Bars or Restaurants May Be Responsible for Injuries Caused by Overserved Drunk Drivers in South Carolina
With crashes caused by drunk drivers on the rise and New Year’s being one of the deadliest days of the year, it might make you think twice about going out to celebrate.
South Carolina ranks 10th in the nation for drunk driving cases. From 2019 to 2020, alcohol related fatalities increased by 14% in the state, while traffic counts were down 11%, according to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Being injured by a drunk driver often means catastrophic injuries, significant property damage and sometimes, even death. According to the NHTSA, over 30% of South Carolina traffic fatalities involved alcohol.
Making these difficult situations even worse, if the drunk driver has no insurance or not enough insurance, you and your insurance company may be stuck footing the bill for your own injuries that were caused by another’s negligence.
But there may be other parties that can be held accountable. If the driver was served in a bar, a restaurant or other location that serves alcohol, you may be able to hold the establishment liable in what is called a “dram shop” case.
What Does Dram Shop Mean?
At the Steinberg Law Firm, we handle a wide range of personal injury cases, including dram shop cases. A dram shop case is a legal action that can be brought against a business that serves alcohol, such as a bar, restaurant, or liquor store, for serving alcohol to a person who was already intoxicated, and that this person subsequently caused injury or damage as a result of their intoxication.
In South Carolina, dram shop cases are governed by the criminal state statute, Section 61-4-580, which says that it is unlawful for any person or business to sell or furnish alcoholic beverages to a person who is visibly intoxicated. If a person or business violates this law and a person is injured as a result, the injured person may be able to bring a “dram shop” case against the person or business that sold or furnished the alcohol.
How a South Carolina Injury Lawyer Can Help Prove a Dram Shop Case
To succeed in a dram shop case in South Carolina, the injured person must prove that the business sold or furnished alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated, and that the intoxication was a contributing factor to the injury or damage that occurred. This means that the plaintiff must show that the defendant knew or should have known that the patron was visibly intoxicated at the time they sold or furnished the alcohol.
Proving that a business served alcohol to an intoxicated patron can be a key element in a dram shop case, as it is necessary to show that the business knew or should have known that the patron was intoxicated at the time they were served. There are a number of ways that an experienced personal injury lawyer can help gather evidence to support this aspect of the case.
One of the most important ways that a lawyer can help gather evidence in a dram shop case is through investigation. This may involve speaking with witnesses, such as other patrons who were present at the time the alcohol was served, or employees of the business who may have seen the patron’s level of intoxication. A lawyer may also be able to obtain video footage from the business, which can be used to help demonstrate the patron’s level of intoxication at the time they were served. Also, footage from the police investigation of the wreck will show field sobriety tests and footage of the intoxicated person speaking to the police which can help gauge mental state at the time of the wreck.
In addition to speaking with witnesses and reviewing video footage, a lawyer may also be able to gather evidence such as credit card bills and bar receipts to show how many drinks were purchased by the patron and when they were served. This can help to establish the timeline of events leading up to the injury or damage and can be used to help demonstrate the patron’s level of intoxication at the time they were served.
Finally, a lawyer may also be able to obtain expert testimony from toxicologists or other experts who can help to explain the effects of alcohol on the body, and how the patron’s level of intoxication may have contributed to the injury or damage that occurred.
By gathering this evidence and presenting it to the court, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help to build a strong case and pursue the compensation you deserve in a dram shop case.
Section 61-4-580 also prohibits a bar from serving anyone under 21 years old. So, if the impaired driver who caused your injury was under 21 years old and was served alcohol by the defendant, you don’t have to show that the driver was visibly intoxicated. The establishment would then be liable for damages.
Seek Experienced Legal Help After a DUI Crash
At the Steinberg Law Firm, we understand the devastating consequences of drunk driving, and the importance of preventing alcohol-impaired driving through measures such as strict enforcement of laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to minors and intoxicated individuals.
If you have been injured in an alcohol-related accident in South Carolina, or if you believe that a business served alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated, resulting in your injury or the injury of a loved one, the Steinberg Law Firm can help. Our experienced personal injury attorneys can advise you on your legal options and help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at 843-720-2800 or through our online contact form.