Are Punitive Damages Available After DUI Accidents in South Carolina?

December 19, 2019
Are Punitive Damages Available After DUI Accidents in South Carolina?

There are two categories of damages that might be recoverable after a DUI accident in South Carolina: compensatory damages and punitive damages. While all successful claims will yield compensatory damages of some amount, not all cases involve punitive awards.

Compensatory damages are intended to make the victim “whole” again. They encompass both economic and non-economic damages. Examples include medical bills, lost wages, property repairs, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.

Punitive damages may be available if the at-fault party acted recklessly, in violation of a statute, and/or with willful, wanton, or reckless conduct. They are not available in cases that involve simple negligence.

Factors That Determine Whether Punitive Damages Are Awarded

There are many factors a judge may consider when determining whether to allow a jury to consider punitive damages in a DUI wreck case. Such factors include:

  • The defendant’s blood alcohol concentration at the time of the crash,
  • Whether the defendant had any previous drunk driving convictions, and
  • Whether the defendant was 100 percent liable for the wreck.

Caps on Punitive Damages in South Carolina

Some states cap the amount of compensation a plaintiff can recover in punitive damages. In South Carolina, the caps are scheduled depending on the conduct.  At the base cap, punitive damages are limited to $500,000 or three times the compensatory damages, whichever is greater. If the defendant’s actions were felonious, the cap increases to $2 million or four times the compensatory damages. There is no cap on punitive damages if the defendant was substantially impaired by drugs or alcohol or was acting with the intent to harm.

The analysis of punitive damages after a DUI accident in South Carolina is something that should be investigated carefully; however, recovering a punitive award requires strong evidence and a compelling argument. It is therefore important that you hire a seasoned trial attorney if you intend to pursue punitive damages. A well-credentialed lawyer can also help you approximate a fair amount for past and future compensatory damages.

Important Evidence in DUI Accident Lawsuits

Regardless of whether you intend to seek punitive damages, you will need strong evidence to win your claim. The specific kinds of evidence your attorney might use will depend on the circumstances but will likely include:

  • The police report;
  • The results of chemical/toxicology tests taken at the scene and shortly thereafter;
  • The at-fault driver’s criminal record, which may show past DUI convictions;
  • Medical records such as diagnostic images and lab tests;
  • Financial documents such as recent paystubs and past years’ income tax returns;
  • Expert witness deposition;
  • Pictures of injuries, the vehicles involved and property damage;
  • Your personal injury journal; and
  • Eyewitness deposition.

Discuss Your Case with a DUI Accident Attorney in Spartanburg

The attorneys at Hodge & Langley Law Firm have many years of experience helping clients pursue punitive damages. Our legal team has won substantial recoveries in DUI accident cases, and will work hard to make sure your recovery includes all the damages to which you are entitled under the law.

We offer free case evaluations and accept personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you pay nothing up front for our legal services. If we are successful, our fee will be a percentage of the settlement or award we obtain for you; if we are not successful, you will owe us no attorney fees or costs. Send us a message or call 864-585-3873 to speak with a member of our team.



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