According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as many as 315 South Carolina residents lose their lives every year in drunk driving accidents and thousands more suffer from crash-related injuries. All car accidents are potentially dangerous and often deadly, but drunk driving accidents are especially tragic because they are easily avoidable. Aside from the emotional repercussions of being involved in a car accident, many victims suffer seriously debilitating injuries that are not only painful, but expensive to treat, so if you or a loved one were injured in a drunk driving-related car crash, it is important to contact an experienced car accident attorney who can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
Effects of Drunk Driving
Alcohol consumption can significantly hamper a driver’s ability to make rational decisions, which can have deadly consequences. In general, intoxication can significantly impact a variety of skills that are necessary for driving by:
- Slowing reflexes and reaction times;
- Affecting eye muscle functions and movements;
- Altering visual perception, through blurred vision and the impairment of night vision;
- Decreasing concentration;
- Reducing hand, foot, and eye coordination; and
- Decreasing the ability to judge a car’s position on the road in relation to other vehicles or road signs.
These impairments can cause extremely violent collisions that result in serious injuries and even death.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Driving under the influence is one of the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), of which there are two basic types, closed head injuries and penetrating head injuries. Closed head injuries usually occur when a person’s head violently strikes an object, while penetrating injuries occur when an external object pierces the skull and damages the surrounding brain tissue.
Skull fractures are a common type of TBI caused by drunk driving crashes and often lead to more serious problems, such as pieces of broken bone pressing into a victim’s brain tissue. Severe impacts can also damage blood vessels in the brain, causing hematoma and heavy bleeding. Symptoms of TBIs vary depending on the severity of the collision, but some of the most common indicators include:
- Behavioral and emotional problems;
- Change in personality;
- Depression; and
The consequences of sustaining a TBI range from concussions to paralysis and permanent physical and cognitive impairments. All of these injuries can be both painful and expensive, requiring victims to pay for surgeries, medications, rehabilitation, and even 24-hour care. Fortunately, all of these costs can be recouped from the driver who caused the accident.
In South Carolina, anyone who drives with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher is considered legally intoxicated and will be arrested. This limit is even lower for other individuals. For example, those with commercial driver’s licenses cannot exceed .04 percent, while individuals under the age of 21 years must stay below .02 percent.
All claims must be brought within South Carolina’s statute of limitations, which for personal injury claims is three years from the date of the accident. If a victim fails to file within this time frame, his or her case will most likely be barred.
Drivers who cause accidents while under the influence are subject to liability for the injuries caused by their negligence. Even drivers whose BAC levels were not over the legal limit, can still be held legally responsible if the victim can establish that the driver’s ability was impaired by alcohol. Damages include compensation for medical costs, but also lost wages, loss of future income, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Drunk drivers, however, are not the only individuals who can be held legally responsible for these costs. In South Carolina, it is illegal for bars, restaurants, and stores that sell alcohol to continue to serve someone who is obviously intoxicated. This is known as a dram shop liability law and it requires bar and restaurant owners to accept responsibility for contributing to another person’s intoxication. Social hosts who serve individuals under the age of 21 years can also be held liable for their actions if an accident results from an underage driver’s negligence. Finally, some drivers’ insurance policies may not cover the entire amount of damages that their actions caused. In these instances, victims may be able to file an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim with their own insurer for the remainder of the damages.
Preserving evidence is essential to a successful claim, so it is important for victims to retain the services of an attorney who has access to an experienced investigative team. The investigators will ensure that all necessary evidence is collected, including:
- Photographs and measurements from the crash scene;
- The police report written by the responding officers;
- Photographs of the damaged vehicles;
- Data from cell phones and social media;
- Credit and debit card receipts; and
- Records of injuries and medical treatments.
Obtaining witness testimony can also help bolster a case, especially when the driver did not quite reach the legal BAC limit, but was still inebriated. For this reason, it is important to record all statements made by arresting officers or witnesses proving that the driver was impaired. This can include testimony about the driver’s:
- Lack of balance and coordination;
- Failure to pass roadside sobriety tests;
- Odor of alcohol;
- Slurred speech; and
- Red or glassy eyes.
Testimony concerning the at-fault party’s driving prior to the crash can also be helpful in establishing negligence. This includes evidence of:
- Crossing the centerline;
- Speeding or driving too slow; and
- Driving with the headlights off although it is dark.
Contact a Dedicated Personal Injury Attorney Today
Driving while intoxicated causes hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries in South Carolina every year. Drivers who choose to recklessly operate vehicles while under the influence should and can be held responsible, so if you lost a loved one or were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, it is important to retain the services of an experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyer. Please contact the The Michael Jeffcoat Firm by completing one of our contact forms and a member of our legal team will help you set-up a free consultation.
Mr. Jeffcoat, a native of the Columbia area, founded the law firm in 1999. Mr. Jeffcoat got his undergraduate degree at Wofford College in 1994, majoring in Political Economy and Philosophy, and then went to the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he received his J.D. in 1997. After working in two law firms following his graduation from law school, Jeffcoat ventured out on his own to launch The Jeffcoat Firm in March of 1999.