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Columbia Personal Injury Lawyer > Blog > Car Accident > Not Every Drunk Driving Accident Is a Case of Dram Shop Liability

Not Every Drunk Driving Accident Is a Case of Dram Shop Liability

The passage of drunk driving laws in the 1980s greatly reduced the number of traffic fatalities, but the risk of getting hit in a DUI collision still remains.  Even today, alcohol is a factor in a disproportionate number of car accidents that involve serious injuries or fatalities.  If you get injured by a drunk driver, you have a strong case for a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who hit you.  Of course, it is only worth the effort of filing a personal injury lawsuit if the defendant can actually pay you the damages the court awards you.  You probably don’t have enough money in your bank account to pay someone else’s five-figure or six-figure medical bills, and the driver who caused your accident probably doesn’t either.  A car accident lawyer may be able to find a better way to cover your medical bills, such as by negotiating for a better settlement from the insurance company or filing a dram shop liability lawsuit against the bar that served alcohol to the drunk driver.  A South Carolina car accident injury lawyer can help you determine whether you have a strong case for a dram shop liability lawsuit.

The Plaintiff Who Could Not Prove Which Bar Got the Drunk Driver Drunk

On July 11, 2003, Hoyt Helton drove drunk and collided with a car in which Jon Hartfield was a passenger.  Helton died in the accident, and Hartfield suffered serious injuries, as did the woman who was driving the car in which Hartfield was riding.  Hartfield’s injuries were permanent; even after he emerged from a coma, he still required constant care, and he would continue to require this care for the rest of his life.

Helton’s blood alcohol content was 0.212, more than twice the legal limit, at the time of the fatal accident.  Hartfield filed a lawsuit against the drinking establishments that Hoyt had visited on the day of the accident, but he could not win his case against any of them unless he could prove which one, if any, had provided alcohol to Helton when he was visibly drunk.  Helton was of slight build; his wife estimated that he weighed between 130 and 150 pounds.  She also said that it was his habit to drink beer throughout the day.  It was well known that Helton had a drinking problem, and police records showed that he had been stopped for DUI before.

On the day of the accident, Helton visited the South Pointe, the Getaway Lounge & Grill, and the Carolina Lounge.  Friends who saw him that day, either at the bars or elsewhere, testified that an hour or more went by in which they did not see him drink any beer, and the bartenders testified that he did not seem visibly intoxicated.  In other words, there was not enough evidence to show that any of the establishments had been negligent in serving alcohol to Helton.  The court reasoned that, because of his low body weight, Helton could have still gotten such a high BAC even after drinking a relatively modest amount of alcohol.  Furthermore, Helton’s wife described him as a “sipper.”  According to the court, it is plausible that Helton’s BAC was already well above the legal limit when he arrived at each of the pubs.

Let Us Help You Today

Drunk driving accidents are devastating, and a Columbia car accident lawyer can help you put your life back together.  Contact The Stanley Law Group for help with your case.




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