North Charleston, South Carolina DUI Lawyer
The South Carolina DUI and DWI accident attorney, Frank Hartman, knows how devastating a car accident can be due to a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Drunk driving statistics are disturbing: in 2013 alone, 10,076 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
DWI accidents can have devastating consequences, and if you are involved in a car accident where the other driver was under the influence of alcohol, you have a very good chance of getting compensation for any injuries stemming from the crash. More than likely, you will probably be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the offender.
Drunk Driving Accidents Can Leave Victims with Extremely Serious Injuries
In many instances, people who are intoxicated end up driving on the wrong side of the interstate or simply are unaware of the fact that they are approaching a busy intersection. Also, because alcohol slows down reaction time, people who are under the influence take corrective action such as slowing down or swerving later than a sober driver would have or not at all.
As a result, drunk driving accidents often happen when both vehicles are in motion and can involve direct, substantial impacts rather than glancing blows. For this reason, accidents caused by drunk drivers often leave victims with extremely serious injuries that can affect them for the rest of their lives. Some of the more common types of injuries that occur in car crashes caused by drunk drivers include the following:
- Traumatic Brain Injuries – TBIs are a serious injury that can occur when the head snaps back and forth on the next with sufficient force or slams into an external object. In serious cases, TBI victims are left with serious cognitive or physical disabilities that will affect them on a daily basis.
- Spinal Cord Injuries – When the spinal cord in injured, it can disrupt the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. In complete spinal cord injuries, victims have no feeling or mobility below the site of the injury and often never regain in.
- Burns – Many car accidents result in serious burn that can leave victims in severe pain and with permanent scarring that can affect their emotional health and self-confidence for years.
- Broken Bones – Car accidents caused by drunk drivers often leave those involved with broken bones. Broken bones often require surgery to correct and can leave victims with limited use of their limbs for months or even years. Sometimes, people who have sustained broken bones are left disfigured and with permanent scarring.
Importantly, drunk driving accident victims do not need to sustain injuries as serious as those listed above in order to be able to recover compensation. You should always speak to a lawyer after an accident caused by a drunk driver, even if you were not seriously injured and the only result was minor damage to your vehicle.
Understanding the Difference Between a Civil Case and Criminal Case after a DUI Accident in North Charleston
If you were involved in an accident with a drunk driver and the police responded to the scene, you likely watched as the police performed sobriety testing on the other driver and hauled him or her away in handcuffs. This may have made you feel like justice had been served and that the intoxicated driver is being held accountable for his or her conduct, and that you could sit back and let the criminal justice system do its job.
As an accident victim, it is important to understand that a criminal DUI case operates primarily to punish drunk drivers for their conduct rather than to compensate victims for their losses. As a result, victims need to assert their rights by filing a legal claim against the driver who caused their accident. Examples of the kinds of damages that are often pursued in a drunk driving accident case include the following:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Current and future lost income
- Loss of quality of life
- Property damage
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
Victims should keep in mind that establishing damages is not as simple as submitting some hospital bills and pay stubs to an insurance company. In many cases, it is necessary to work with experts who can estimate the amount of money an injury will cost a person over the course of years or decades. In addition, placing a dollar value on noneconomic damages like pain and suffering and loss of quality of life can be difficult for people who are unfamiliar with the way that persona injury litigation works. Consequently, it is highly advisable for anyone who is seeking compensation after an accident caused by a drunk driver to speak with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible and certainly before accepting any settlement offer made by the insurance company.
Proving Liability in Drunk Driving Accidents
If you are involved in a car crash caused by an impaired driver, and can prove it, then you may claim damages in a civil lawsuit. Additionally, you may want to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit if a family member was killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver.
In order to prove your case, you will have to show the following:
- The intoxication level of the defendant
- That this level was too high for safe operation of a motor vehicle
- That the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care for the public’s safety
Evidence that you can use to prove your case will usually include:
- A police report of the incident
- Witness reports
- Expert opinions
How a North Charleston, South Carolina DUI Lawyer Can Help You
As an accident victim, you may be wondering how retaining a lawyer can help you, especially if you have already been offered a seemingly adequate settlement by the insurance company. To understand why it important to retain an attorney, it is helpful to consider how insurance companies operate. Their priority is to pay as little as they possible can while honoring their contractual obligations to their customers and have no legal obligation to settle your case for a reasonable amount. As a victim without legal training or experience determining the value of a personal injury case, you run the risk of accepting a settlement offer that is far below the amount your case is actually worth.
When you retain an attorney, he or she will handle every aspect of your case on your behalf and ensure that you obtain a settlement that adequately compensates you for your current and future losses. Some of the specific ways that a lawyer can help you after an accident include the following:
- Evaluate your case and determine whether you have a claim
- Obtain evidence important to you case, including police reports, medical bills, repair estimates, and toxicology reports
- Communicate with the insurance company handling your case and attempt to negotiate a settlement
- File a lawsuit on your behalf and represent you in court.
