When a person chooses to consume alcohol prior to operating a motor vehicle, they pose a risk not only to themselves, but also to anyone else on the road at the same time. What’s more, when a drunk driver causes a crash, it is often times the other driver, not the drunk driver, who sustains the most severe of injuries.
While a drunk driver may face criminal penalties when they cause an injury to another person as a result of their intoxicated operation of a motor vehicle, the victim of the crash also has the right to bring civil charges against the drunk driver as well.
At Joye Law Firm, our Charleston injury attorneys should be your first call after you or a loved one is injured in a drunk driving accident in South Carolina.
Injuries Caused by Drunk Drivers in Charleston
Drunk driving crashes can be terrible; when a person is impaired to a point where they cannot safely control their vehicle, a crash may be worse than it would be had two sober drivers been involved, both of whom could take corrective actions as the accident was occurring. For example, not only may a drunk driver be speeding, but they may also be traveling at night without their headlights on, and traveling in the wrong direction – straight into oncoming traffic. While a sober driver would swerve into the appropriate lane if they realized a head-on collision was imminent, a drunk driver may not have the faculties to do such a thing, resulting in a head-on collision while traveling at a high speed. This is just one example of a dangerous and deadly thing that can occur when a drunk person operates a vehicle. Needless to say, drunk driving crashes are often destructive and tragic. Some common injuries caused in drunk driving accidents include:
- Spinal cord injuries. When vehicles are impacted when traveling at high speeds, drivers and passengers are likely to sustain extremely severe injuries, including spinal cord injuries. If the spinal cord is affected, the victim may be permanently paralyzed from the injury site downwards.
- Traumatic brain, head, and face injuries. The head and the face often suffer a traumatic blow during a crash. As such, a person may suffer from broken bones and cuts on their face, scalp injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. Facial injuries may result in permanent scarring and disfigurement, whereas a traumatic brain injury may result in permanent loss of certain functions, such as impaired memory or speech.
- Broken bones and amputation injuries. Bones are not nearly as pliable as are muscles, and if enough pressure is applied, a bone can and will fracture. Some bone breaks can be especially dangerous, as broken bones can pierce internal organs (e.g. a broken rib could pierce the lung, leading to internal bleeding). In some cases, a limb may be so badly damaged, and blood loss to the limb so prolonged, that amputation is necessary.
- Psychological injuries. In addition to the physical injuries listed above, amongst others, it is important to note that a car crash caused by a drunk driver can have a serious psychological impact on the affected victim. too. This psychological impact may be related directly to the accident – i.e. a fear of riding in cars develops – or related to one’s injuries – i.e. a person develops depression after losing their legs.
Holding a Drunk Driving Liable for Injuries
It is important to note, as briefly mentioned above, that a drunk driver may face both criminal charges and civil charges. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is high: a defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that there can be no doubt that the defendant committed the crime of drunk driving, and that if there is doubt, they cannot be convicted.
In a civil case, on the other hand, the burden of proof is merely a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is a much lower standard. This means that the plaintiff (injured party) must prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In fact, the plaintiff need not even prove that the defendant was intoxicated beyond the legal limit of .08 percent blood alcohol content; instead, they must merely prove that the defendant committed an act of negligence, and that this negligent act was the direct cause of the accident. The fact that the defendant’s blood or breath results show that the defendant was intoxicated is merely an important – and likely very convincing – piece of evidence, but it is not the only piece of evidence, nor is it the crux of the civil action. A completely sober driver could also be held liable in civil court if a plaintiff can establish that the driver did something to violate the reasonable standard of care, such as speeding or driving in the wrong direction.
You Have the Right to Be Compensated for Your Injuries
You have the right to be compensated for your injuries after a drunk driver has hit you. This is true whether you were acting as a pedestrian, bicyclist, motorcyclist, or another driver at the time of crash. This is also true even if you contributed to the accident in some way, assuming that the drunk driver was mostly at fault (see South Carolina’s comparative fault laws).
At Joye Law Firm, we want to help you hold a drunk driver liable for the injuries they have caused. Not only will we work hard to obtain evidence that is key to your lawsuit, including the results of the driver’s blood or breath alcohol test, but we will also build a case, negotiate with an insurance adjuster, and represent you in court if it comes to that.