There is no denying that drunk drivers contribute to a large number of serious injury-causing and fatality-related accidents throughout the United States. But who is liable in these circumstances? Is it just the driver? What about the people who served these individuals the alcohol in the first place, such as the bars who overserved the patron, or the store that sold the alcohol just before the crash? Are these people liable? In some instances, you may have a valid claim against the store owner, bar, or social host.
Dram Shop Laws
In some US states, you’ll hear of something referred to as “dram shop” laws. These are laws that make bars and stores liable for serving someone alcohol who later caused a DUI-related accident. South Carolina doesn’t have any specific dram shop laws, but there are instances where courts have awarded injured parties a settlement based on this same legal theory.
Recent changes in law do indicate South Carolina is taking this matter more seriously. In July 2017, a new law was passed that requires all bars and restaurants that serve alcohol past 5:00 p.m. to carry at least $1 million in liquor liability insurance. It amends current state alcohol licensing and permit laws by noting that businesses seeking a new permit or to renew an existing one will be affected by the law.
The change stemmed from a local police officer who was paralyzed and suffered brain damage after being struck by a drunk driver leaving a club. The club had no insurance and passed off all liability to the city, who eventually paid the claim.
Social Host Liability
Another theory of liability is social host liability, which would be a scenario where a person was served alcohol at a private home or social gathering, and that individual went on to injure someone later that night. South Carolina doesn’t have specific social host liability statutes either, but the courts may find liability if the person was under 21. If the person is over 21, the courts generally rule that there is no social host liability.
Statute of Limitations
If you want to pursue someone under the legal theory of a “dram shop” law or social host liability, these are complex civil matters. You need a skilled South Carolina personal injury attorney who is familiar with current case law on the matter, and knows how to mount the best argument as to why the bar owner or store should be held liable. These claims are subject to the same statute of limitations as regular personal injury lawsuits, so if you miss the cutoff to file a lawsuit, your potential claim is null and void.
Hiring a South Carolina Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a drunk driver, let our experienced team of South Carolina auto accident attorneys help with your case. The team at Elrod Pope Law Firm will explore all avenues of liability and ensure anyone who shares liability for your injuries and damages is held responsible. Also, we make sure the statute of limitations is preserved so you don’t have to worry about missing the deadline to file against a negligent bar owner. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.