When you get behind the wheel of your car to drive home from work or to go out to a beachfront dinner, the notion of sustaining serious injuries in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver may be far from your thoughts. Yet drunk driving accidents happen more often than most residents of Myrtle Beach would like to think. To be sure, a report from CBS WBTW News 13 noted that the National Highway Safety Committee ranked South Carolina first in the nation in fatal accidents caused by drunk drivers.
The CBS report emphasized that many Myrtle Beach residents who are pulled over for driving under the influence (DUI) are not convicted because of something known as the “camera loophole” in the state law. In short, a flaw in the police video recording of a DUI stop can result in an entire case being dismissed.
Even if the drunk driver is not convicted of DUI, anyone who gets hurt or loses a loved one in a DUI crash can still file a personal injury lawsuit to seek financial compensation. If another driver’s bad decision to drive after consuming alcohol results in serious injuries, the injured party deserves to be compensated for losses. An experienced drunk driving accident lawyer in Myrtle Beach can assist with your case today.
What Should You Do If a Drunk Driver Hits You?
After an accident with a suspected drunk driver, it’s important to take specific steps to protect your rights. You should:
● Contact the police – Do not let the other driver convince you to avoid calling Myrtle Beach police. Without a police report, it will just be your word against that of the other driver.
● Take photos and video – Document the accident scene if you are able, including photographs of vehicle damage, skid marks, debris on the road, and traffic signals and controls.
● See a doctor as soon as possible – A doctor can diagnose, treat, and document any injuries you have sustained in the crash.
● Keep up with your medical care – Follow your doctor’s treatment instructions and keep follow-up appointments.
● Keep financial records – Track your expenses and financial losses from the accident. These may include medical bills, vehicle repairs, and income records to track your lost wages.
It’s also recommended that you speak to a Myrtle Beach DUI accident lawyer to discuss your accident and legal options. You should talk to an attorney before communicating with the drunk driver’s insurance company.
What Are My Rights If I Get Hit in a DUI Accident?
If a drunk driver injures you, you may be eligible to file an injury claim and hold the driver financially accountable for your losses. A personal injury lawsuit is a civil action and is entirely separate from any criminal charges the drunk driver might face if they were arrested for a drunk driving offense.
Even if the driver is not convicted of DUI, you may still have a right to pursue a civil claim for compensation. In criminal cases, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was intoxicated to secure a conviction. For civil claims, however, the plaintiff must show that it is “more likely than not” that the other driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident. This is a lower burden of proof to meet.
Drunk Driving Statistics in Myrtle Beach, SC
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, South Carolina saw a 14% increase in alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities from 2019 to 2020. There were 315 alcohol-related deaths in a recent year, making South Carolina 10th in the country in alcohol-related traffic deaths despite only having the 23rd largest population.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that:
● There were 11,654 fatalities in motor vehicle accidents nationwide where at least one driver was intoxicated, representing nearly a third of all traffic fatalities.
● Alcohol-related traffic fatalities increased by about 14 percent nationwide from 2019 to 2020.
● The 21- to 24-year-old and 25- to 34-year-old age brackets had the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal auto accidents, with 26 percent each.
● For every female alcohol-impaired driver involved in a fatal motor vehicle crash, there were four male alcohol-impaired drivers.
● One alcohol-related traffic fatality occurred every 45 minutes on average.
● Of the alcohol-related fatal motor vehicle accidents that occurred in 2020, about 67 percent involved drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or more.
● The number of fatal auto accidents involving drunk drivers was more than three times higher at night than during the day.
What Are the Myrtle Beach, SC Laws Against Drunk Driving?
Under South Carolina law, it is illegal for a driver to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that it significantly impairs the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. A motorist is presumed to be driving drunk if he or she has a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or greater.
There are certain cases where the legal alcohol limit may be stricter. If a driver is at least 21 years old and has a blood alcohol content between .05 percent to .07 percent, the driver may be charged with DUI based on additional supporting evidence.
