Get Answers To Common Auto Accident Questions In South Carolina
We know how many questions you must have right now about your South Carolina auto accidnet, so we compiled this list of the questions we hear the most. If you have a question that is not answered here, please call our Columbia law office to speak with Kenneth Berger.
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How does a DUI accident case work?
After you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, it sets into motion a series of events that can change your life. It’s easy to get lost in the process and be unsure of what happens next or what you should do to protect yourself and your legal rights. Here’s a look at what happens immediately after a crash and the steps that you should take to ensure you’re protected.
What Happens After a DUI Crash
Immediately after a serious crash, your first priority is to health and safety. Make sure that you and your passengers are okay and contact 911 immediately to get authorities and any medical help needed on the scene as soon as possible. Avoid interacting with the other driver and let the police handle that situation, as there may be an arrest and criminal charges involved if alcohol or drug intoxication is the suspected cause of the wreck.
The police can help you get the insurance and contact information for the other driver and provide you with an FR-10 Insurance Verification form, which must be completed and returned to the DMV within 15 days of the accident. Make a copy for your records. Next, you’ll want to:
- Contact an attorney. Find an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible, because you will likely want legal representation. Your attorney can help you negotiate with the insurance company, press a lawsuit to get a fair settlement, or pursue a legal action against the driver if he or she didn’t have insurance.
- Contact your insurance company. You may need to speak to your insurance company if you’d like to begin a claim on your own policy, if the accident is covered. Your attorney can help you with this contact to make sure your rights are protected.
- Refer questions to your lawyer. The other driver’s insurance company is going to call you within a day or two of the crash. You do not need to speak to them without your legal representative at hand, so you can politely refer them to your attorney for any questions and end the call.
Remember, the other driver’s insurance company is not working on your behalf on this case. Insurance companies do not make money when they pay out claims, so they will attempt to minimize your settlement amount as much as possible, or even deny it outright—even if the accident wasn’t your fault. Your attorney can help you ensure that your legal right to compensation is protected.
Get Legal Help Today
If you have been hurt or someone you love has been killed by a drunk driver, you have our deepest sympathies. The attorneys at the Law Office of Kenneth E. Berger are here to help you and your family begin the process of healing and recovery by ensuring your rights are protected after a serious accident. Call us by phone, use our online contact form, or click the live chat box on this page to arrange a free consultation with an attorney you can trust today.
How long do I have to file a DUI accident lawsuit?
In the field of law, certain time limits dictate how long a legal action can be brought against someone. This is known as a “statute of limitations” and is a part of the legal system in every state, including South Carolina. The rules change from state to state, as the legislature in each state determines what the rules are.
A very few states, like South Carolina, have no statutes of limitation on criminal acts. But every state, including South Carolina, has a statute of limitations for civil claims, such as a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death claim.
Why Statutes of Limitation Matter
The statute of limitations is an important part of the justice system because it serves to protect the rights of the accused. As time passes, most forms of evidence degrade, so a time limit helps ensure that evidence is fresh, and the case can be tried with the most accurate facts that are available. The time limit also helps ensure that potential defendants aren’t faced with the threat of a lawsuit forever.
Time Limits for Personal Injury Suits
The amount of time that an injured person has to file a civil action varies depending on the type of claim. For a DUI accident personal injury lawsuit, typically the time limit to make a legal claim in South Carolina is three years from the date of the injury. Similarly, surviving family members of those who have been killed have three years from the date of death to make a wrongful death claim in court.
Statutes of limitations are complicated and there are exceptions, but once the time limit is over victims are almost never able to recover damages. Even if you’re not sure that you have a case, contacting a personal injury attorney sooner rather than later can ensure that your legal right to pursue compensation in a court of law is protected.
Get Legal Help After a DUI Accident
If you have been injured or lost a loved one due to a drunk driver, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth E. Berger are here for you. We believe in protecting the legal rights of those who have been harmed, and we want to help you and your family begin the recovery process today.
To talk about your situation with an experienced, caring legal professional, call us by phone, use our contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page now to arrange a free consultation at our office. We can also make arrangements to visit you if mobility is a problem after your accident, so reach out to us today get started.
