Can I Get Punitive Damages After a DUI Accident in SC?

by | Jan 17, 2018 | Auto Accidents |

You were hit by a drunk driver, and the last few days have been a whirlwind – you were released from the hospital, you’ve seen your doctor for follow-up care, you’ve picked up a rental car, you’ve made phone calls and filled out forms.

What you need now is money to cover your costs.

You were expecting the drunk driver’s insurance company to drag its feet and ignore you. But, it hasn’t even been a week, and here is an adjuster showing up at your house. He’s offering you money, and he’s so nice.

What’s going on?

Insurance Companies Want to Settle Your Case Quickly and Cheaply

When alcohol is involved in an accident, insurance companies sometimes try to settle the case as quickly as possible. That’s because they know that there is the possibility of punitive damages and that their insured will be an incredibly un-sympathetic defendant to any jury.

The insurance company doesn’t care if you get enough money to pay your medical bills, repair or replace your car, or cover the income you’re losing because you can’t yet go back to work.

They will not tell you all categories of damages that you are entitled to, or about the possibility of punitive damages. Their goal is to pay as little as possible. Period.

Juries Don’t Like Drunk Drivers

When people use alcohol or other drugs and then get behind the wheel, their reaction time is slowed, their judgment impaired, and they are more likely to cause an accident.

Because of this and because of the social stigma associated with drunk driving, jurors are likely to be sympathetic to your case – they are not likely to be sympathetic to the drunk driver.

Your Horry County injury lawyer knows what insurance companies know – juries don’t have much empathy for drunk drivers, and the damages they award in DUI cases are often much higher than in other accidents.

In any auto accident case, the insurance company of the at-fault driver can be forced to pay for your medical expenses, future medical costs, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages.

When a DUI accident case makes it to a jury, you also have a good chance of collecting punitive damages.

Punitive Damages in SC DUI Cases

To collect punitive damages, you must prove with “clear and convincing” evidence that the defendant’s behavior was willful, wanton, or reckless.

This can sometimes be difficult – it is a higher standard of proof than what is required to prove liability (preponderance of the evidence or more likely than not).

But, if the defendant has already been convicted of DUI or if you can prove that they were DUI, this is solid evidence of willful, wanton, or reckless behavior for your civil case.

Not only that, but there is no cap on punitive damages when the defendant was intoxicated by alcohol or other drugs.

Get an Experienced SC DUI Accident Lawyer on Your Side

If you’ve been hurt in an accident the lawyers at Coastal Law can help you to investigate, gather the evidence that you need, negotiate your claim, and take your case to trial when they do not pay.

Schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case by calling (843) 488-5000 or filling out our online form.

Ready to Speak with an Attorney?

Contact Coastal Law to discuss your situation.

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