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Ask a South Carolina Car Accident Lawyer: Can You Sue Someone for Damages if They Were Acquitted of Drunk Driving Charges in Columbia?

February 2, 2021

Any South Carolina car accident lawyer will tell you, there is no excuse for drunk driving. Years ago, people had to get a designated driver if they were going out for a night of partying. When anti-drunk driving campaigns first became popular, they urged people to find a designated driver rather than drink and drive. Today, while some people still use a designated driver, they don’t have to. All they have to do is use an app on their cell phone and an Uber or Lyft will show up in minutes. This is why it’s so frustrating for South Carolina car accident lawyers when they meet with DUI accident victims.

Normally, when someone is involved in a drunk driving accident, they have proof that the other driver was drunk. Once the defendant is convicted of DUI, it makes your South Carolina car accident lawyer’s job a lot easier. All they have to do is remind the insurance adjuster that their client was drunk at the time of the crash. This makes it a lot easier to negotiate payment of your claim. The question is, what do you do when the DUI charges against the defendant are dismissed?

The Other Driver May Still Be Liable Even if the DUI Charges Were Dismissed

It’s true that your South Carolina car accident lawyer would prefer to have proof of a DUI conviction. That would go a long way toward proving that the other driver was negligent. If you can prove this, it’s likely that you’ll be entitled to damages. A conviction for DUI is per se proof that the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the accident. At a minimum, this would serve as proof that they breached their duty of care.

While it may be more difficult, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Your South Carolina car accident lawyer is still going to gather evidence to prove the defendant was at fault. In fact, just because the DUI charges were dismissed, that doesn’t mean you can’t bring up the fact that they appeared to be under the influence. For example, consider that the other driver took a breathalyzer test and had a blood alcohol concentration of .07. This may be low enough to keep them from being convicted of DUI. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it as proof that they had been drinking prior to the crash. Your South Carolina accident lawyer will use the police report as proof that the defendant was more than likely at fault for your car accident.

Your South Carolina Car Accident Lawyer Does Need to Prove Negligence

The reason the idea of breach of duty was brought up earlier is because it is an element of negligence. Almost all car accidents involve some sort of negligence. Negligence is just a legal term for someone who doesn’t behave the way they should in a given situation. In order to get you damages, your South Carolina car accident lawyer will need to prove the following four (4) things:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care – This won’t be all that difficult. All drivers owe a duty of care to the other people on the road. At a minimum, they need to obey all traffic laws, including the laws regarding drunk driving.
  • They breached this duty – You need to show that the other driver didn’t honor their duty. If you can show that they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will have proved this element of negligence.
  • You were injured – Your South Carolina car accident lawyer will need to show that you were injured. It’s not enough to be involved in a drunk driving accident.
  • Your injuries were caused by the defendant’s breach – This is another element that shouldn’t be hard to prove. Unless something other than the crash caused your accident, your South Carolina car accident lawyer should be able to meet this element.

Talk to a Skilled South Carolina Car Accident Lawyer Right Away

If you or your loved one are hurt in a drunk driving accident, you deserve justice. One way to make that happen is to retain an experienced South Carolina car accident lawyer. Take advantage of your free, initial consultation. The defendant will have a team of lawyers working for them and you should too. The consultation is free, and you don’t pay a dime until your case is resolved.