What are the Drunk Driving Laws in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, it is illegal to drive a vehicle if a driver’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
If a person is younger than 21 years old, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.02% or higher.
If a driver holds a CDL license, the legal limit is 0.04% or higher.
DUI or Refusing a DUI Test. What are the consequences in South Carolina?
The penalties for a DUI/DWI in South Carolina will be dependent on the driver’s offense and the number of previous DUI convictions over the course of 10 years. If a person drinks and drives both criminal and administrative penalties are possible.
What is “Implied Consent” in South Carolina?
This law states that if you drive in the state of South Carolina you agree to take a chemical test of asked to do so by a law enforcement official. Due to this law, refusing a chemical test can get you just as many, if not more, penalties from both civil and criminal court agencies.
What are Administrative Penalties in South Carolina?
Administrative penalties are civil penalties and are in addition to, and separate from, criminal penalties. Once a driver fails or refuses a chemical test the driver can plan on losing their license for some period of time. The driver will be sent a notice for an Administrative hearing within 30 days of the hearing date.
- 1st offense: 6 months.
- 1st offense: Indefinite (with a BAC 0.15% and over).
- 2nd offense: Indefinite.
- 3rd offense: Indefinite.
Refuse chemical test
- 1st offense: 6 months.
- 2nd offense: Indefinite.
- 3rd offense: Indefinite.
For both DUI and refusing a chemical test a driver will be required to complete the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services course. Additionally there is a minimum $100 license reinstatement fee and carry SR22 insurance for a minimum of 3 years once the suspension has been completed.
Those who have a 2nd or subsequent offense for drugs and/or alcohol, or a 1st offense involving “great bodily injury or death” will be required to have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed on their vehicle if they wish to drive.
Underage Drinking and Driving
If a driver is younger than 21, they can receive a DUI/DWI if they are caught driving with a BAC of 0.02% or higher.
In addition to criminal court penalties, the underage driver will face the following penalties with the South Carolina DMV:
- 1st offense: Driver’s license suspension for 3 months.
- 2nd offense within 5 years: Driver’s license suspension for 6 months.
- 1st offense refuse a chemical test: Driver’s license suspension for 6 months.
Criminal penalties for DUI or refusing a chemical test are high in South Carolina. Again, these penalties will be in addition to any administrative penalties. Criminal penalties are greatly impacted by the BAC at the time of testing. The following are the minimum criminal penalties a drunk driver will face with a DUI with a BAC of under 0.16%*:
- For a 1st offense:
- A fine of $400.
- Minimum 48 hours in jail.
- Maximum up to 30 days of jail time.
- 48 hours of community service.
- For a 2nd offense:
- A fine of $2,100 to $5,100.
- Minimum 5 days in jail.
- Maximum up to 1 year in jail.
- For a 3rd offense:
- A fine of $3,800 to $6,300.
- Minimum 60 days in jail.
- Maximum up to 3 years in jail.
- For a 4th and subsequent offense:
- A fine determined by the court.
- Minimum 1 year in jail.
- Maximum up to 5 years in jail.
If a driver is arrested on suspicion of a DUI/DWI in South Carolina and refuses to submit to a BAC/breathalyzer test, the penalties outlined above, may be the same.
A BAC of over 0.16% will cause higher fines and jail time.
South Carolina Ignition Interlock
An ignition interlock device, which attaches to a vehicle’s ignition system, is used to test a driver’s BAC before even starting a vehicle.
Ignition Interlock systems are required if a driver has been convicted of a 2nd or subsequent offense for a DUI/DWI. If a driver refuses to have an IID installed the driver will lose their license to drive for 3 years.
All installation, maintenance and monitoring fees of the IID will be the responsibility of the driver. The IID will have to be inspected by the South Carolina Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole every 60 days.
For more information about ignition interlock device requirements, please visit the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website.
South Carolina takes drunk driving very seriously. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, it is very important to call Frank Hartman as soon as possible to gather all the evidence of the accident. Past DUI convictions, the blood alcohol level and other reports relating to the driver at fault will directly impact your case.
How Much Does Will a North Charleston DUI Accident Lawyer Cost?
Being injured in an accident with a drunk driver can often result in significant expenses and lost income, so it only natural to wonder how much it will cost to retain an attorney. At The Hartman Law Firm, LLC we enter into a contingent fee arrangement with all of our personal injury clients, which means that we only get paid if you collect compensation. In addition, you will never need to pay for legal representation out of pocket, so there is no risk associated with retaining an attorney to represent you.
Call The Hartman Law Firm, LLC Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a North Charleston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
If you or someone you know was injured by a drunk driver, you may be entitled to recover damages for any injuries that resulted. Determining your legal rights can be complicated, and it may be unclear who to bring a claim against, or what sort of damages you are entitled. For these reasons and more, it is critical to contact an experienced car accident attorney. Protect yourself and your loved ones by contacting The Hartman Law Firm, LLC for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case. We represent clients throughout Charleston and South Carolina. Call us today at 843-300-7600 or use our online contact form.