DUI Car Accident Basics: What You Need to Know

Car accidents are terrifying, traumatic, and often painful. They can result in serious property damage, permanent injuries, or in some tragic cases, death. It is natural to feel anger, disbelief, and confusion over the events that led to the accident, especially if it is discovered that the other driver was intoxicated at the time. Intoxicated drivers destroy families, yours and their own. Filing a claim after a DUI accident is somewhat different than an ordinary personal injury or property damage claim for numerous reasons. Here are a few frequently asked questions about DUI’s and how they can affect your case.

What is a DUI?

DUI stands for “Driving Under the Influence.” This is typically taken to mean “under the influence of alcohol,” but it can mean any drug that affects the reaction times, perception, and judgement of the driver. It is also sometimes referred to as a DWI, or “Driving While Intoxicated.”

In the strictest legal sense, a DUI occurs when authorities confirm that the driver was over the legal alcohol limit while operating a vehicle. The legal alcohol limit for a driver depends on the state they are in while driving. In South Carolina, that limit is 0.08% or higher blood alcohol content (BAC).

How Many Drinks Does It Take to Reach the Legal Limit?

The number of drinks it takes to reach the legal limit depends on the weight of the drinker and their sex, and whether or not the drinker has eaten while drinking (food reduces the amount of alcohol that is absorbed). For heavier people, they might be legal to drive after 2 drinks, but not 3. A lighter person might not be okay to drive even after 1 drink. In all almost cases, 4 to 5 drinks and beyond will most likely make you legally intoxicated.

If you have been drinking, you may not be able to accurately judge how drunk you are or if you are okay to drive. It can be difficult in those moments to recognize that your driving abilities are impaired. You could feel perfectly fine and still be over the legal limit. If you have been drinking it is a wise decision to arrange alternative means of transportation such as a designated driver or public transportation. It is better to be safe than sorry.

It should be noted that in many states, there are extra penalties and punishments for being considerably over the legal limit and driving. For South Carolina, those extra punishments begin at 0.15% BAC.

How Dangerous Are DUIs?

In 2014, South Carolina had a total of 757 fatal crashes, leading to 824 deaths. Of those, 279 people, or 34%, were the result of a DUI. That is over a third of all traffic deaths in the state.

How Will the Police Collect Evidence of a DUI?

After an accident, at a traffic stop or after pulling a vehicle over, the police will determine if they suspect a driver is over the legal BAC limit or under the influence of a drug. They will then administer a chemical test—most commonly in the form of a breathalyzer test, but it could also be a blood or urine test—to determine if the driver is over the legal limit.

This test is generally done at the time of driving, although prosecutors can still prove a DUI even if the test is not administered until later.

Can a Driver Refuse to Take a Chemical Test?

Technically yes, although that is often not a wise decision. South Carolina law states that if you are behind the wheel of a vehicle, you have automatically given implied consent to a chemical test for a DUI. If you refuse to take the test, you will face penalties similar to those if you had taken the test anyway.

What Are the Criminal Penalties for a DUI?

It is important to note that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

That said, if a person is convicted of a DUI, the defendant’s punishments will depend on the state’s sentencing laws. Oftentimes, there will be a gradient of punishments, depending on if this is the first time a DUI offense was committed or not. The punishments will include both criminal penalties and administrative penalties from the DMV.

In South Carolina:

  • A first time offender with a BAC of 0.08% or above will most likely have their license suspended for 6 months, pay a fine of $400, and serve a minimum of 48 hours or a maximum of 30 days in jail and/or 48 hours of community service at the discretion of the sentencing judge.
  • A second time offender could face having their license suspended indefinitely, a fine of anywhere between $2,100 and $5,100, and a jail sentence between 5 days and 1 year.
  • A 3rd offense may be subject to a fine between $3,800 and $6,300, between 60 days and 3 years in jail. Their driving license might be suspended indefinitely.
  • A 4th and all subsequent offenses can lead to a fine to be determined by the court, a minimum of 1 year in jail and a maximum of 5 years in jail.
  • A BAC over 0.16% will result in higher fines and longer jail sentences.
  • On the second offense and every subsequent offense, the offender will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. This is mounted to the dashboard and will require them to take a breathalyzer test every time they wish to drive. The defendant will be responsible for the installation and maintenance costs of the device.

A driver convicted of a DUI will need to pay a reinstatement fee, acquire a special insurance, and pass an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program, a knowledge test and a driving skills test to reinstate their license. The charges listed above are under the assumption that the driver did not commit property damage or inflict bodily harm or death to other people as a result of their actions. In those cases, the charges would be much more substantial.

What Happens If the Intoxicated Driver is Underage?

The legal limit for a driver under the age of 21 in South Carolina is 0.02%. These defendants may be subject to similar criminal charges as those over the legal drinking age and can lose their license from anywhere between 3 and 6 months.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a DUI Accident Claim?

In South Carolina, there isn’t a specific claim or civil law for DUI accidents.  Instead, you can file a property damage, personal injury, or wrongful death claim, or any and all of the above depending on the circumstances of the crash. In most cases, the statute of limitations on each claim is 3 years from the date of the accident however the statute of limitations can be as short as 2 years.

How Will Being in a DUI Accident Affect My Claim?

If you were in an accident with an intoxicated driver and you file a personal injury claim or another type of civil claim, the chances of you receiving a fair settlement are quite high. It can be easier to prove negligence and reckless behavior for drivers under the influence, as they made the choice to drink and endanger others on the road. Additionally, drunk drivers do not generate much sympathy with juries in trial cases. However, it is important to speak with an attorney and not attempt to resolve the claim without consultation. There are different types of coverages and dollars that you may be entitled to receive of which you may not be aware and the liability insurance company will not tell you about them. The insurance companies are not on your side no matter how “nice” them seem to be towards you. They have profit driven motives and the formulas in their computers are cold to you and how the collision has affected you and your family’s life.

After being injured in a DUI accident, it is natural to want justice and compensation. Filing a personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death claim can be the way to achieve that for you and your loved ones. At Guest & Brady, we can help you with the filing process, collecting evidence, and appearing in court so you can get the peace of mind and financial restitution you deserve. Contact us today for a consultation at (864)-233-7200.