Is the outcome of my civil action against a drunk driver affected by a criminal case?
If you have been involved in an accident caused by a drunk driver, the chances are good that you will want to file a civil lawsuit to recover damages. Although the driver was probably arrested and faces criminal DUI and other possible charges, a criminal conviction will not result in any financial recovery for victims. Criminal courts prosecute crimes and punish wrongdoing, while civil court exists as the legal means for victims to receive compensation for injuries. But how will a criminal case affect the outcome of your civil action against a drunk driver?
Civil Lawsuits Versus Criminal Cases
A common misunderstanding about the law is that there cannot be a criminal case and a civil case for the same accident case. This is not true. Criminal and civil courts are entirely separate branches of the law, so a criminal charge doesn’t prevent someone from facing a civil lawsuit. A criminal charge also isn’t necessary to file a civil lawsuit. A conviction is not required, either. You can also file suit against someone who has already been convicted, even if he is in jail already.
In fact, due to the separation of the legal and civil court systems, a criminal case is not likely to have much bearing on your civil case at all. While your attorney may be able to obtain a limited amount of helpful information from law enforcement officials on the criminal law side of things—such the results of a blood-alcohol test—the outcome of your civil case is ultimately independent of the criminal case.
Get Legal Help After an Accident
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, the Law Office of Kenneth E. Berger extends sympathies to you and your family. We are here to help those who have been harmed by negligence or wrongdoing, and we would like to help you start the recovery process today.
To speak to an experienced legal professional about your accident, please call us by phone, use our contact form to send an email, or click our live chat box now. Our offices are conveniently located in Columbia, and we proudly serve clients from all over the state of South Carolina, including the Myrtle Beach, Sumter, and Florence areas.
What should I do if I see an intoxicated driver?
One of the most frightening experiences while driving is when you suspect that an intoxicated driver is sharing the road. The unpredictable behavior of someone who is impaired means nothing but danger for everyone on the road. Intoxicated drivers may weave or dart across the road erratically, miscalculate turns, fail to brake or use the brakes at inappropriate times, drift from lane to lane, and otherwise cause havoc for other drivers.
If you suspect that there is an intoxicated driver on the road, you may need to act to protect yourself and prevent an accident. Drive defensively by staying alert and cautious, and consider taking the following actions:
- Make sure your safety belt is on. You should always have your seat belt on— it is the law. You may want to double-check that both you and your passengers are secured, though, in case an accident does happen.
- Keep your distance. Slow down and keep back if you think a driver in front of you may be intoxicated—pull over if you can do so safely. Put as much distance between yourself and that driver as possible. Consider turning down a different street, or even taking the nearest exit as soon as possible if you are on the freeway.
- Call 911. Please remember that as a driver, your primary responsibility is to ensure the safe operation of your vehicle. While you should contact the authorities as soon as possible, wait until you are in a safe position before attempting to call or ask a passenger to make the call for you. Try to report as much information as you can, including the make, model, license plate—even a partial plate can help—and the location or direction that the driver was headed.
You should never attempt to pass a suspected intoxicated or drunk driver, because you do not know how they will react before, during, or after the pass. For the safety of yourself and everyone on the road, stay back and let the other driver move further away. You should also never attempt to interact, interfere, or apprehend a suspected intoxicated driver— that is what law enforcement is for. Stay away and call the authorities.
By remembering what to do when you see an intoxicated driver, you can do your part to keep yourself and our communities safe.
Get Legal Help After a DUI Injury
If a drunk driver has hit you, a personal injury attorney can help you seek compensation from the driver responsible for your injuries.
The Law Office of Kenneth E. Berger is here to help those whose lives have been shaken by a serious injury or death caused by a drunk driver, and we would like to help your family begin the recovery process. To speak with an experienced legal professional about your situation, please call us today, use our contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page right now.
How does alcohol affect a driver?
It seems that not enough drivers in South Carolina are making the responsible decision not to drink and drive. South Carolina consistently ranks amongst the worst states for drunk driving accidents, and over 300 people were killed in DUI crashes in our state alone in 2016. What is it that makes alcohol so dangerous when someone gets behind the wheel?
