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Columbia Personal Injury Lawyer > Blog > Car Accident > How South Carolina’s New Dram Shop Liability Bill Could Affect Victims Of Drunk Driving Accidents

How South Carolina’s New Dram Shop Liability Bill Could Affect Victims Of Drunk Driving Accidents


In most states, dram shop liability sounds like an obscure legal concept with a laughably old-fashioned name.  Dram shop liability means that bars and restaurants that serve alcohol are legally responsible for car accidents caused by customers who drove after drinking alcohol there; “dram shop” is a 19th century term for an establishment that sells alcoholic beverages.  In South Carolina, though, dram shop liability has dominated headlines in recent months.  The case of Samantha Miller, a woman who died on her wedding day after a drunk driver struck the golf cart where Miller was riding with her husband and two other family members after their wedding reception, is a dram shop case.  The woman who caused the accident had bought drinks from several bars in the hours leading up to the accident, until her blood alcohol content (BAC) was well above the legal limit.  Now South Carolinians have another reason to focus on dram shop liability, since the South Carolina legislature is considering a bill that would change the rules about how DUI accident victims can collect damages in dram shop cases.  A Columbia car accident lawyer can help you if you have been injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver who consumed alcohol at a bar.

Is Percentage of Fault More Important Than Ability to Pay?

Many drunk driving accidents involve drivers who consumed alcohol at more than one bar on the day of the accident.  Since the body metabolizes alcohol at the rate of one alcoholic beverage per hour, it is impossible to tell which is the drink that caused the accident.  Therefore, people injured by drunk drivers, including the drunk drivers themselves, have the right to file a dram shop liability claim against all of the establishments that served alcohol to the driver.  Because bars and restaurants must carry commercial liability insurance, it was usually possible for plaintiffs to get enough compensation to cover all of their accident-related expenses, even if their injuries were so severe that they were unable to return to the workforce.

If Senate Bill 533 passes, things will change.  The bill will only make each bar responsible for a portion of the plaintiff’s accident-related losses proportional to that bar’s share of fault for the accident.  No one can deny that the drunk drivers themselves bear responsibility for their actions; many of them receive criminal penalties, including prison time, for driving drunk and causing injury.  Individual defendants usually do not have the money to pay other people’s medical bills, especially not from behind bars.  SB 533 would make it harder for people injured by drunk drivers to get full compensation for their medical bills.  If the insurance companies or the court found that the drunk driver was 75 percent responsible for the accident and the bar was responsible for 25 percent, and the drunk driver, due to being broke and incarcerated, could not pay despite the court’s order to do so, the plaintiff would only get 25 percent of his or her medical bills paid for.

Let Us Help You Today

The car accident lawyers at the Stanley Law Group can help you get fair compensation in a dram shop liability case.  Contact The Stanley Law Group in Columbia, South Carolina or call (803)799-4700 for a free initial consultation.



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