Navigating Fatal Drunk Driving Accident in South Carolina
Going through a DUI accident lawsuit, especially when it involves the loss of a loved one, is remarkably challenging. The survivors of a loved one’s fatal drunk driving accident have a legal right to pursue justice on the victim’s behalf. Individuals benefit greatly by having a skilled South Carolina accident attorney on their side.
Navigating a wrongful death case in the wake of a fatal DUI car crash isn’t a journey to be taken alone. Responsible parties must be held accountable, and grief-stricken families have a right to fair compensation. Pracht Injury Lawyers is here to help.
Drunk Driving Wrongful Death Lawsuits
A wrongful death lawsuit in the context of a drunk driving accident is complicated. Let’s outline the process.
How These Cases Work
In most other personal injury cases, victims can speak for themselves. They consult with their attorneys and proceed as plaintiffs against negligent parties.
In wrongful death cases, the deceased cannot speak for themselves. In Virginia, this responsibility is passed on to what’s known as their Personal Representative. Most commonly, this individual is named in the decedent’s last will and testament, and not necessarily a relative. If no one is named in the will, the responsibility may pass to a spouse or heir. The role might also be assumed by devisee—which is a person who may receive real estate in the deceased’s will. This could be a surviving child or parent of the drunk driving victim.
Once appointed, the Personal Representative may choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the drunk driver. South Carolina takes DUI and DWI cases very seriously. Guilty parties are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, if the victim’s survivors wish to recover economic and non-economic damages—such as medical bills and lost income—they must pursue legal action in civil court. This may involve not only the other driver but also other relevant parties—like a bar or restaurant—that served the at-fault party alcohol.
What You Must Prove to Win
An accidental death isn’t automatically a wrongful death. Further, just because the other driver was legally intoxicated at the time of the accident doesn’t necessarily imply a wrongful death either. Your legal team must first prove they’re at fault for the fatal car crash.
For instance, the driver may have had a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit of 0.08. However, they were otherwise obeying the rules of the road. They weren’t engaging in dangerous or careless behavior. They may not have caused the fatal car accident at all. To successfully sue them for causing a wrongful death, plaintiffs must prove the drunk driver’s negligence directly contributed to the crash.
Proving their impairment was responsible for the accident—like swerving or delayed reaction time—strengthens your claim. South Carolina Code of Law Title 15, Chapter 51 outlines the legal standards for wrongful death, defining when someone dies as the direct result of another party’s negligence or carelessness. Drunk driving may fall under this definition.
Criminal DUI Charges vs. Civil Drunk Driving Lawsuit
A civil lawsuit against a drunk driver and the criminal charges they face are completely separate circumstances.
The criminal case is brought forth by the State. The prosecution must prove a drunk driver’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, they may be sentenced to prison time, have to pay fines, or face other punishments, like a suspended driver’s license. However, they’re not obligated to compensate victims’ families for the harm they caused.
For that, survivors must file a civil wrongful death lawsuit. Evidence from one case can also be used for the other, but their respective verdicts may not align. Even if a driver is found not guilty of criminal DUI charges, they may still lose the civil case and be found liable for damages, and have to pay the victim’s beneficiaries a settlement. In a civil lawsuit, the standard of proof needs only to demonstrate the allegation is more likely to be true than false, not beyond a reasonable doubt.
Evidence to Support Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit Claim
Your legal team at Pracht Injury Lawyers compile as much compelling evidence as possible for your case. This critical evidence is used to build a compelling argument and prove negligence to show how it directly contributed to the fatal crash.
To support a wrongful death lawsuit, your attorneys may collect:
- Police report from the scene of the DUI car accident
- Other law enforcement reports, like field sobriety test results
- Results from breathalyzer and other toxicology tests
- Eyewitness statements and testimonials
- Dashcam footage from relevant vehicles
- Photos and videos from before, during, or after the drunk driving accident
- Relevant medical records, like diagnostic images
- Criminal record of the at-fault driver, particularly previous DUI convictions
- Receipts and footage from before the accident, like where the alcohol was served
- Character witness statements
Possible Damages You May Recover
Economic and non-economic damages related to the case may involve expenses both before and after the passing of the decedent. For instance, they may have suffered traumatic brain injuries from the accident and succumbed to these injuries days, weeks, or even months later. This is when a personal injury lawsuit expands into a wrongful death lawsuit, too.
Recoverable damages following a DUI accident may include:
- Medical bills, like emergency treatment and hospital care before the victim’s passing
- Loss of current income and future earnings
- Vehicle repairs or replacement costs
- Loss of consortium
- Reduced quality of life for heirs and other survivors
- Pain and suffering, including mental anguish and emotional distress
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Punitive damages issued by the court
There are no legal limits on punitive damages in South Carolina DUI cases. A wrongful death settlement can be over $2 million in some cases. A person charged with driving under the influence is in violation of the law, leaving them potentially liable for limitless punitive damages. However, settlements of this magnitude aren’t automatic. Christopher Pracht and our skilled legal team will strongly advocate for justice to be served.
Importance of Experienced Legal Representation
It’s crucial to protect your legal rights after a serious car accident in South Carolina. The aftermath of a fatal DUI accident can bring forth a great deal of heartache and also a magnitude of legal challenges. An experienced South Carolina lawyer at Pracht Injury Lawyers will skillfully guide your family through the difficult process of a DUI accident lawsuit.
The value of seasoned legal representation cannot be overstated. A knowledgeable attorney can champion the rights of victims and their survivors, providing them with justice and closure. Entrusting your case to an experienced professional ensures you have a steadfast advocate by your side all through the entire legal process.