The most serious car accidents often involve drunk drivers. In these cases, the drunk driver is generally liable for any damages resulting from the collision. Many people do not know, however, that the people or businesses who served the drunk driver may also be held responsible under certain circumstances.
South Carolina has established case law that allows individuals injured by drunk drivers to sue those who provided alcohol in specific situations. However, actually filing such a claim can be a complex matter that should not be undertaken alone. Those injured by drunk drivers may want to work with professional legal counsel when filing Charleston third-party liability claims against DUI drivers to ensure they identify all possible defendants and effectively pursue fair compensation.
Dram Shop Laws in Charleston
Many states have statutes or codes that establish dram shop laws. A dram shop law punishes establishments or even private citizens who illegally provide alcohol to others. Alcohol may be considered illegally provided if the consumer is under the age of 21 or if alcohol is served to someone who is already visibly intoxicated.
South Carolina does not have a dram law statute. Instead, people who wish to hold third parties liable after being injured by a drunk driver must rely on established case law to prove liability.
When Are Third Parties Liable in DUI Cases?
In the landmark case Steele v. Rogers, 306 S.C. 546 (1992), the court stated that a alcohol merchant can be held liable if it was foreseeable that selling alcohol to a minor would result in an injury. In other words, the third party may be held liable if selling alcohol might result in the minor acting in a negligent way, such as drinking and driving.
This rule also applies to social settings where a person provides alcohol to a minor. If a property owner has a houseguest who is under 21 and gives that person alcohol, the property owner can be held responsible for any damages that result.
Liability may also be extended to businesses who sell alcohol to people who would normally be able to purchase it but were visibly intoxicated at the time of the sale. In Hartfield v. Getaway Lounge Grill, Inc., 26836 (2010), South Carolina’s Supreme Court confirmed that a business can be held liable if they served an already-intoxicated person alcohol and that person goes on to injure another person.
Statute of Limitations for Third-Party DUI Cases
As with all cases alleging personal injury, there is generally a strict time limit in Charleston courts for when a plaintiff can come forward with their case. This is known as the statute of limitations. According to South Carolina Code §15-3-530, any claim for personal injury should be filed within three years of the date of injury.
A local lawyer could help people injured by drunk drivers pursue not only the driver, but also the provider of alcohol for civil damages. By covering all their bases, an injured plaintiff may be able to recover all damages in Charleston third-party liability claims against DUI drivers.
The Importance of Filing Third-Party Liability Claims in Charleston DUI Cases
When someone is injured as a result of an intoxicated motorist, many aspects of law must be considered in ensuring Charleston third-party liability claims against DUI drivers. It is likely that the drunk driver could be civilly liable for their actions in addition to facing criminal charges associated with driving under the influence. However, depending on how that person accessed alcohol, the person or business who supplied them alcohol may also be liable.
If you were injured in a DUI accident, you may want to talk to skilled legal professionals before filing suit. A qualified personal injury attorney could help you file a third-party liability claim that seeks damages from all potentially liable parties. Call today to schedule a consultation and start discussing your case. Claims are principally handled in our Mount Pleasant office.