Many injury and accident lawyers are not prone to discussing personal responsibility. It's occasionally a fine line between what's the client's responsibility and what's another party's fault. Fortunately, in many, if not in all of my cases, the situation is clear: without the negligent behavior of another, the accident resulting in injury, or wrongful death would not have occurred. Taking responsibility for one's own choices and actions is an important part of the fabric of our society and basic civility. Sadly, some lawyers continue to file claims and lawsuits that defy credibility and give the many upstanding personal injury lawyers a bad name.
So here's a head scratcher of a recent news story: South Carolina Woman Sues Bar For Paralyzing Car Accident. Okay, at first glance, this could be legitimate.
There is law to support a claim against a bar owner/operator if a noticeably intoxicated person is over-served and allowed to drive, and that DUI driver hits and injures or kills another. This law is called the Dram Shop Act which not only applies to restaurants and bars, but also to property owners (hosting a Super Bowl party at someone's home, for example). However, the woman in this case was 1) underage; 2) sought out alcoholic drinks at this bar knowing she was underage; 3) consumed those drinks; and 4) drove herself while drunk off the road into a ditch, paralyzing her. She blames the bar: the sports bar should have requested identification and not allowed her to drive herself. Technically, the sports bar might be liable for serving an underage person under South Carolina's dram shop laws but when contrasted with the plaintiff's own negligent actions, she shouldn't be successful in collecting.
But wait, there's more! She also included in her claim the South Carolina Department of Transportation and the town of Bluffton and Beaufort County for having actual knowledge of the road shoulder and failing to remedy the defect. That's a lot of blaming other parties for poor choices. There are times where suing a state or county for the an alleged defect in the roadway may be warranted (see here and
here as two examples); I'll venture to say that this is not one of those instances.