Understanding South Carolina Dram Shop Laws and Liability for Auto Accidents

by | Dec 21, 2023 | Auto Accidents

bartender pouring shots at SC establishment Drunk driving remains a significant problem in the United States, accounting for a staggering number of injuries and fatalities every year. In South Carolina, a special set of laws called “dram shop laws” play a crucial role in holding establishments accountable for serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons or minors who subsequently cause accidents.

What are Dram Shop Laws?

Dram shop laws, also known as commercial host liability laws, are legal provisions that hold establishments that serve alcohol liable for damages caused by their patrons who become intoxicated and cause accidents or other harm. These laws aim to deter establishments from overserving patrons and promote responsible alcohol consumption.

Dram shop laws serve as a deterrent to establishments that engage in irresponsible alcohol service, encouraging them to adopt stricter policies and practices to prevent overserving and underage drinking. Additionally, these laws provide a remedy for victims of drunk driving accidents, allowing them to seek compensation for the damages they have suffered.

South Carolina Dram Shop Liability

SC-man-holding-head-after-drinking-at-barWhile South Carolina does not have a specific dram shop statute, the state’s courts have established a common-law doctrine known as “dram shop liability.” This doctrine allows victims of drunk driving accidents to pursue civil claims against establishments, including restaurants, bars, and other places that serve alcohol to the intoxicated driver.

To establish dram shop liability, a plaintiff must prove that:

  • The establishment served alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated or to a minor.
  • The patron became intoxicated because of the alcohol served at the establishment.
  • The intoxicated patron caused an accident or other harm.
  • The plaintiff suffered damages because of the accident or harm.

Elements of Proof in Dram Shop Cases

Proving dram shop liability can be challenging, as it requires establishing a clear causal link between the establishment’s actions and the harm caused. Key elements of proof in dram shop cases often include:

  • Evidence of intoxication: Witness testimony, breathalyzer results, or other evidence of the patron’s intoxication at the time of the accident. A police report and evidence collected by law enforcement can be used to prove intoxication.
  • Evidence of overserving: Observations of the patron’s behavior at the establishment, records of drinks served, or testimony from employees about the patron’s level of intoxication.
  • Expert testimony: Expert witnesses may provide opinions on the patron’s intoxication level and its role in causing the accident.

What To Do If You’re Involved in a Car Accident with a Drunk Driver

woman-being-administered-a-breathalyzerBeing involved in a car accident can be a frightening and stressful experience, especially if the other driver is intoxicated. Here are some steps you should take if you find yourself in this situation:

  1. Call 911 immediately. Even if you don’t think you or anyone else is seriously injured, it’s important to report the accident to the police. They will be able to assess the situation, determine if the other driver is intoxicated, and file a report.
  2. Check for injuries. If you or anyone else is injured, call for medical attention immediately. If you can move safely, get out of your car and move to a safe location away from traffic.
  3. Exchange information with the other driver(s). This includes your name, address, phone number, and insurance information. If there are any witnesses, get their contact information as well.
  4. Take pictures and videos. If you have a camera or smartphone, take pictures of the damage to your car, the other car(s), and the scene of the accident. This will be helpful for your insurance claim. You may also discreetly video the drunk driver to prove they were intoxicated. Do not put yourself in danger if the individual is aggressive.
  5. Seek medical attention even if you don’t think you’re injured. Sometimes, injuries from car accidents don’t show up immediately. It’s a good idea to see a doctor to get checked out, even if you’re feeling okay.
  6. Hire a South Carolina car accident attorney. If you were seriously injured in the accident, you should hire an attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you file a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver to recover damages for your injuries.

Damages Recoverable in Dram Shop Cases

If a plaintiff successfully proves dram shop liability, they may be entitled to recover damages, including:

  •       Past, present, and future medical bills
  •       Lost wages
  •       Loss of earning capacity
  •       Loss of enjoyment of life
  •       Loss of consortium
  •       Pain and suffering
  •       Emotional anguish
  •       Property damage

Some cases may allow you to recover punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are those meant to punish a party for particularly wrongful actions. These may be common if an establishment shows frequent overserving or other egregious behavior.

Contact a Car Accident Attorney If You Were Injured

Dram shop laws play a vital role in promoting responsible alcohol consumption and holding establishments accountable for the harm caused by their patrons’ intoxication. In South Carolina, dram shop liability allows victims of drunk driving accidents to seek justice and compensation for their injuries and losses.

If you were injured by a drunk driver, you should immediately contact a South Carolina car accident attorney who can guide you through the legal process. It can be difficult to prove that an establishment overserved an individual. Attorney Venus Poe knows how to prove that liability.

Call us today at (864) 963-0310 or contact us online to schedule a case consultation.

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