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Can you sue a South Carolina bar or restaurant for over-serving a customer who causes a drunk driving accident that hurts or kills someone?

Yes, but you need a skilled South Carolina car accident injury attorney to help you. And if the drunk driver caused a fatal accident, you’ll need help from a wrongful death attorney.

South Carolina law can be powerful in holding bars and restaurants responsible for overserving customers who cause drunk driving accidents.  But to get a settlement, you’ve got to satisfy a tough legal standard. 

You’ve also got to be extra careful in handling the car accident case against the drunk driver.  If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can actually lose your rights to sue the bar or restaurant.  You also risk losing extra coverage you might desperately need, which can come from your own policy- but your insurance company isn’t going to volunteer it, and they certainly won’t willingly pay it.

Here’s how these cases work.  

How South Carolina Law Holds Bars and Restaurants Legally Responsible for Serving Intoxicated Customers Who Cause Drunk Driving Accidents

South Carolina Code Section 61-4-580 prohibits selling beer or wine to an intoxicated person.  Section 61-6-2220 forbids selling liquor to an intoxicated person.  South Carolina courts have ruled these laws give victims the right to sue the bar or restaurant that break these laws. These laws promote public safety to prevent drinking establishments from allowing customers to get drunk, drive off, and endanger the public. 

The legal term for this is “dram shop liability.”

What you’ve got to prove. To get a settlement, victims have to prove:

  • the bar or restaurant sold alcohol to an intoxicated person, AND
  • the intoxicated customer caused the drunk driving accident that hurt you or killed someone in your family.

The powerful impact of proving dram shop liability in South Carolina. You get three potential benefits:

  1. The bar or restaurant is deemed negligent per se. It proves legal fault, or liability, to qualify you for a settlement, and . . .
  2. It qualifies your case for punitive damages. This actually makes your case more complicated because you’ve got to properly prove the amount you should get in punitive damages before a tightfisted insurance company will even consider a settlement covering them. 
  3. If the bar or restaurant is just 1% at fault, you can recover the entire settlement from the bar or restaurant. This helps victims- if the restaurant or bar has more insurance than the driver, you have a greater chance of recovering a full settlement.

As powerful as these laws are, they contain a vital defense for the bartender that’s hard to overcome. 

If you’re wondering what rights you have about holding a South Carolina bar or restaurant liable for the drunk driver who hit you, get your questions answered.  You can contact us with a live chat, fill out a Get Help Now formor call toll free at  888-230-1841.

South Carolina’s Tough Legal Standard Can Cost You Your Case If You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

The main question a drunk driving victim has to answer to hold a South Carolina bar or restaurant liable is, Did the bartender knowingly sell alcohol to an intoxicated person? 

The key word is “knowingly.” How do you prove what a bartender knew about whether a customer was intoxicated? You know the bartender won’t admit he created a ticking time bomb by getting a customer drunk and letting him drive off.  And if a witness or video evidence can establish the drunk driver staggered all over the bar or looked visibly intoxicated, you don’t know how to secure the evidence.  That makes your case even harder.

However unjustified it may be, you can bet the bar or restaurant will charge onto this battleground to fight ferociously.  You’re accusing them of running their business unsafely and endangering the public.  You can also bet the bar or restaurant will be protected well in advance by their own experienced attorney.  Rest assured their defense attorney will do all they can to “clean up” their employees.  The primary argument will be something along the lines of, “Hey, our bartender’s a nice guy.  He made a judgment call.  He couldn’t tell the customer was drunk.” 

FREE INSIDE INFO: South Carolina law does NOT require the customer to be visibly intoxicated for you to get a settlement from the bar or restaurant.

So how do you prove a South Carolina bar or restaurant at fault for the drunk driver who hit you? These cases usually revolve around “circumstantial evidence.”  It requires a high level of detail in piecing together tiny pieces of evidence to give the full picture how the bar or restaurant’s employees knew or should have known a customer was intoxicated when their bartender over-served him.

Experienced South Carolina drunk driving accident attorneys know how to put these pieces of the puzzle together.  A critical factor is acting fast because certain evidence disappears.  Two things you need to develop a strategy around fast are getting the bar’s video surveillance evidence and credit card receipts, which can show how much the customer drank before he left.  And that’s only the tip of the iceberg – there’s a ton more hard, painstaking legal work that goes into creating this picture to convince the bar or restaurant’s skeptical insurance company they need to pay. 

You Don’t Have a “Typical Car Accident Case,” So Don’t Handle It That Way.  Get Professional Help, Before You Lose Your Rights. 

You can also pursue a financial settlement against the drunk driver. But you’re wading into treacherous waters here, especially if you’re seriously injured or your family suffered a wrongful death as a result of a drink driver:

  • It’s critical to handle the settlement documents with great care, so you don’t unknowingly release the bar or restaurant from liability when you settle with the drunk driver. That means you lose your rights to sue the bar or restaurant. 
  • You may have access to extra coverage from your own policy, which you’ll likely need to cover serious injuries or, if the drunk driver caused a fatal accident, additional financial support in a wrongful death settlement.
  • You qualify for punitive damages against the drunk driver, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get them, as discussed above.

With So Much To Lose, You Can’t Afford Not to Talk With an Experienced South Carolina Drunk Driving Car Accident Attorney

If you’ve been hurt by a drunk driver who may have been bar-hopping or gotten over-served, you’re likely severely injured.  And it’s even more likely you have no legal experience.  That’s an insurance company’s dream.  They make billions by shortchanging people like you.  That’s the top reason why it’s critical for you to get guidance from an experienced South Carolina car accident attorney – but there’s many more reasons to consider, too.  

Don’t risk shortchanging yourself for a settlement you should get, or overlooking coverage on your own policy, or letting an irresponsible bar or restaurant weasel out of liability on a legal technicality. 

We’re experienced Spartanburg car accident injury attorneys and we’re here to answer your questions, without pressuring you to hire us.  It won’t cost you a thing to get your questions answered. Call toll free at  888-230-1841 or fill out a Get Help Now formWe also offer a FREE, EASY strategy session.

If you’re wondering what it’s like to work with us, check out these unedited reviews from a website we don’t own and see folks say about us on google.

 

Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a criminal defense attorney.