South Carolina recognizes the dangers of alcohol-related accidents. With the state ranking high in the country for DUI fatalities per capita, South Carolina dram shop and alcohol liability laws are profoundly impactful.
Proving fault in these dram shop cases can be challenging, but our legal team at Bringardner Injury Law Firm in Charleston, South Carolina, can help.
What Is South Carolina’s Dram Shop Law?
South Carolina’s dram shop and alcohol liability laws are guidelines designed to attribute responsibility to establishments like bars, clubs, restaurants or even individual social hosts that serve alcohol to minors or someone visibly intoxicated.
S.C. Code § 61-4-580 makes overserving illegal, and S.C. Code § 61-2-145 mandates a minimum of $1 million in liquor liability insurance to protect businesses and individuals against potential fault.
To establish liability, evidence must show that the establishment knew or should have known that they served alcohol to an intoxicated individual.
In situations where alcohol consumption results in injuries or death, this law recognizes that the server or business who sold the alcohol may be partially responsible for what happened. Obviously the drunk driver is at fault, but those who sell alcohol in an irresponsible manner are also accountable.
The knowledge of serving an intoxicated person can relate to factors like the quantity, types and duration of alcohol consumption. The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld a verdict against a bar in Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge & Grill. In that case, the intoxicated customer did not seem visibly impaired at the bar. However, a later examination revealed a blood alcohol content of 0.212, well above the legal limit.
What Is the Investigation Process in a Dram Shop Case?
If we take your case, the investigation process in dram shop claims begins with gathering the evidence necessary to prove the establishment’s liability. Steps in that process may include the following:
- Examining the bar’s social media, including menus detailing alcohol content
- Determining if the bar promotes responsible drinking, such as advertising taxi services
- Requesting official records, like alcohol sales from the Department of Revenue and any prior incident reports related to the bar
- Documenting the bar to the accident scene and monitoring the bar’s operations in real-time
- Investigating the establishment’s procedures for servicing alcohol and any history of relevant litigation
Our dram shop liability lawyer and legal team scrutinize the bar and the driver’s actions. Liability could fall on employees or the business owner (really their insurance companies), and we can help determine who is responsible for your losses. With any personal injury claim, the injured party is responsible for presenting the evidence to prove negligence and damages.
Examples of evidence you can use to meet the requirements of dram shop liability laws
A point-of-view video recording from the bar to the accident scene can help document the path of travel. This can also confirm if there are other establishments serving alcohol en route that the guilty driver could have visited. Surveillance of the bar during operating hours can offer a first-hand look into its practices and customer dynamics.
Other helpful proof includes:
- A DUI arrest or conviction can establish intoxication at the time of the accident.
- Statements from other patrons, staff or anyone who observed the bar serving the at-fault driver can address the individual’s behavior, appearance and amount of alcohol consumed.
- Sales receipts and tab records can prove excessive alcohol purchases or consumption and demonstrate the bar’s negligence.
- Training policies for staff or the absence of policies to prevent over-serving can show that the business owner did not take the necessary steps to avoid overserving.
- Physical evidence like empty bottles or blood alcohol content level testing can establish the individual’s mental state at the time.
Using a combination of these evidences can create a compelling argument. However, South Carolina dram shop law is complex.
The burden of proof is not as high as in criminal court, but proving that more than one party is responsible for your accident and injuries requires more investigative work. An experienced dram shop liability lawyer at Bringardner Injury Law Firm can ensure a faster, fairer recovery of damages.
What Is the Process of a Dram Shop Liability Case?
After the investigation, the legal process begins with a comprehensive review of the gathered evidence. Our team can scrutinize every detail, ensuring we build a solid foundation for your case. We always create a personalized strategy tailored to your accident’s unique circumstances and resulting injuries.
Notable stages in the process include:
- Preparing and submitting a complaint against the responsible parties with details and proof of negligence.
- Exchanging evidence during the discovery phase, including document requests, depositions and interrogatories.
- Negotiating in an attempt to reach a mutually acceptable settlement or using a neutral mediator to facilitate a productive discussion to find a common ground.
- Proceeding to the trial phase when attempts to reach a fair settlement fail.
Our attorneys present evidence during a trial, including witness testimonies and expert opinions, to a judge or jury. The court then determines liability and awards any damages.
Why Choose Bringardner Injury Law Firm?
Understanding dram shop liability is essential to pursuing potential litigation, given the intricate nature of the law and the intense factual scrutiny required.
South Carolina’s complex case law and the individual details that are critical to establishing a dram shop claim make it very important to hire an attorney experienced in these cases.
While most cases find resolution through a settlement, and that is ultimately our goal, we recognize that not all establishments or their insurance providers are willing to admit fault. Should negotiations stall or if it is in the client’s best interest, we will file a lawsuit, drawing upon our extensive experience with the law.
We aim to win your case, maximize the recoverable damages and reach a resolution as quickly as possible. We deal with the insurance companies and administrative work while you focus on healing your physical and emotional injuries. Our role is to protect your rights and help you avoid any costly pitfalls that could happen without solid legal representation.
Contact Our Law Firm to Investigate Dram Shop Liability
Reach out to us immediately if you have questions about your case. We understand the physical, emotional and financial consequences of a severe accident with a drunk driver and how they impact victims and their families.