stopwatch on calendar time limit statute of limitations | SC Dram Shop Liability LawyerThe statute of limitations for personal injury cases in South Carolina is generally three years. This means that you have 36 months from the date the injury occurred to file a dram-shop liability lawsuit in civil court. There are, however, some exceptions to this three year law and some situations in which the statute might “toll” or pause or only extend for two years, such as a case against a governmental defendant.

What Is Dram-Shop Liability?

Dram shop laws regulate businesses (and social hosts in some cases) that serve alcohol to customers or guests. A liquor license holder in South Carolina may not serve anyone who is either:

  • Already intoxicated
  • Under the age of 21

Hospitality employees should be trained to spot signs of intoxication, like a customer’s slurred speech or staggering. They should also pay attention to how many drinks a customer is served in a certain period of time and check the identification of anyone who might be under 21 before serving that person alcohol. If they serve an intoxicated adult or any underage person, they have violated the laws that regulate South Carolina liquor license holders and can be found partially responsible for a crash caused by the overserved or underage driver.

Social Hosts May Also Be Liable

A social host who provides alcohol to guests at a party, wedding, or another social event can be held liable for damages caused by any underage driver who was served at the event. If the drunk driver is an adult of legal drinking age, however, the social host cannot be held liable for damages caused by the adult drunk driver.

Do Not Miss Claim Deadlines

While there may some exceptions when the statute of limitations is "tolled" such as when a defendant is a minor, you should not wait. If you fail to file a lawsuit within the amount of time allowed by the statute, the defendant’s attorney will file a motion requesting the court to dismiss your case, which it will do in most circumstances. You will then be barred from collecting compensation from anyone for the damages you’ve suffered in the accident. You’ll be responsible for all medical and other expenses incurred as a result of the crash, so it’s very important to observe the statute of limitations and other procedural requirements.

Navigating the Insurance Claim Process

Like other personal injury cases, a dram-shop liability may be settled out of court when both parties prefer to avoid the time, effort, and expense that a trial entails. An experienced dram-shop liability attorney can evaluate your case and determine the respective percentages of fault borne by the drunk driver who hit you and by the establishment or social host who served the driver. Your lawyer will then demand fair compensation from the defendant’s insurer, and negotiations for a settlement will begin.

This does not mean, however, that you can simply ignore the statute of limitations. Your option to file a suit could provide you and your lawyer leverage in negotiations with the insurance company. If you miss your deadline for filing suit, your leverage is gone, and you’re at the mercy of the insurer, which could then make you a lowball offer that may not cover your expenses. Your lawyer can make sure you observe the statute and file a suit before the deadline if you’re still in negotiations with the insurance company. Even if the suit is filed, your case can still be settled out of court at any time up until the trial is scheduled to commence. Many settlement deals have been made at the courtroom door. 

Have You Been Injured by a Drunk Driver in South Carolina Who Was Overserved?

If you've been injured by an intoxicated person who was overserved by a restaurant or bar in South Carolina you should speak with an experienced Dram Shop Liability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Conway office directly at 843.248.7486  to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our CharlestonMyrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. PleasantNorth Myrtle Beach, Florence, or North Charleston office locations.



Dirk J. Derrick
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South Carolina Lawyer Dirk Derrick helps victims recover from car accidents, personal injury & wrongful death.