Kristen got hit by a drunk driver in Greenville. It wasn't a bad wreck. She found us on Google and called us, wondering if she needed a South Carolina car accident attorney to help her get a settlement. In response, my staff sent her informative emails, including a free copy of the book I wrote on South Carolina car accident cases, and she scheduled an appointment for a free strategy session.

Kristen is a bright lady who manages a bar at a downtown Greenville restaurant. The day we met, she hired me. I'll show how we helped her in ways she told us she didn't know to do herself.

The Wreck

On September 19, 2023, at around 4 p.m., Kristen drove to work on Poinsett Highway in Greenville. She stopped at a red light. The at-fault driver rear-ended her at 35 miles an hour. The impact was so hard that it threw Kristen into the car in front of her. 

The investigating officer soon realized the at-fault driver caused the crash because she was drunk. He arrested her for DUI.

Luckily, Kristen suffered only mild injuries. She got checked out at the emergency room right after the crash. They diagnosed her with whiplash. She was treated for that with a chiropractor for about six weeks. Her total medical bills were $5,275. She also missed work and lost an income of about $800.

If it weren't for the DUI, I would have told Kristen she'd be better off settling this case herself because I can't add enough value to a six-week chiropractic case to make paying me worth it to the client.

Why a DUI Can Change Everything in a South Carolina Car Accident Case With Minor Injuries

The DUI gave Kristen the best shot at recovering a settlement that included punitive damages. But I knew the hardnosed insurance company wouldn't pay punitive damages without the involvement of an experienced South Carolina car accident attorney. This is a case where a car accident attorney can really help get a settlement for the proper value of a case that even a smart professional like Kristen can't get for herself.

Here's why, in a nutshell: insurance company professionals know experienced South Carolina car accident lawyers know the law of punitive damages, so they know how to point out the facts justifying a heavy-handed punitive damage award if the case goes to trial. Punitive damages are really hard to get in South Carolina car crash cases. The typical car accident victim is an untrained amateur who doesn't know the law of punitive damages or how to prove a case justifies them.

Not only did I know how to do that, but I also had a “trick up my sleeve” to further justify a bigger settlement in this particular drunk driving car accident case.

How a Spartanburg Car Accident Attorney Helped a Drunk Driving Victim Get a Bigger Settlement for Minor Injuries

The most important part of the work I did to get a bigger settlement for Kristen was getting a copy of the police investigative file for the DUI charge. But that was just scratching the surface, and I tend to go a little further for my people.

The investigative file for the DUI charges revealed the at-fault driver flunked field sobriety tests at the scene. She also refused to take a breath test, stating, “My attorney would kill me.” I suppose that might be enough evidence for many car accident attorneys. Not me.

I took it further by researching her criminal record, which revealed another DUI charge less than a year before this crash. I got the investigative file for that, too. It revealed she drove bombed out of her mind after drinking several beers and a shot of liquor. The investigating officer found her so confused that she couldn't figure out how to roll down her window or open her door.  She practically fell out of the car. Then she blew a shocking .15, almost double the “legal limit.”

I sent all these investigative reports and my commentary on them to the adjuster in our demand letter, which also included Kristen’s medical bills, lost wages, and a description of her human loss detailing everything she went through as a result of the crash, including pain and suffering.

The Settlement

As it turned out, the insurance company hired a lawyer of their own. Our demand letter asked for a settlement of the at-fault driver’s liability limit of $50,000. The insurance company attorney agreed to pay.

Kristen was happy with the offer and the timing. It was about three months after the accident, so she got her settlement check around the holidays. I was happy with it, too, as Kristen made it clear she never hoped for a settlement that big, and she knew she couldn't get it on her own.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.