The potential consequences of drinking and driving are widely known thanks to countless anti-drunk driving laws and awareness campaigns in South Carolina and throughout the nation. Unfortunately, far too many people still choose to get behind the wheel while dangerously intoxicated, putting innocent people at risk of injury and death.
If you have been hurt in a traffic accident caused by a drunk driver in North Myrtle Beach, you could be left with painful injuries, expensive medical bills, and diminished income from time missed at work. However, you should not be forced to shoulder the financial burden caused by a drunk driver’s bad behavior. Instead, you could be entitled to considerable monetary compensation for your losses – compensation that the dedicated legal team at Jebaily Law Firm can help you demand.
Our attorneys have recovered millions of dollars in fair compensation for drunk driving accident victims in North Myrtle Beach and across South Carolina, including people hurt by drunk drivers. We can help you by identifying all potential sources of recovery and demanding the money you are owed from the person who hurt you.
Contact us today to learn more about your legal options in a free initial case review with a drunk driving accident lawyer in North Myrtle Beach.
What Is the Definition of Impaired Driving?
According to South Carolina’s Department of Public Safety, operating a vehicle while “materially and appreciably impaired” by alcohol is a crime known as driving under the influence (DUI). In plain English, a person can be charged with DUI if their driving ability has been noticeably affected by alcohol, even if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) below the legal limit of 0.08 percent. A person who is tested and registers a BAC above the legal limit can be charged with DUI per se, meaning that they are definitionally intoxicated regardless of any other factors.
A driver who is found to have a BAC of at least 0.05 percent can have the results of their test used against them to establish their intoxication, but additional evidence is also required to determine if they were guilty of DUI.
DUI can be a misdemeanor or a felony in South Carolina. If a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs kills or injures someone, the DUI charge is automatically upgraded to a felony.
South Carolina Drunk Driving Laws and Statistics
The effects of alcohol on cognition and safe driving abilities are dramatic. Alcohol negatively impacts judgment, slows reaction time, and impairs concentration. Consider the following statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which illustrate just how dangerous and deadly alcohol intoxication can be:
- A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 triples a driver’s chances of having an accident.
- A driver with a BAC of 0.25 is 25 times more likely to be in an accident.
- Alcohol-related traffic fatalities recently increased by 14 percent in South Carolina, from 276 deaths one year to 315 deaths the next.
- South Carolina has consistently ranked as the 10th highest state for fatal drunk driving accidents despite ranking just 23rd in population.
If a drunk driver hits you, you should understand how South Carolina’s drunk driving laws could impact your subsequent injury claim. Here are the ways that some critical South Carolina drinking and driving laws could pertain to your case:
- DUI checkpoint and investigation laws – Police officers are prohibited from stopping and performing sobriety tests on drivers for no reason but may stop and test drivers who seem impaired based on established criteria. The police can also randomly stop and test drivers for alcohol at public safety checkpoints.
- Implied consent laws for BAC testing – South Carolina law holds that any driver who operates a vehicle within the state to have provided implied consent for blood alcohol testing. Any driver accused of an alcohol-related traffic violation in South Carolina must submit to breath, blood, or urine testing.
- Blood alcohol limits and “per se” DUI laws – A “per se” DUI or “driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration” (DUAC) occurs when someone operates a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, regardless of whether their driving abilities are negatively affected. However, it is unlawful to operate a vehicle in South Carolina while intoxicated by alcohol or any other substance to the point that driving abilities are substantially impaired. South Carolina police may charge motorists with driving under the influence (DUI) even if their BAC is below the legal limit, though additional evidence is required for that driver to be convicted. Additionally, certain motorists have lower legal BAC limits, such as those under 21 years of age (0.02) and commercial vehicle drivers (0.04).
How Driver Impairment Affects Judgment and Reactions
Alcohol and drugs affect a person’s ability to drive in several key ways, leading to behaviors like:
- Speeding – Impaired drivers are more likely to speed because they may not see it as dangerous, or they may not realize how fast they are going. Speeding makes it harder for drivers to control their vehicles, and cars inflict more severe injuries the faster they’re moving at the time of a collision.
