for which there is no cap in South Carolina when they are the result of injuries caused by drug or alcohol intoxication.
Signs of Intoxication
If you notice someone driving excessively slowly, struggling to maintain their lane, failing to stop at red lights or stop signs, or showing any other erratic behavior, it could be a sign that they are intoxicated. Even driving with the windows down at night could be a sign of potential intoxication, as it is a common method drunk drivers use to try to keep themselves awake and alert.
After a collision, look for the following signs of intoxication when speaking with the other driver as you exchange information:
- Slurred speech
- Watery or red eyes and dilated pupils
- Smell of alcohol
- Lack of coordination (such as when retrieving their license or insurance card from their wallet or getting in and out of their vehicle)
- Stumbling or inability to stand straight
- Lack of attention, inability to concentrate, and difficulty answering questions
- Difficulty staying awake
These are all common signs of intoxication and should be reported to the responding police officer and your lawyer.
What You Can Do
You should always call the police after any car accident involving injuries or property damage, and if you suspect the other driver is drunk, make sure you inform the police officer when they arrive at the scene.
If you noticed erratic driving behavior before being hit, that can be included in your testimony as well. Dashcams are an excellent way of recording this behavior for proven evidence.
The responding police officer can conduct a sobriety test or breathalyzer at the scene, and if they agree with your assessment, they should include it in their accident report, which can be later used as evidence in your injury claim. They may also order a drug test, which can also be later used as evidence.
If there are any witnesses on the scene, make sure to collect their information so they can back up your testimony by saying they also noticed signs of intoxication.
What Your Lawyer Can Do
Your lawyer’s job is to collect evidence proving that your degree of fault was low or non-existent and that the other driver was negligent. They can do so by following up with witnesses and drug test results, whether any DUI convictions resulted from the crash, and by discovering if the driver who hit you has a record of prior drunk driving convictions.
Your lawyer may also look into where the driver was before the collision, such as a bar, and speak to any potential witnesses there who can confirm the driver was visibly intoxicated when they left, or look at their bar tab, receipt, and credit card statements to see how many drinks they may have ordered while there.
Another method your lawyer may use is obtaining video evidence of erratic driving from traffic cameras or security cameras from nearby businesses.
If your case prepares to go to trial, your lawyer will also have a chance to interview the other driver during deposition, where they will be required to answer questions such as how much they had to drink before getting in the car.
Civil Cases are Easier to Prove than Criminal Cases
One thing that works in favor for victims of drunk driving crashes is that the burden of proof is lower in civil court than in criminal court. Unlike criminal court, where it must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the other driver was drunk, you and your lawyer will only need to show that it is “more likely than not” that the other driver was drunk when they injured you.
Furthermore, civil cases and criminal cases are completely independent from each other. That means you can still prove to the satisfaction of the court that the other driver was drunk and caused your injuries even if they are never convicted of DUI in criminal court.
Let Us Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve
Purposefully getting behind the wheel of a car when drunk is heinous and inexcusable. When you or someone you love has been injured because of someone else’s disregard for your safety by driving drunk, you deserve compensation, and our team is ready to help you get it.
We’ve helped many people who were hurt by drunk drivers; we know the devastation it causes families, and we know how to prove those drivers’ negligence to get the victims the help and justice they deserve.