May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Spring is finally here, and this is the time of year when motorcycle enthusiasts come out in full force. There is no greater feeling than riding on the open road basking in the bright sunshine, powered by a cool breeze, and taking in all of the breathtaking scenic beauty the Palmetto State has to offer.

Yes, riding is one of the most exhilarating and enjoyable activities imaginable, but it is not without its hazards. This is why May has been designated as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in South Carolina and throughout the country.

Each year, thousands are killed and tens of thousands are seriously injured in motorcycle crashes. Motorcycle riding is inherently more dangerous than driving a motor vehicle. Riders have far less protection, and when they get into an accident, there are very few barriers to protect them from danger. As a result, motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to be killed in a crash than occupants of other types of vehicles, and five times more likely to be injured.

To make matters worse, motorcycle-related deaths have been rising in recent years. According to data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of annual motorcycle accident fatalities has more than doubled over the past two decades. Many experts believe that the increased use of electronic devices while behind the wheel and similar forms of distracted driving are largely to blame for the sharp increase in motorcycle accident deaths.

In an effort to keep everyone safe through the heavy spring and summer riding months, the NHTSA has dubbed its 2019 campaign “Share the Road.” Safe driving and riding practices and cooperation on the part of all road users will help reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on South Carolina’s roadways. And this starts with becoming more aware of the dangers, so both drivers and riders will stay safe as we share our roads.

For Motorists

  • Always allow motorcyclists a full lane width, in other words, treat them the same as any other vehicle on the road.
  • Adjust your rearview and sideview mirrors properly to ensure that your blind spot is minimized, and you can more easily see motorcyclists. Your rearview mirror should completely frame your back window, and your sideview mirrors should be pointed toward your blind spot.
  • Always signal your intention when you are changing lanes or making a turn.
  • Always look over your shoulder before changing lanes to make sure you didn’t miss a motorcycle or another vehicle that might have snuck into your blind spot.
  • If you are turning into oncoming traffic and your view is partially obstructed, wait until you can see around the obstruction, so you do not miss a smaller figure like a motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian that may be crossing.
  • Allow extra following distance (about three or four seconds or so) to give motorcyclists more time to maneuver or stop if they encounter an emergency.

For Motorcyclists

  • Ride defensively and give other vehicles adequate space to make turns, complete lane changes, and react to emergencies.
  • Always follow the state’s helmet laws. South Carolina requires all riders under the age of 21 to wear a helmet that is approved by the Department of Highways and Public Transportation.
  • Stay as visible as possible by keeping your lights on even during the day and wearing reflective and protective clothing.

For all Drivers and Riders

  • Always follow the rules of the road and obey all traffic signals and street signs.
  • Always be on the lookout for road hazards such as construction, debris, bumpy roads, and inclement weather that may cause a serious crash.
  • Never drive or ride while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Stay focused and free of distractions while driving or riding.

It’s also important to point plan for inclement weather. Check the weather every time before you hit the road. It might be beautiful weather when you leave, but you don’t want to get caught under an overpass because of a rainstorm you could have avoided. If the weather is iffy, either reschedule your ride or plan accordingly. You might plan a route that has a convenient place for you to stop at if it rains or stay close to home. This also includes planning for extreme heat, which isn’t rare in South Carolina. Stay hydrated at all times and plan for frequent breaks so you can cool off.

Also, watch out for other motorcyclists. If you think the weather is perfect for a bike ride, lots of other motorcyclists will think the same thing. Be prepared for your ride to take longer or go a little slower than expected. Consider taking less popular routes if you want space to yourself or hit the road at off-peak times. When riding, make sure to leave plenty of other space for other motorcyclists—you never know which rider is new and will be spooked if you ride too closely.

Other tips include doing a thorough bike examination before your trip, which may mean taking your bike to a trusted garage for inspection. Also maximizing your visibility is important. While black leather might be your usual go-to, visibility should be one of your top priorities while you’re getting dressed for a ride. You want to be as visible as possible, since drivers are known to overlook riders and put them in danger. During the day, wear brightly colored riding gear that makes it impossible for drivers to miss you. At night, wear reflective clothing or add reflective patches to your daytime gear. Make sure your bike is fitted with reflectors and working lights.

