Were You the Drunk Driver in an Accident that Was Not Your Fault?

Suppose you went out for a night of fun and ended up having too much to drink only to get involved in a car accident that you did not cause on your way home. What happens? Who is liable for what? What does a car accident lawyer say about the situation?

Learn more about what to do if you are the drunk driver in a South Carolina car accident but not the responsible party for it.


Drivers who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol will face penalties such as fines, jail, and suspension of their driver’s license. If a drunk driver causes a car accident, they may also face liability for any sustained injuries and resulting property damage.

But just because someone was a drunk driver does not mean they caused the accident; their intoxication may have nothing to do with it.

In a lawsuit, the party seeking compensation must prove the intoxicated driver was at fault for the accident, thereby finding them liable for injuries or property damage resulting from the accident.

Legal fault has three elements:

  • Duty of care: Proving fault starts with showing that one person owed a “duty of care” to another. Everyone has a duty to avoid causing harm to others or their property, but for drivers to have a duty of care is to fulfill the requirement always to use their vehicle reasonably and carefully.


  • Breach. A breach of said duty would mean that the driver acted unreasonably or carelessly under the circumstances. In traffic collision cases, the injured party must show what the other driver did—or did not do—that was careless or unreasonable.


  • Causation. Causation shows a direct correlation between the breach of care and sustained injuries or property damage.



Comparative Negligence System

In 1962, South Carolina adopted the “comparative negligence system” for car accident cases. In 1988, it implemented the same system for tort and injury cases. With this system, even if the plaintiff is partly at fault for an accident, they can still collect compensation for the harm done to them. However, they cannot recover in South Carolina if they were more to blame for the accident than the other driver; their negligence cannot surpass the defendant’s negligence. This concept is a form of “modified comparative fault,” meaning the plaintiff must have less than 51% of the blame to recover in a car accident case.

But what does negligence entail?

In South Carolina, negligence has the following elements:

  • The defendant had an obligation to show a “duty of care” to the plaintiff
  • The defendant breached that duty of care
  • There is a causal association between the defendant’s conduct and the harm to the plaintiff
  • The harm was a proximate cause of the actions by the defendant (the damage was foreseeable)
  • The plaintiff sustained damages resulting from the defendant’s conduct

The Intoxication Factor

Proving the intoxication of a drunk driver is not enough for the plaintiff to win a lawsuit. Still, it will suffice to establish the first two elements of fault—duty of care and breach (South Carolina’s “negligence per se” laws will automatically satisfy them, as well).

However, causation is a different matter as the driver’s intoxication may or may not have played a part in the accident’s causation.

Suppose the drunk driver got rear-ended. The driver in the back is (almost) always at fault, making the front driver’s intoxication irrelevant. But if the drunk driver was driving the wrong way down a one-way street, their impairment might be the cause. In cases where the jury struggles to decide who caused the accident, the defendant’s intoxication might push them to agree with the plaintiff.

Contact Us

Do you know your rights as the driver in a drunk driving case? Do you need an advocate who will fight for you? Do not worry because at The Bateman Law Firm in Spartanburg, South Carolina, an experienced and knowledgeable DUI/DUAC defense lawyer can help you with your case. From guiding you through the complicated court process and administrative proceedings to explaining legal phraseology and statutory penalties, an attorney at The Bateman Law Firm is there to manage your case. They will discuss your legal options and deliver the most effective strategy possible for your defense, thereby increasing your chances for successful results. The firm’s DUI/DUAC defense lawyers will review the evidence and figure out how to best continue with your case so that you can have the best possible outcome. So, why wait? Contact The Bateman Law Firm today!

The Bateman Law Firm 5 stars - based on 364 reviews
The Bateman Law Firm