In South Carolina, an injured person can file a personal injury claim against a drunk driver in civil court. However, what happens under South Carolina law to the bar, the tavern, the restaurant, or the liquor store that sold or provided alcohol to the driver before the crash? Many other states have dram shop and social host liability statutes that provide that a bar, a restaurant, or an establishment or a person such as party host serves alcohol to a driver, and then knowingly allows that driver to get behind the wheel while he or she is drunk, then people who are injured by the drunk driver may sue the establishment or the host for damages and compensation. Although South Carolina does not have a dram shop or social host liability statute, our courts allow injury victims to seek compensation from establishments and persons that overserve alcohol to drivers.
As personal injury attorneys for dram shop claims in South Carolina, we’ve helped people who have been injured in auto accidents and boating accidents where the car driver or boat operator was overserved alcohol by restaurants, bars, and others. In this article, we will explain the most important things you need to know about South Carolina’s dram shop and social host laws for alcohol-related automobile and boating accidents.
Dram Shop Law in South Carolina
As previously mentioned, South Carolina does not have a specific dram shop statute. Instead, our state courts have allowed injured victims to pursue recovery from alcohol-related accidents by referring to our state’s criminal statutes concerning the sale of alcohol. For example, S.C. Code Ann. §61-4-580(1) prohibits the sale of alcohol persons under the age of 21 and S.C. Code Ann. § 61-4-580(2) prohibits the sale of the sale alcohol to an intoxicated person.
Using alcohol-related criminal statutes and South Carolina’s common law of negligence, our courts have held restaurants, bars, social hosts, and others accountable for the injuries caused by an overserved driver (or boat operator). For example, in one of the first cases involving a dram shop claim (Jamison v. The Pantry, Inc.), the Pantry convenience store sold an underage driver a case of beer. About an hour later, the young driver, whose blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit, wrecked into another car causing death and serious injuries. Our Supreme Court allowed the injured persons to bring a dram shop claim against The Pantry stating:
“It was reasonably foreseeable that a nineteen-year-old who was sold a case of beer by a convenience store in violation of statutes would consume a portion of the beer, would become intoxicated, would drive an automobile, would collide with another vehicle, and would injure or kill someone.”
In another case (Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge and Grill, Inc.), South Carolina’s Supreme Court extended dram shop claims for injuries resulting from any business, such as a bar, that violates the statute against serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated adult or someone they should have known was intoxicated. Overall, our courts consistently try to give legal protection to persons who have suffered injuries caused by a driver under the influence.
Unfortunately, although our courts offer legal protection for injuries caused by drunk drivers, oftentimes these drivers don’t have enough insurance coverage to pay for a victim’s injuries. Specifically, in South Carolina, many drivers have the minimum coverage limits of $25,000.00. However, South Carolina now requires a person licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption to maintain liability insurance in an amount not less than $1,000,000. Because of the differences in insurance coverage, in drunk driving accident claims, our lawyers investigate whether there is another party responsible for the accident such as a bar or restaurant that may have overserved the driver.
Social Host Liability in South Carolina for Adult Guests
Many states hold social hosts accountable if they provide alcohol to a guest who then injures someone else. However, South Carolina does not recognize social host liability for intoxicated adult guests. In one South Carolina case, a driver consumed too much alcohol at a party and later drove over a highway’s center line and collided head-on with another vehicle thereby injuring the other driver. South Carolina’s Supreme Court ruled that the social host could not be held liable even if it was “reasonably foreseeable” that serving alcohol to a driver might result in a drunk-driving crash.
Social Host Liability in South Carolina for Minors
If a social host intentionally serves or allows to be served a person under 21 years old, the host is liable to the minor and to any third person who is harmed due to the minor’s intoxication. The law in South Carolina is unclear whether a host who negligently serves alcohol or allows to be served a person under 21 years old would be liable for any injuries caused by the minor. As a side note, providing alcohol to an underage person is a crime. For example, S.C. Code Ann. § 45-2-40 makes it a misdemeanor to violate the state’s underage drinking law in a rented hotel room or similar lodging. Therefore, you should never serve alcohol to someone you know is or may be under the age of 21.
Attorneys for Dram Shop Claims in South Carolina
Our attorneys have handled dram shop cases in South Carolina for many years. For example, in a recent boating accident case we handled, our client was severely injured as a passenger in a single boat collision caused by the intoxicated boat operator. In that case, the boat’s operator was overserved alcohol by two separate restaurants in the Charleston area. We were able to recover for our client, who suffered a brain injury, by making claims against the boat operator, the boat owner, and both restaurants that served the intoxicated driver of the boat. If you have been injured by a drunk driver in an automobile or boating accident, call the attorneys at Futeral & Nelson immediately for a FREE consultation. The sooner we can get started on the investigation, the better chance we have at turning up crucial evidence to prove your case.