Get Legal Help if Injured in a Motorcycle Accident

Even if we follow the traffic laws and best safety practices, accidents can still happen. If you or a loved one was injured in a motorcycle accident in South Carolina, seek immediate medical treatment for your injuries, then contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.

At Peake & Fowler, we are motorcycle enthusiasts ourselves, and we know how devastating injuries from a motorcycle crash can be. Our lawyers have in-depth experience and knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with our clients to help ensure that they obtain full and fair compensation for their injuries.

For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 803-998-2412 or send us a message through our online contact form. You may also stop by our Columbia, SC office at your convenience.

Does the Use of a Motorcycle Helmet Impact an Injury Claim?

Motorcycle accidents have been on the rise in recent years, with the number of fatalities from these accidents more than doubling over the past couple decades. Distracted driving is believed to be one of the major contributors to this increase. With more and more motorists texting while driving and engaging in similar activities while behind the wheel, motorcyclists need to be extra cautious these days to avoid accidents and subsequent injuries.

To stay safe on the road, it is recommended that all motorcyclists wear helmets. This is not only for their safety, but also to help protect their legal right to compensation during an accident injury claim.

South Carolina Motorcycle Helmet Laws

In South Carolina, only riders under the age of 21 are required to wear helmets while riding motorcycles. The law used to require everyone to wear a helmet, but it was changed in 1980 to limit the requirement to only those who are under 21 years of age. Riders who are over age 21 are still encouraged to wear a helmet, and the vast majority of them do, but there is no legal requirement for riders in this age group.

How Will the Use of a Helmet affect a Motorcycle Accident Injury Claim in SC?

Wearing a helmet may or may not impact an injury claim (after a motorcycle accident) depending on the age of the rider, the type of injury sustained, and other factors in the case. The other party and their insurance company will almost certainly try to make it an issue if you were not wearing a helmet, but again, the extent to which it will impact your case depends largely on the specific circumstances.

Here are some common scenarios involving the use of a motorcycle helmet, and how each scenario may play out if you pursue an accident injury claim:

  • Wearing a helmet with no head or neck injury: In this scenario, the use of a helmet should have no bearing on your case. However, you may still want to include the fact that you were wearing a helmet when you report your claim to help show that you are a responsible rider.
  • Not wearing a helmet with no head or neck injury: If you were not wearing a helmet but your injury was to your back, leg, arm, or another area (of your body) other than your head or neck, then your use (or in this case lack of use) of a helmet is not related to your injuries. That said, an insurance adjuster may still try to claim that you not wearing a helmet shows that you are not a safe a rider. But at the end of the day, in this scenario, that point is legally irrelevant.
  • Wearing a helmet with a head or neck injury: In this scenario, the fact that you wore a helmet should help your case, because it shows that you did everything possible to mitigate the effects of your head or neck injury.
  • Over age 21, not wearing a helmet, with a head or neck injury: This is one of the scenarios where things can start to get dicey. If you were not wearing a helmet, even if you are not legally required to, and you sustained head or neck injuries, it may be argued that your injuries could have been prevented or they would have been less severe had you worn a helmet. It will be up to you to demonstrate that your injuries would have been just as bad even if you had worn a helmet.  If you are unable to do so, you may end up being found “comparatively negligent” (i.e., partially at-fault) for your injuries, which would reduce the amount of compensation you are eligible for.
  • Under age 21, not wearing a helmet, with a head or neck injury: If you were under the age of 21 and sustained head or neck injuries in a motorcycle accident while not wearing a helmet, you will almost certainly be found comparatively negligent for not following the law, even if the accident would have otherwise been entirely the fault of the other party (or parties) involved. You may still be able to receive some compensation for your injuries as long as you are not found to be more than 50% at-fault, but your compensation would be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault you share in the accident. For example, if damages total $100,000 and you are found to be 25% at-fault for the accident, your damage award would be reduced by $25,000.

Injured in a Motorcycle Accident in South Carolina? Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone close to you was injured in a motorcycle accident and it was the fault of another party, you need strong legal counsel by your side advocating aggressively to protect your rights and interests. Whether you were wearing a helmet or not, you may still be entitled to damages, and at Peake & Fowler, we are here to fight for every dollar of compensation you deserve. For a free consultation with one of our skilled Columbia, SC personal injury attorneys, call our office today at 803-998-2412, or message us through our online contact form.

