Summer is here, and while that means even more time in the sun for South Carolina residents, it also means an increased risk for drunk driving accidents. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk driving accidents spike between May and September, and this has led to the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day being dubbed the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer.” With South Carolina having the second-highest rate of drunk driving fatalities in the nation, drivers and passengers in the Palmetto State will need to be particularly vigilant when watching for the warning signs of drunk driving.
According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS), signs that a driver may be under the influence of alcohol include:
- Making unusually-wide turns
- Driving on or straddling lane lines
- Weaving and swerving
- Driving well above or below the speed limit
- Suddenly and drastically changing speeds
- Erratic braking
- Drifting out of a lane
- Drifting into oncoming traffic
- Near-misses of collisions with vehicles or other objects
If you see a driver who you suspect may be alcohol-impaired, SCDPS recommends:
- Stay Back. “If you are driving behind someone whom you suspect is impaired, maintain a greater following distance. Do not try to pass that vehicle because the driver may try to swerve into your car.”
- Give Them Room. “If you think there is an impaired driver behind you, turn right at the closest possible place and let him pass. . . . If the impaired driver is coming straight at you, slow down quickly [and] pull as far to the right as possible.”
- Call 911. “Once you get safely away from the impaired driver, you should report the driver to the nearest law enforcement agency as soon as possible. You may contact the Highway Patrol from your cellular phone by dialing *HP.”
Taking Legal Action After a Drunk Driving Accident in South Carolina
Unfortunately, in many cases, it simply will not be possible to get out of the way of a drunk driver. Whether the drunk driver comes out of nowhere or he or she is completely out of control, sometimes it simply will not be possible to avoid being hit. If you are injured or a loved one is tragically killed in a drunk driving accident in South Carolina this summer, you should:
1. Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
Auto insurance covers drunk driving accidents, and all drivers are required to carry insurance under South Carolina law. Reporting the accident to your insurer will start the claims process, and your insurance company will deal with the drunk driver’s insurer to collect payment for your injury-related losses or your loved one’s death.
However, while this may sound simple enough (and, indeed, securing financial compensation after a drunk driving accident should be easy), the reality is that it can be extremely difficult to secure just compensation after a drunk driving accident. The drunk driver’s insurance company will deny liability, and you will need to present evidence in order to prove that the drunk driver was at fault in the accident. As a result, in order to protect your rights, you will need to hire an experienced attorney, and you should choose an attorney who will be willing to take your case to court if necessary.
2. Follow Your Doctor’s Medical Advice
If you were severely injured in the crash, you could be facing a long and difficult road to recovery. In order to speed up the recovery process as much as possible – and to make sure the insurance companies cannot blame you for exacerbating your injuries – you need to closely follow your doctor’s medical advice. If you need to stay home from work, stay home from work. If you need surgery, get surgery (or seek a second opinion). Ignoring your doctor’s advice after a drunk driving accident is one of the biggest mistakes you can make – for your health and for your case.
3. Take Notes and Keep Receipts
Severe traumatic injuries can impact all aspects of your daily life; and, when you have a claim arising out of a drunk driving accident, all of these impacts increase the amount you are entitled to recover. In order to build a case for maximum compensation, you should get in the habit of keeping a daily log or journal detailing all of the ways your injuries impact your life. How bad was your pain? What activities or events did you miss? Did you have to ask (or pay) someone else to help you? These are all highly-relevant facts for your claim.
It is a good idea to keep your receipts as well. In addition to your medical expenses and lost wages, you are entitled to recover all other financial costs you incur as a result of your injuries. This includes everything from medical supplies and prescriptions to gas (or Uber fees) and home cleaning services.
4. Try Not to Dwell on the Accident
We know it is hard, and we understand that you can face reminders of your injuries multiple times per day. We also understand the unspeakable tragedy of losing a loved one too soon. But, to the extent you can, it is important to try to get back to normal. Focus on the positive aspects of your life, seek counseling if necessary, and let your attorneys worry about recovering just compensation on your behalf.
5. Hire an Experienced Attorney
This brings us to our last point: If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident, there is simply no substitute for experienced legal representation. From collecting evidence to dealing with the insurance companies, the process of recovering just compensation is complicated, and it is not a process most people can handle on their own. An experienced attorney will be able to calculate your losses and prove your claim for just compensation; and, if a fair settlement is not on the table, an experienced attorney will be able to fight for your rights at trial.
Schedule a Free Consultation at Lewis Law Firm LLC
With offices in Rock Hill, our firm represents drunk driving accident victims and their families throughout South Carolina. Our attorneys have decades of experience helping clients recover just compensation. To discuss your case with one of our experienced attorneys in confidence, please call 803-327-1103 or request a free consultation online today.