- Distracted driving – Alcohol and drugs often make it harder for drivers to concentrate on what they are doing. That means impaired drivers are more easily distracted than sober drivers, and a distracted driver is much more likely to cause an accident due to carelessness.
- Failing to yield – Because alcohol and drugs affect drivers’ judgment, impaired drivers are more likely to run a stop sign or red light because they may not realize the danger or may not care about the risk. Failure to yield at an intersection is the cause of many catastrophic accidents.
- Falling asleep at the wheel – Alcohol and many drugs increase feelings of fatigue, which make it more likely that an impaired driver will fall asleep at the wheel. A driver who nods off could cause an accident by drifting out of their lane entirely off the road.
- Failing to turn on headlights at night – Most drivers remember to turn on their headlights at night, but impaired drivers have a harder time thinking clearly and may forget to activate theirs. That makes them dangerous on the road because they cannot see cars and objects in their path, and other drivers cannot see them.
- Swerving – Drugs and alcohol affect a driver’s fine motor controls and decision-making abilities, both of which can lead them to swerve dangerously in and out of traffic.
Steps to Take After a Drunk Driver Hits You in North Myrtle Beach
If a drunk driver injured you in a North Myrtle Beach car crash, you should take the following steps to protect your rights and your injury claim:
- Seek prompt medical care, so your injuries are diagnosed, treated, and recorded.
- Follow your doctor’s care plan and attend follow-up appointments as necessary.
- Gather evidence from the crash scene, including photos of the wreckage, contact and insurance details from the drunk driver, and statements from eyewitnesses.
- Hang on to your medical bills, bank records, pay stubs, and other documentation of your crash-related injuries and losses.
- Watch what you say to the insurance company and other parties after the accident, as anything you say might be used against you.
- Avoid sharing any information or photos online while your claim is pending.
- Contact a drunk driving accident victim lawyer for professional legal guidance.
Parties Who Can Be Held Liable for a Drunk Driving Crash
Depending on the circumstances, any of the following parties could be liable for your injuries after a South Carolina drunk driving accident:
- The drunk driver – The driver is likely liable if they are found to have caused the crash, regardless of whether they are found guilty of drunk driving.
- Another road user – Another motorist, passenger, or even a pedestrian could be at least partially liable if their behavior contributed to the accident somehow.
- An alcohol provider – An individual or establishment in South Carolina may be liable if they served alcohol to a person who was underage or visibly intoxicated at the time, provided the person is also at fault for causing the accident.
What Damages Are Available After a Drunk Driving Crash in North Myrtle Beach?
A successful drunk driving claim in North Myrtle Beach could provide you with compensation for:
- Crash-related medical bills and incidental healthcare expenses
- Lost wages from any time you missed at work while recuperating
- Projected losses in earning capacity, if you suffer permanent injuries
- Subjective losses like pain, suffering, and diminished quality of life
Can a Drunk Driver Be Liable for a Crash If They Aren’t Convicted of DUI?
Yes. DUI is a criminal charge, while a personal injury claim or a lawsuit is a civil matter. The fact of a drunk driver’s DUI conviction may serve as useful evidence in your injury claim. Still, you do not have to prove that the driver was criminally intoxicated to get compensation for a wreck they caused. In fact, a civil impaired driving lawsuit can be successful even if the impaired driver is never charged or is acquitted.
Time Limits for Filing a DUI Accident Lawsuit in North Myrtle Beach
Under the South Carolina Code of Laws, §15-3-530, you generally have three years from the date of a drunk driving accident to file a personal injury lawsuit in North Myrtle Beach. If you attempt to sue after the statutory three-year deadline has passed, the court will most likely dismiss your case, and you will lose the right to demand compensation for your injuries at trial.
Contact a DUI Accident Injury Lawyer in North Myrtle Beach
Need a DUI injury lawyer in North Myrtle Beach? Get in touch with Jebaily Law Firm today. We can answer your questions and review your case for free when you contact us for your initial consultation session.