Commercial drivers such as truckers are subject to a lower limit of 0.04 percent while on duty. Motorists under 21 are subject to South Carolina’s zero-tolerance law and may be charged with DUI if they have any detectable alcohol in their system.
Criminal penalties for a conviction of drunk driving include:
● Jail time
● License suspension
● Mandatory ignition interlock device usage
● Mandatory alcohol/drug education courses
Who Is Liable After a Drunk Driving Car Accident?
While the intoxicated driver should be held liable for a drunk driving car accident, other parties might also have legal liability if their actions or inaction contributed to the accident.
Under certain circumstances, bars, restaurants, and liquor stores in Myrtle Beach that sell or provide alcohol to intoxicated customers may be held responsible for DUI accident injuries if they violate state laws by serving alcohol to persons under 21 (S.C. Code Ann. §61-4-580(1) or serve someone who is already intoxicated (S.C. Code Ann. § 61-4-580(2). Joye Law Firm has experience with these types of cases. Our law firm obtained a $3.5 million settlement for a young woman who suffered head injuries in a car crash caused by a minor who had been sold alcohol by a convenience store.
Drunk Driving Lawsuit Settlements – What Can Be Recovered?
Through a drunk driving accident claim, you may seek compensation for the harm you have suffered and the losses you have incurred. An insurance settlement or court award could help you pay for the costs associated with your injuries and treatment and provide you with a measure of justice for the unjust harm you have suffered.
You may be eligible to claim compensation for:
● Medical expenses to treat your injuries, including ER and hospital bills, surgery, physical therapy, and purchases of prescription medications and medical equipment
● Costs of long-term care that you may need if the accident left you permanently disabled
● Loss of income if you are unable to work due to your injuries
● Loss of future earning capacity and employment benefits, if your injuries are too severe for you to return to gainful employment
● Pain and suffering
● Reduced quality of life caused by permanent disabilities or disfigurement
● Repairs or reimbursement costs for your vehicle
Does the Insurance Company Pay if a Drunk Driver Hits You?
If a drunk driver injures you, you may file a claim against the driver’s auto liability insurance policy. However, you must prove that the driver caused the accident. You may rely on evidence to show how the drunk driver caused your injuries, including:
● Eyewitness statements
● Surveillance or traffic camera footage, or dash cam footage from your car or another vehicle
● Accident scene photos/video or other physical evidence recovered from the scene
● Accident reconstruction reports prepared by experts that explain what happened in the accident
If the evidence shows that the drunk driver caused the crash, the driver’s insurance might agree to settle the case to avoid going to court. Our attorneys can negotiate on your behalf with the insurer for a full and fair settlement. If the drunk driver was uninsured, you may need to file a claim against your own uninsured motorist insurance coverage to recoup your losses.
Preventing Myrtle Beach Drunk Driving Accidents
If you decide to go to one of the popular bars or pubs in Myrtle Beach, do not drink and drive. After consuming alcohol, it can be difficult to be certain if you can drive safely. As such, it is always better to avoid driving after you have had any alcoholic drinks and to plan on an alternate mode of transportation.
The CDC provides some important safety tips for individuals to prevent drunk driving accidents:
● Before going out to drink alcohol with friends, select a person in your social group to act as a designated driver.
● Do not allow your friends to get behind the wheel of a car if they have been drinking.
● Offer alcohol-free beverages and water to friends and other guests at any event you host.
● When you host a party or gathering that involves drinking alcohol, require your guests to plan for a designated driver beforehand. Do not let your guests leave if they have had too much to drink.
Our Myrtle Beach Drunk Driving Lawyers Help Drunk Driving Crash Victims
If you have been injured or if your loved one was killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, turn to our Myrtle Beach drunk driving accident lawyers at Joye Law Firm for help. You shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s poor decisions. You deserve justice and fair compensation for what you’ve been through. Call us or reach out to us online. We offer a free case review to discuss your injuries and explain your legal options.