Columbia Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer

Every driver owes everyone else on the road a duty to drive safely and obey the law. Drunk driving is one of the most egregious violations of this duty and claims countless lives each year.

Other victims are left with debilitating, sometimes permanent injuries, medical bills, lost time from work, and other damages. If you or a loved one were the victim of a drunk driver, you will need experienced legal counsel to demand the compensation you deserve. Count on our skilled Columbia car accident attorneys Rikard & Protopapas to stand up for you after an accident with a DUI driver.

Can You Sue a Drunk Driver for an Accident?

Like any other motorist, a drunk driver can be held liable for getting behind the wheel and driving while intoxicated. The same is true if a driver is under the influence of drugs, even if they are prescription medications.

A victim who sues a drunk driver will generally seek compensation from the insurance company that insured the driver. The problem, however, is that many drunk drivers either aren’t insured or do not have enough insurance to cover the victim’s damages.

While a driver can be sued personally, he or she most likely won’t have the necessary resources to fully compensate the victim. Drunk driving accidents are often catastrophic wrecks that leave victims with substantial medical bills, lost time from work, and other damages. Fortunately, there are other options.

How Bad Is the Drunk Driving Problem in Columbia and Richland County?

According to the 2021 South Carolina Traffic Collision Fact Book, drunk driving remains a troubling issue in Columbia and Richland County.

From the year 2017 to 2021, Richland County saw an overall increase in the number of fatal drunk driving accidents. After a rise from 2017 (16 deaths) to 2018 (21 deaths), the number of fatalities dropped to 17 in 2019. They then increased to 22 deaths in 2020 and 27 in 2021. In these accidents, the drunk driver had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher.

There has also been an overall rise in non-fatal accidents caused by DUI (alcohol and/or drugs) in Richland County over the same time period. In 2017, the number of accidents was 311. This increased slightly to 315 wrecks in 2018 and then dropped to 284 in 2019. Then in 2020, the number of collisions increased to 332, and then up to 413 in 2021.

Can You Sue a Bar or Restaurant That Overserved a Drunk Driver?

Sometimes parties other than the drunk driver can be held liable for a DUI accident. One example is a bar, restaurant, or other establishment that served too much alcohol to the driver.

These businesses can be sued under a legal theory known as dram shop liability.

Working with a Columbia drunk driving accident attorney, you can hold the business responsible if it served alcohol to:

  • An adult who was noticeably intoxicated and drove
  • A minor who is under the age of 21

The basis for this theory is that the bar or restaurant should have reasonably foreseen that a young or intoxicated patron would consume alcohol, get behind the wheel, and cause an accident. So if this happens, the business can be ordered to pay damages to the victim.

There is a similar doctrine called social host liability. A social host is someone like a homeowner, employer, or private club that hosts social events and allows minors under age 21 to consume alcohol. If the minor gets into a drunk driving accident, the social host can be held responsible. It should be noted that social host liability in South Carolina only applies if the host serves alcohol to minors, not adults (even visibly intoxicated ones).

Could the Person Who Gave the Vehicle to the Drunk Driver Be Liable?

Some cases of drunk driving involve intoxicated motorists who drive someone else’s automobile and cause a wreck. In a case like this, the legal doctrine of negligent entrustment may apply.

Under this theory, a victim can recover damages from the individual who allowed the intoxicated person to drive their vehicle. Negligent entrustment can even apply if the owner simply knew that the person to whom he or she lent the automobile was likely to become intoxicated.

Does a Criminal DUI Trial Have Any Impact on a Civil Trial?

Since drunk driving is a crime, the driver could be facing criminal charges. Although criminal trials are separate from civil trials, the criminal proceedings could support your argument that the drunk driver caused your injuries.

A criminal conviction is not necessary to pursue a civil lawsuit against the driver, nor does the driver have to be criminally charged before you can file in civil court.

Ultimately, the outcome of your civil case is independent of whatever happens in criminal court, so you will want to prepare accordingly. Trust an experienced Columbia drunk driving accident lawyer to work for you.

What Can Our Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys Do?

If you were in a wreck caused by someone who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is imperative that you retain a drunk driving accident attorney in Columbia, SC. Our legal team is ready to work on your case by investigating the crash and uncovering evidence such as police reports and witness statements.

We will work hard to settle your case with all defendants and their insurance companies. This is usually done through an out-of-court process known as mediation. A lawsuit may be necessary if the insurers refuse to negotiate in good faith. We are experienced litigators who will be ready to take your case in front of a jury.

If the drunk driver flees the scene or doesn’t have insurance (or enough coverage), one of the third parties mentioned above (e.g. a social host) could potentially be held liable. You might also be able to file a claim against your own uninsured/underinsured policy, if you have one. We can assist with this process as well.

What Compensation Is Available?

Although every DUI accident is different, victims can generally seek compensation for:

  • Medical bills, including hospitalization, surgery, physical and occupational therapy, prescription medication, and more
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity, if the victim cannot return to the same job as before
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Wrongful death damages
  • Punitive damages (in cases of extreme negligence)

Contact Our Columbia Drunk Driving Accident Attorney

At Rikard & Protopapas, we understand the stress you’re likely facing after being in a drunk driving accident. No one deserves the medical bills, lost time from work, and pain and suffering that result from someone’s irresponsible decision to drive while intoxicated.

Our firm is here to help win the compensation you need for these and other losses. Connect with us online or call 803-978-6111 today to get started.

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