How Alcohol Affects Driving
Alcohol affects the body in many ways. Not only does it take a toll on health over time, the immediate effects make it dangerous to engage in any activity requiring skill, attention, and coordinated movement. Sensory perception is reduced, nerve-to-muscle transmission is impeded, and decision-making and higher brain functions all suffer, leading to effects such as:
- Altered judgement. Alcohol can make clear thinking, good decision-making, and planning ahead difficult, and can increase risk-taking behaviors—all critical skills for operating a vehicle.
- Lowered ability to concentrate. Driving a car involves a lot more concentration than many people realize, but when your ability to focus on the many tasks involved in driving goes away, such as steering the car, maintaining a safe speed, staying in your lane, and avoiding other cars, the risk of an accident increases greatly.
- Loss of coordination. Alcohol causes changes in the parts of the brain that control motor skills, too, which slows down reflexes and decreases the ability to safely steer or use the gas and brake pedals appropriately.
- Impaired vision. Alcohol relaxes the muscles that control the eyes, causing blurred vision and slower visual reaction time. Alcohol also decreases peripheral vision, meaning that drunk drivers have a difficult time seeing anything that isn’t directly in front of them, including other cars, pedestrians, and other hazards or obstacles in the road.
As these effects take hold in the body, the intoxicated driver may not sense dangerous situations, react appropriately to a hazard, or be able to control his or her vehicle. This can lead to a serious accident that not only hurts the drunk driver, but also leaves other innocent drivers and passengers seriously injured—or worse.
Get Legal Help Today
If you have been hurt by a drunk driver, the Law Office of Kenneth E. Berger is here to help you seek the justice you deserve in a court of law. Not only do we serve clients in the Myrtle Beach, Florence, and Columbia areas, we are here for you no matter where you are in South Carolina. For a free consultation with a legal professional who cares about you and your family, call us by phone, use our contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page now.
How serious is the drunk driving problem in South Carolina?
It is easy to think that your chances of being in an alcohol-related crash are low, especially if you are a responsible driver yourself and make the choice to never drive when you have been drinking. However, drunk driving is a serious problem both nationally and right here in South Carolina. All it takes is one accident with a drunk driver to change your life forever, leaving you or a loved one with severe, permanent injuries—or even your life.
Drunk driving incidents are more common than many people realize. Over a million drivers were arrested for DUI across the nation in 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, and more than ten thousand people were killed in DUI crashes. So where does South Carolina stand?
The fact is that our state ranks consistently amongst the worst states for drunk driving. Here in South Carolina, a full one-third of all fatal accidents in 2016 involved a driver with a blood alcohol level (BAC) at or above the legal limit—331 lives were lost that year.
Of particular concern in South Carolina are Myrtle Beach and the surrounding areas. The Grand Strand is well-known for being a highly-trafficked route through the region. With tens of thousands of visitors coming to enjoy the sights, sounds, and party atmosphere of the local area, it means that the risk of a DUI accident is disproportionately high all across Horry County—where a traffic accident happens every 48 minutes, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.
Legal Help After a DUI Injury
If you have been hurt or a loved one has been killed by a drunk driver, you have our deepest sympathies. We are here to help those who have been hurt recover from drunk driving injuries by seeking financial compensation in a court of law, and we would like to be there for your family in your time of need, too. We proudly serve those who have been injured in DUI crashes caused by other drivers in the Myrtle Beach, Florence, Sumpter, Lexington, and Columbia areas, and across the entire state of South Carolina, as well.
To speak to an experienced legal professional who cares about your case, please call us today, use our contact form to send us an email, or click the live chat box on this page right now.
How do Drunk Driving Accidents Differ from Other Accidents?
Crashes caused by drunk drivers can be devastating. There is simply no excuse for somone to become intoxicated, then get behnd the wheel, yet it continues to happen in South Carolina. Not only do these wrecks tend to be more severe, they are also different legally. Here’s what you should be aware of if you’ve been injured by a drunk driver.
Criminal Law Versus Civil Law
One of the biggest sources of confusion after a driving under the influence (DUI) accident involves the difference between civil and criminal cases. It’s true that driving under the influence is a crime, and civil authorities will pursue drunk drivers in order to carry out the law. However, the criminal case does not address compensation for items such as medical bills. To hold the driver - and their insurance company - financially responsible, you will need to file an insurance claim, and potentially a lawsuit in our civil courts.
