Hit by a drunk driver? Every serious car wreck has the potential to cause harm, but a collision caused by someone that is driving under the influence (DUI) can be truly devastating. Here’s what our injury attorney says you should do if you are involved in a car accident and suspect that the at fault driver was drunk.
DUI Signs to Look for After a Car 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. If it’s safe to do so, consider completing the following steps:
- Use your smartphone to take pictures or video of the scene, but do not 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 since the driver could be attempting to conceal intoxication.
- If you notice the driver attempt to switch seats with someone else in the car, 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.
What You Need to Know After Being Hit by a Drunk Driver in South Carolina
- The state is responsible for pressing criminal charges.
After being hit by a drunk driver, many injured people and their families want to know how to hold the drunk driver criminally responsible for their reckless actions. Driving under the influence is against the law in South Carolina and across the country, so if the person proves to be intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, they will be arrested at the scene of the wreck and a state prosecutor will press charges against the driver. If you would like to be involved, you can contact the prosecutor or victim’s advocate, and request to speak at the driver’s sentencing. Our law firm also maintains a relationship with solicitors offices and can help ensure you are part of the process (if you choose).
- You can file a civil claim against the drunk driver to hold them civilly and financially responsible for your injuries.
In addition to the state’s criminal proceedings, you can file a civil claim to hold the drunk driver accountable for the harm you experienced. You can begin the process by contacting the defendant’s insurance company and filing a claim for your damages. The insurance provider will then open an investigation and will attempt to close your case by offering to pay you in the form of a settlement. At that point, you may choose to accept their offer or negotiate a larger settlement. Keep in mind that insurance companies make money by paying claimants as little as possible, so many people choose to hire drunk driving injury lawyers to handle negotiations with the insurance company and help ensure they receive a fair settlement.
- The insurance company should consider various damages when determining a full, fair settlement amount.
When determining if the insurance company has offered you a fair settlement, consider the costs associated with the below damages:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Lost enjoyment of life
- Future medical treatment
- Punitive Damages
If the offer from the insurance company won’t cover your medical bills, your inability to continue making the same wages, or the medical treatment you’ll need in the future, I’d encourage you to consider scheduling a free consultation with an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer in South Carolina to ensure your rights are protected.
- Even if the drunk driver who caused the accident was uninsured, you may still be able to seek recovery from your own insurance company.
In South Carolina, every car insurance policy comes with “uninsured motorist coverage.” This type of insurance coverage is designed to protect you against uninsured drivers – including intoxicated drivers. You can purchase uninsured motorist (UM) coverage up to the limits of your liability policy, so if you have $100,000.00 in liability coverage, you may also have $100,000.00 in UM coverage that you can rely on for recovery if the drunk driver did not have auto insurance.
- Even if the DUI driver only had minimum limits insurance, you may be able to recover compensation from your own underinsured motorist policy.
Every auto insurance policy sold in our state must also give you the opportunity to buy “underinsured motorist coverage” up to the liability limits. Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage protects you and your family when an at-fault driver is insured but lacks sufficient coverage to pay for all your losses. For instance, if a drunk driver crosses into the wrong lane of traffic and causes a head on collision, the injuries could be severe. Your medical bills may be $500,000.00. However, the intoxicated driver might only have $25,000.00 in coverage. This is a situation where your UIM coverage would kick in and pay for losses that the drunk driver’s policy could not cover. You may be also be able to “stack” your policies to secure additional compensation. To learn more, check out this article on stacking insurance policies.
- In addition to actual damages, you may be owed punitive damages due to the drunk driver’s recklessness.
Punitive damages are designed to punish the drunk driver for the conscious disregard he showed toward public safety when he chose to drive under the influence. In addition to receiving the “bodily injury” policy limits, punitive damages allow you to receive the entirety of the “property damage” policy limits. This means that if you were involved in an accident with an intoxicated driver in South Carolina, the insurance money available to you may be 50%-100% greater than under normal circumstances.
- If the drunk driver became intoxicated at a bar or restaurant, you may be able to recover compensation from the establishment’s insurance company.
The law holds us responsible for our actions. Therefore, if a bar serves a customer too much alcohol, then allows that person to get on the road, the bar could be required to pay for any harm the drunk driver causes. This is known as South Carolina dram shop liability. Like UM and UIM coverage, dram shop liability can sometimes be the difference between a life spent paying back medical bills and recovering fair compensation. To learn more about South Carolina’s dram shop laws, read this library article: Over-Serving Establishments and Dram Shop Laws.
- An experienced injury lawyer can help ensure your legal rights are protected after being hit by a drunk driver in South Carolina.
DUI accidents can cause permanent injuries and even death, but you only get one shot at a fair settlement. Once you sign a release, you no longer have the right to seek additional recovery, even if you later discover that you’ll need additional medical treatment as a result of the accident. That’s why it’s incredibly important to consider speaking with an attorney before settling your case. A drunk driving accident lawyer can effectively investigate your DUI crash, identify additional sources of recovery, negotiate with the adjusters, and take your case to trial if a fair settlement cannot be reached.
Get Legal Help After Being Hit by an Intoxicated Driver
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 all responsible parties accountable and obtain justice on your behalf. With offices conveniently located in Columbia and Myrtle Beach, we’re able to serve clients across all of South Carolina. Call us today at 803-790-2800 (Columbia, SC) / 843-427-2800 (Myrtle Beach, SC), or start a live chat 24/7 with a real, live person to arrange a free and confidential consultation.