Can DUI Victims Be Awarded Punitive Damages in South Carolina?

People injured by drunk drivers in South Carolina are allowed to pursue compensation not only for medical expenses and physical pain, but punitive damages as well. DUI victims can obtain a punitive award regardless of whether the at-fault driver's criminal charges are dismissed. In fact, the outcome of the DUI criminal case generally has little, if any, bearing on the personal injury (i.e. civil) claim. 

Factors that Affect Whether Punitive Damages Can Be Recovered in DUI Cases

Punitive damages and drunk driving accidentsA punitive award is meant to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future. In order for punitive damages to be obtained in South Carolina, they must be specifically requested in the lawsuit. Additionally, the victim must prove through clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was grossly negligent or reckless in causing injury. When determining whether a punitive claim should be allowed, the judge will consider a number of factors, including:

  • severity of injury;
  • defendant’s level of intoxication (i.e. blood alcohol level);
  • defendant’s liability for the accident; and
  • any previous drunk driving convictions for the defendant.

Compensation for People Injured By Drunk Drivers in South Carolina

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 313 South Carolinians died in alcohol-impaired accidents in 2017. Punitive awards are one way to deter drunk driving and decrease the number of people hurt or killed by impaired drivers. Though punitive damages have been capped in most cases, there are situations where caps do not apply, including when the defendant acted under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Thus, there is no legislative cap on the amount of money that may be awarded in DUI cases.

Helping Innocent People Seek Justice

My firm represents and protects the rights of people injured in DUI accidents across South Carolina. We do not represent drunk drivers. If you have questions about punitive damages, insurance, or any other aspect of your case, I am here to help you. No one should have to take on insurance companies or the legal system by themselves. For answers to your questions - and help seeking justice - call my Columbia, SC office today at (803) 790-2800 or start a live chat with us now.  If you would like us to contact you instead, fill out a contact form to schedule a free initial consultation. 

Not ready to speak to a lawyer yet? Download my free guide to South Carolina auto accidents or visit our DUI and auto accident injury practice overview pages to learn more.

Kenneth Berger
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Columbia, South Carolina car accident and personal injury attorney dedicated to securing justice for clients