It’s a common misconception that you can’t sue someone who is facing criminal charges. Nothing could be further from the truth. The civil and criminal justice systems function independently of one another, and you absolutely can bring a civil action against someone who is being prosecuted criminally. Being convicted and in jail affords no protection from a civil suit. However, a conviction isn’t necessary to begin your civil case, as the standards of evidence in civil court are different than criminal court. Moreover, an acquittal or dismissal of the criminal charges in no way impacts your ability to hold the drunk driver accountable financially under South Carolina's civil system. Put simply, the criminal and civil DUI cases are completely independent of each other.
Punitive Damages in DUI Cases
After an auto accident, you may seek "damages" for expenses such as hospital bills, physical therapy, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, repair or replacement of your property, physical pain, lost quality of life, and more. In addition, punitive damages may also be sought against the drunk driver. Punitive damages are designed to punish particularly bad behavior, as well as provide a warning to anyone in the future who may commit similar acts. Punitive damages may be awarded to victims when the accident was caused by gross negligence or recklessness, which is inherently present in drunk driving accidents.
Help for DUI Accident Victims
If you’ve been injured in an accident that was caused by a drunk driver here in South Carolina, the Law Office of Kenneth E. Berger is here to help. We represent those who have been hurt, not drunk drivers, and we can help you navigate the complex world of insurance companies, personal injury lawsuits, damage awards, and medical liens. To schedule a free consultation with us, please call our office, use the contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page. Our office is conveniently located in Columbia, and we serve a wide area across the entire state, including the Lexington, Greenville, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach areas.
For answers to questions you have about car accidents and DUI issues right now, please download our book, “Safety First, Justice Always: Your Guide to South Carolina Auto Accident Law.” It’s completely free and can help you understand your rights as a victim after a crash.
What Should I Do If I am in a Crash Caused by a Drunk Driver?
Every serious car accident has the potential to cause harm, but a collision caused by someone that is driving under the influence (DUI) can be truly devastating. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that across the nation, on average, 29 people were killed each day in 2016 due to crashes involving alcohol. DUI accidents also result in countless injuries and financial loss in South Carolina
Here’s what you should do if you are involved in a car accident and suspect that the other driver was under the influence.
DUI Signs to Look for After a Crash
If you suspect drunk driving caused the crash, your first step should be to call 911. A police response means that a trained investigator will be able to examine the other driver. If he or she tests positive with law enforcement, not only does it help your legal case later, but you are helping to take a dangerous driver off the road.
While you wait for the authorities to arrive, keep your eyes open. You can even use your smartphone to take pictures or video of the scene, but only if it is safe for you to do so—and rarely approach an obviously intoxicated driver. If you see any open alcohol containers or drug paraphernalia, report it to the police. Report the use of mouthwash, breath spray, or eye drops immediately after the accident as well since the driver could be attempting to conceal intoxication. Another common tactic is for a drunk driver to switch seats with someone else in the car. If you notice a seat swap, tell the police what you saw, as it could lead to serious charges.
After the crash, you may consider contacting a personal injury attorney who helps DUI victims. Your attorney will know how to effectively investigate a DUI crash, press a claim against the insurance company, and take your case to court if a fair settlement cannot be reached.
Learn More and Get Legal Help After an Accident
For more information about car accidents and DUI crashes in South Carolina, please download our e-book, “Safety First, Justice Always: Your Guide to South Carolina Auto Accident Law.” This short, informative book is an invaluable resource for those who have more questions about car accidents here in our state, and is completely free.
If you have been hurt in an accident caused by a drunk driver, please know that our entire team at the Law Office of Kenneth E. Berger will do everything in our power to hold that reckless person accountable and obtain justice on your behalf. We proudly serve clients from Columbia, Lexington, Greenville, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and other areas. Call us by phone, use our contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page now to arrange a free consultation with us today.
How Can I Prove the Other Driver Was Texting at the Time of the Wreck?
