I represent victims, not criminals. Each year, far too many innocent people across South Carolina are killed by intoxicated drivers. Many others sustain serious injury at the hands of people who ignore the law by getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink. While it is up to our lawmakers, judges, prosecutors, and criminal juries to hold drunk drivers responsible for their criminal activity, it is my job to ensure victims are fairly compensated for every loss they experience.
If you or a loved one has become a DUI accident victim, I offer my sympathy. In my years as an attorney, I have heard many heart-wrenching stories. I have also learned that victims and their families are left asking questions. I therefore offer the following information in hopes that it will provide some guidance as you begin your search for justice:
1. Even if the drunk driver who caused the accident was uninsured, you may still be able to recover damages (i.e. compensation) 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 drunks. You can purchase uninsured motorist coverage – also known as “UM” coverage – up to the limits of your liability policy. For example, if you have $100,000.00 in liability coverage, you can also buy $100,000.00 in UM coverage. Most insurance companies offer substantial UM coverage for only a few dollars per month. Though we cannot always protect ourselves against intoxicated drivers, we can guard against medical bills and other financial losses by purchasing sufficient UM coverage.
2. Even if the DUI driver who caused the wreck only had minimum limits insurance, you may once again still be able to recover compensation from your own insurance company.
Similar to UM coverage, every auto insurance policy sold in our state must give you the opportunity to buy “underinsured motorist coverage” up to the liability limits. Underinsured motorist coverage – known as “UIM” – 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. The accident victim’s medical bills may be $100,000.00. However, the intoxicated driver might only have $25,000.00 in coverage. This is a situation where the injured party’s UIM coverage would kick in and pay for losses that the drunk driver’s policy could not cover. In addition, you may be able to “stack” your policies – a process I would be honored to explain to you in person or over the phone, as there is not enough space in this article to address the nuances of “stacking.”
3. 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 account 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.
Protecting Drunk Driving Accident Victims
Should any South Carolina drunk driving accident victim or their family member be reading this, know that justice is available. To learn how I can help and to ensure every avenue of recovery is sought, call me today at 803-790-2800 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.