South Carolina residents owe it to themselves and other drivers to avoid operating vehicles when they’re under the influence of alcohol. While individual drivers should absolutely be held responsible in the event of any crash involving alcohol impairment, restaurants and bars that knowingly serve intoxicated patrons should also be held responsible for their actions.
Enter the complicated personal injury niche known as dram shop law. This references the complicated web of liability that can arise when drunk drivers have been overserved by restaurants, bars, and other establishments. Keep reading to learn how these personal injury cases work — and why working with a South Carolina dram shop lawyer is so important.
The term “dram shop” references any commercial enterprise that sells alcoholic beverages. Common examples include bars, pubs, dance clubs, and restaurants. Dram shop laws determine the extent to which these and other types of businesses can be held liable based on how their intoxicated customers behave — especially if their negligence causes harm to innocent individuals.
Dram shop rules vary significantly from one state to the next. In general, however, establishments that sell alcohol can get in big trouble if they continue to serve alcohol to patrons who are obviously intoxicated or are under the legal drinking age.
South Carolina does not currently have a specific statute designated as a dram shop law. Rather, the state prohibits businesses from knowingly serving alcohol to intoxicated individuals or minors. That being said, dram shop liability is recognized in South Carolina, so those negatively impacted by intoxicated individuals can seek accountability from the bars or other establishments that serve them.
Dram shop liability typically involves drunk driving cases, in which intoxicated bar patrons proceed to get behind the wheel. If their impaired driving leads to an accident that harms innocent drivers or passengers, it may be possible for the bar that served the intoxicated driver to be held accountable.
Precedent in South Carolina puts a risk of liability on social hosts if they serve someone who is later involved in a drunk driving accident. For example, in the case of Marcum v. Mayon (2005), the court ruled that hosts for a cookout without restricted alcohol access were liable for the wrongful death of a 20-year-old employee.
For adult guests, social hosts must take measures to prevent their guests from over-imbibing and then driving. Limiting alcohol service and serving filling foods can mitigate the effects of drinking, as well as arranging for rideshare or other transport when a guest has had too much.
Selling alcohol at an event increases the host’s liability risk, even if all participants are of drinking age.
Hosts who allow underage guests to access alcohol not only risk liability, they could face criminal charges. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) recommends using wristbands to indicate those who aren’t old enough to drink and controlling who is served during an event.
Skilled and competent dram shop lawyers offer free consultations to assess a case and are honest with potential clients about their chances. When hired, those lawyers work on a contingency fee, taking a percentage of the settlement as their payment.
At Smith Jordan, we believe you shouldn’t have to add to your financial concerns by paying us upfront. We give you our best advice in your free case evaluation, then work hard because we do not get paid until we secure a settlement for you.
To successfully win a dram shop liability claim, you and your dram shop attorney in Greenville, SC, must present evidence that clearly proves the following elements of negligence.
Proving the host, owner, or operator of the establishment or party owed all participants, including you, a duty of care.
Showing the host or dram shop owner breached or failed their duty, either through their actions or inaction.
Your lawyer must prove that your injury would not have occurred had the defendant upheld their duty of care.
Showing evidence that your damages are directly related to your injuries that resulted from the defendant’s negligence.
Many individuals can be held liable in dram shop claims. The most common defendants include owners, operators, managers, and bartenders at restaurants or bars serving alcohol. The second most common are social hosts.
Many types of damages are available in South Carolina dram shop cases. Working with a dram shop lawyer is important to determine the full range of damages available.
Economic losses can include medical expenses, lost income, therapy costs, and anything with a fixed value. All your hospital and other recovery bills can be included, along with various other damages.
Non-economic damages address how your life has been affected by your injuries, such as your pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.
A skilled dram shop attorney can calculate an appropriate estimate of your losses so that you have sufficient financial compensation to recover as fully as possible after your accident.
Complicated negotiations with insurance companies and defendants could drag things out if both sides intend to fight hard. The case itself can take anywhere from a few months to years once the initial phases are completed.
South Carolina’s statute of limitations allows only three years from the date of the personal injury to file your claim or lawsuit for most cases, but only two years for governmental entities and a few other types of defendants. Skilled and careful attorneys may need many weeks or months of investigating, developing, and negotiating to build the strongest case. Your best choice is to contact a lawyer as soon as possible so you don’t lose your chance to seek relief through the courts.
Establishing solid proof of liability or negligence on the part of a dram shop owner or social host can be challenging in South Carolina. To have the best chance of success in your case, you should work with an experienced attorney who can provide critical services, including the following.
A skilled dram shop attorney in Greenville, SC, can put their legal team to work researching and collecting all relevant evidence to support your case. As you meet with us, we will clarify our approach and develop your full list of compensation demands.
Proving liability on the part of those responsible for your harm is key to successfully securing a win for your case. We will present powerful arguments grounded in robust evidence and a focused interpretation of the law to show negligence by those at fault.
We stay up-to-date on all rulings and legislative changes that can affect the outcome of your case. We consult with our full legal team to ensure we tailor our legal strategy to secure a win for you.
When negotiating with insurance companies or defense lawyers, we aggressively protect your interests by pushing back until we reach a satisfactory settlement that provides fair and appropriate compensation for your financial, physical, and emotional recovery.
When opponents do not meet our demands, we are prepared from the beginning to take them to court. We persuasively argue your side of the case before the judge and jury, seeking the best possible outcome for your unique circumstances.
Each South Carolina personal injury attorney at Smith Jordan is committed to excellence in legal representation. Our law firm has served our community for over four decades, combining our years of experience to protect our client’s rights.
Our attorneys ensure those who trust in us don’t have to face the consequences of someone else’s negligent actions alone. We respect you as a client. Hire Smith Jordan Attorneys at Law because you are more than just a number to us.
Not sure who to hold accountable after a South Carolina drunk driving accident? A trusted Greenville dram shop lawyer can help you determine the best avenues for delivering justice and securing compensation. Look to Smith Jordan for guidance every step of the way. Contact us online or call (864) 343-2222 to learn more.
In South Carolina, dram shop liability reflects other personal injury claims in that victims have three years to file in most cases. This statute of limitations also applies to wrongful death claims.
Intoxication can often be difficult to determine, particularly if breathalyzer tests are not immediately available. Defendants may argue that servers at dram shops were unable to determine that a given patron was intoxicated before being served even more alcohol. Security footage or witness testimony may refute such claims. Records such as the patron’s tab may also provide helpful evidence, as an unusually high number of drinks would indicate an excessive level of intoxication.
In 2017, the South Carolina General Assembly passed a noteworthy law that has already had a significant impact on local dram shop cases: premises that sell alcohol on premises after 5 pm must now carry at least $1 million in related liability insurance. This South Carolina dram shop law provides a noteworthy means for victims to collect damages after car accidents involving intoxicated patrons.