THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM AGGRESSIVELY PROTECTS THE RIGHTS OF DUI ACCIDENT VICTIMS IN CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC
It still happens all too often. You are lawfully operating your car and minding your own business . . . You've worked a double shift today, it's 11:00 pm on a Saturday night and you just want to get home and get some rest. You approach an intersection, you have the green light and then, suddenly . . . out of nowhere . . . BANG! You have been T-Boned by someone who ran the red light and in an instant, your life has changed. Car totaled . . . Severe injuries, some neurological, some broken bones perhaps, some bruising, and the psychological trauma that may never go away.
After being transported to the hospital and receiving the necessary medical treatments, you will most likely be interviewed by a law enforcement officer assigned to investigate the accident. It will be during this Q&A that he or she will break the news to you . . . The driver of the other car is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident.
* FOR PURPOSES OF THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE NOTE THAT "DRUNK" WILL BE USED TO DESCRIBE PEOPLE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL AND / OR DRUGS
THE INITIAL ASSESSMENT OF BEING INJURED BY A DRUNK DRIVER IN CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC
From a legal perspective, there are several layers to peel back to get to the true core value of a car accident injury case that involves an alleged drunk driver. As a Charleston Car Accident Attorney, my job . . . and for that matter the primary job of any personal injury attorney is to make two very quick and decisive determinations to decide if the case should be pursued. First, who was at fault and second, how much are the damages (medical bills, lost wages, future treatment, pain and suffering, etc.) WE MUST HAVE BOTH IN ORDER TO HAVE A VIABLE CASE!
This is where there is a confluence of civil law (personal injury) and criminal law (DUI), and it is at this point where matters involving drunk drivers require a little patience on behalf of the injured client. You will have all the legal elements necessary to prove a negligence case per se against the at-fault driver. He or she ran the red light and T-Boned you. You will have witnesses that will vouch for that. You can testify to that in a court of law. The officer will conclude that the at-fault driver ran the red light and hit you. The officer will further testify that the at-fault driver was ticketed for the infraction. So . . . you have the legal holy trinity!! The breach of a legal duty owed to you by another party, of which the duty was breached, and you suffered injuries as a direct cause of the breach.
OK . . . but in the eyes of the at-fault driver's insurance company, when will they be convinced that he or she was also drunk when driving the car? Will it be at the time the officer charges the drunk driver with DUI? Will it be when you issue your demand letter and inform the insurance company that their insured has been charged with DUI? Most Importantly, why is it important to have a determination of the DUI allegation as part of a personal injury settlement?
SOUTH CAROLINA LAW AND COMPENSATION FOR INJURIES CAUSED BY A DRUNK DRIVER.
In cases involving an alleged drunk driver, South Carolina law puts you into a position of strength when it comes to a future negotiation with the drunk driver's insurance company. This strength rest entirely upon the fact that the person who hit you is in fact found to have been legally impaired at the time of the accident. To put this into English . . . was the person who hit you convicted of DUI?
The first item that you, as the client and the injured party, need to understand is that the insurance company is going to fight you tooth and nail on whether their insured (the person who hit you) was actually drunk. Why is this so important to them? In the immortal words of Danny Ocean from Oceans Eleven, "Its always about the money." The insurance company knows that if their insured is found to have been legally drunk when they hit you, their financial exposure and payout to you as the victim increases exponentially. The insurance company, by law, will potentially be on the hook for punitive damages for any incidents caused by their insured while under the influence.
South Carolina has codified the right of an injured party to receive punitive damages for injuries caused by a drunk driver.
S.C. Code Ann. § 15-32-530(C)(3) states that an award on punitive damages “shall” not be capped when “the defendant acted or failed to act while under the influence of alcohol”. Translation . . . that you or a loved one who is injured by a drunk driver can seek damages beyond those ordinarily available in a car accident as a mechanism to punish the drunk driver's reckless and wanton acts.
Therefore, an otherwise $100,000 case for injuries sustained in a car accident may now be a $500,000 case or more if the at-fault driver was also found to be operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Now you see why the at-fault driver's insurance company may fight you tooth and nail over the issue of the alleged DUI.
THE BEST EVIDENCE - THE DUI CONVICTION OF THE AT-FAULT DRIVER
This is where the criminal side comes back around full circle and helps us fill in the gap on the civil side of the matter. I always preach patience to my clients that have been injured as a result of a drunk driver. From a legal strategy perspective, if I am able to enter a negotiation with the insurance company on your behalf armed with medical bills, doctor's notes, affidavits, police reports, and top that off with proof of a criminal conviction of the at fault driver for DUI, then you as the client have avoided months of haggling about liability issues with the insurance company and as your lawyer, I have immediately put them to a decision on how much extra they want to expend to reach a fair and quick settlement with the knowledge that they know if we go to trial I will seek hefty punitive damages.
In addition, the insurance company is also going to be influenced by the conviction of their insured for DUI knowing that in all likelihood you were an active participant with law enforcement on the criminal side by testifying at the criminal trial, or at the least providing an impact statement to the criminal court for consideration.
This is an example in the car accident realm of law where waiting for a little really can be met with a return of a lot. My experience dictates that any case involving injuries caused by a drunk driver are settled quicker and for more money to you when I am armed with the DUI conviction of the at fault driver. Waiting for the criminal case to be disposed of pays many dividends in the end for you the client.
THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - CHARLESTON PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY
Contact Jay McMillian at The McMillian Law Firm. Once you have hired Jay to represent you, the insurance company must cease direct contact and deal with your lawyer instead. Contact me as soon as possible so that I may conduct a site visit of the accident and begin to obtain witness statements, police reports, and all relevant materials I need to build your case towards an acceptable settlement or trial.
It is never too early to contact me! Each and every day is a day the insurance company will try and short-change your claim. I am available for home visits, hospital visits, nights and weekends, just let me know what works for you.
If you have been involved in a car accident and live in Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, North Charleston, Summerville, James Island, Johns Island, West Ashley, Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, Walterboro, Folly Beach, or any of the other fine communities of the South Carolina Low Country, contact The McMillian Law Firm now!! 843-900-1306 or email at [email protected]