There are 1000s of rear-end collisions on South Carolina's roadways each year. Often times, the person who has been injured knows intuitively that the at-fault driver was distracted - most likely by a cell phone. But how can you prove this fact when the other person will almost certainly deny it? In my experience, there are 3 very important steps that can be taken:
1. A preservation of evidence letter (also known as a "spoliation" letter) should be sent to the distracted driver and his/her insurance company as soon after the wreck as possible. The letter my office uses demands that the cell phone, along with text, email, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Internet usage, and all other data history be preserved exactly as it existed at the time of the accident. If we learn that the phone was tampered with, or any potential evidence was deleted after receipt of our "spoliation" letter, we can seek to have the judge inform our jury of this fact in the event the case goes to trial. That looks very bad for the defendant. On the other hand, if evidence is not destroyed, we may very well have our "smoking gun" in the form of text messages that were sent and received in the moments leading up to the collision. Either way, a preservation of evidence goes a long way towards proving distracted driving.
2. In the event a lawsuit becomes necessary, South Carolina law allows subpoenas to be sent to any person or entity in possession of potential evidence. To this end, a subpoena should be sent to the negligent driver's cell phone provider. While the subpoena response may only provide a call history or monthly data usage, it can provide evidence of how much time a person spent glued to their cell phone.
3. If depositions are required to further prove the case and hold the driver responsible for his/her actions, the attorney should dig in on the distracted driving issue. This is especially true for rear-end collision and blown stop sign cases. Simply put, a driver does not run into the back of someone else unless he is going far too fast for conditions, following too closely, or driving while distracted. Many times it is some combination of these dangerous variables. Though the defendant may not fully admit to using his cell phone at the time of the wreck, he will be forced to admit at least one major safety law violation (speeding, tailgating, taking his eyes off the road for a dangerous length of time) or look very foolish denying it. No matter his answer, you win.
I have handled distracted driving cases across South Carolina for a number of years now, and would be glad to assist you as well. If you believe the person who crashed into you was on a cell phone, but need help proving it legally, we are here to serve. You can contact us 24/7 via our live chat, or call us at one of our convenient office numbers listed on the website. We look forward to hearing from you, and to holding the dangerous driver accountable.
How Can I Get Fairly Compensated for My Permanent Physical Impairment After a Car Accident?
In South Carolina, compensation in a civil case is based on "damages." This may include past medical expenses, lost earnings, physical pain, and mental anguish. Lesser known damages are those related to permanent injuries. However, the law is clear on this point. If another driver's negligence causes you harm, you should be compensated for past, present, and future losses. Often times, the insurance carrier will try to settle the case only weeks or months after the wreck. The settlement offer will be based on what you have experienced to date, but not what you face in the future.
So what can be done to ensure that all damages - including any long-term impairments - are properly valued? First, there must be medical documentation. That does not mean you should go out and lie to a doctor about your condition. Rather, it means to be forthright with medical professionals about any and all ways the accident still affects you. For instance, if you are having neck or lower back pain 9 months after the wreck, your doctor needs to know that. It will help your case, but more importantly, it will help ensure you get the medical care you need.
At some point, the doctor will likely conclude that you have reached a plateau. This is known in South Carolina as "maximum medical improvement." It does not mean you are 100% better, only that you have made as full a recovery as you are going to make. This is the appropriate point in time for a doctor to issue an impairment rating. For example, let's say you had to undergo back surgery after your car accident. Your treating orthopedist may give you a 15% impairment rating to the spine once you complete physical therapy. The impairment rating will be based on medical guidelines.
In presenting your case to the insurance carrier, we would note the impairment rating. However, the emphasis would be on how the injury will permanently affect your daily life. Whether the greatest impact is on your work, family, or recreational pursuits, insurers must properly compensate you for all the ways your life has been altered.
Along with physical restrictions, your long-term injuries may remain painful and require future medical care. South Carolina law allows you to recover for those ongoing and future damages, but you only have one bite at the apple. In other words, your one-time settlement must account for every damage you ever have or ever will incur. That is why it is so critical to properly identify any permanent injuries and the consequences arising from them, before settling.
I have given presentations on this topic for other lawyers, and would be glad to speak with you about compensation for future damages, or any other aspect of your auto accident case. To speak with me, call my Columbia, SC office today at 803-790-2800.