More Drunk Drivers On The Roads

February 4, 2016

Intoxicated motorists in South Carolina cause more fatal car crashes than drunk drivers in almost any other state.

According to 2013 statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, alcohol is a factor in 47 percent of fatal car crashes in the Palmetto State. That figure was 43 percent in 2012, when Montana and North Dakota both had higher numbers. In both years, the national average was 33 percent. In both years, South Carolina was well outside the top five in terms of total crash fatalities, indicating that drunk driving is a very, very serious problem in the Palmetto State. The 47 percent figure may be somewhat misleading, because the IIHS calculation only includes incidents that involve drivers who are legally intoxicated.

The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information estimates that driving impairment begins after as little as one or two drinks, in most cases.

First Party Liability in an Alcohol-Related Crash

Since impairment begins at half the level of legal intoxication, or even less, a plaintiff can often use circumstantial evidence to establish a breach of duty in these situations. Some examples include:

  • Bloodshot Eyes: Particularly at night, any unusual visual impairment is a significant obstacle to safe driving.
  • Slurred Speech: If the mouth is not functioning at a normal rate, brain functions are almost certainly not as fast as usual either.
  • Emotional Extremes: An unnatural state of contentment and an unusually quick temper are both very dangerous when behind the wheel.

The plaintiff need only prove alcohol impairment by a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not. So, although there are other causes for these symptoms aside from alcohol and they do not constitute “proof” of intoxication in the ordinary sense of the word, one or two items is normally enough to establish the fact by a preponderance of the evidence.

Third Party Liability in an Alcohol-Related Crash

If the driver is impaired, it is a natural inquiry to determine where the alcohol came from. And while South Carolina does not have a dram shop law as such, courts are quick to hold bars, private clubs, restaurants, and other providers liable for the damages their intoxicated patrons may cause, provided certain conditions are met.

To establish dram shop liability (“dram shop” is an old term for a saloon), the plaintiff may use the criminal prohibitions on alcohol sales in the South Carolina Code of Laws. In Section 61-4-580, an illegal sale is one that involves:

  • An underage patron, or
  • An intoxicated person.

In practical terms, there must be evidence that the seller knew the person was underage or intoxicated and nevertheless made the transaction.

Damages in a car crash case typically include compensation for both economic losses, like rehabilitation expenses and lost wages, and non-economic losses, like emotional distress and loss of enjoyment in life. Punitive damages are also available, in many circumstances.

Partner With an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Intoxicated motorists cause serious injuries in car crashes. For a free consultation with an attorney who makes negligent drivers pay, contact David Aylor Law Offices. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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