What do I Need to Know after a Motorcycle Accident?

Motorcycle accidents are among the deadliest types of vehicle accidents, often resulting in serious and catastrophic injuries. Each year, thousands of individuals are killed and tens of thousands are injured in motorcycle crashes. In addition, motorcyclists are 28 times more likely than occupants of other vehicles to be killed in a crash.

If you are involved in a motorcycle accident, you are most likely in a heightened emotional state.  Heart rates tend to increase, and your mind is going in all different directions as you try to assess and deal with the situation. Keep in mind that the steps you take immediately after an accident will greatly impact your ability to recover compensation for any injuries you may have suffered.

There are five things you should do immediately after a motorcycle accident to ensure your safety and protect your legal rights:

Call 911

The first priority after an accident is to check for injuries and make sure everyone receives the medical attention they need. Call 911 right away to get an ambulance to the scene. Some injuries are not noticeable right away, and some unseen injuries (such as internal injuries) can be serious as well. So, even if you don’t feel hurt, it is still a good idea to get checked out. When you call 911, the dispatcher may also summon the police for you. The police should be called to the scene, so they can investigate what happened and file an official report. This report will be useful later on should you decide to take legal action.

Take Photos of the Scene

After calling 911, take multiple photographs of the accident scene with your smartphone or whatever camera you have available. It is best to do this even before you move the bike and other vehicle (or vehicles) that may have been involved to the side of the road (assuming you have a camera handy and you can snap these pictures pretty quickly). Try to get visual evidence of what the scene looked like immediately after the accident as this will also help substantiate any and legal claim you end up filing.

Document the Incident

While everything is fresh in your mind, you should create your own report of what happened. If you do not have a pen and paper handy or you are physically unable to write a report, use the voice recorder on your smart phone and write everything down later. Also, once the police report is available, be sure to review it and check it against your own report for any inaccuracies.

Obtain Statements from Witnesses

If there are any individuals nearby that saw what happened, speak with them and obtain their contact information. In addition, ask them if they are willing to record a video statement describing the incident. Memories fade over time, and if you can get them on camera right away, this will also help your case by minimizing the chances of people forgetting details and/or changing their stories later on.

Do NOT Admit Fault

After a motorcycle accident, it is not always clear exactly how it happened or who was primarily responsible. It may be tempting to apologize for the accident even when it’s not your fault or go along with someone else’s version of events just to avoid conflict. Be very careful what you say at the scene of an accident. You can certainly express empathy for others who are hurt, but never admit fault to the other party, the police, their insurer, or even your own insurance company. Just give the facts as you know them and leave it to the experts to sort out the exact cause of the accident.

Contact an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle crash, you should get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you retain legal counsel, the better your chances of recovering full and fair compensation. Insurance companies are known for employing various tactics to avoid paying out what they should for an accident, and a skilled attorney will be able to effectively thwart these tactics and put you in the best possible position to secure a favorable outcome.

At Peake & Fowler, we have successfully represented numerous clients who have been injured in motorcycle accidents in South Carolina. We work closely with our clients, putting our extensive experience to work to provide the strong personalized representation they need and deserve. For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 803-998-2412 or send us a message through our online contact form.

How to Avoid Blind Spot Motorcycle Accidents

Millions of people love to ride motorcycles, and there are few activities that give you a greater sense of freedom. In South Carolina, our weather allows for year-round riding, and the Palmetto State hosts numerous motorcycle events throughout the year. While motorcycle riding is fun and exhilarating, it can also be very dangerous.

Motorcycle deaths have been on the rise for the past two decades. In fact, the number of fatalities from motorcycle accidents more than doubled in the 22-year period from 1994 to 2016, going from 2,320 fatalities up to 5,286 fatalities during that period.

There are many factors that are said to be contributing to the rise in motorcycle fatalities. Alcohol, weather, road conditions, and driver and rider negligence all play a role, but the one factor that seems to correlate with the rise in motorcycle accidents during the past couple decades is the increased use of cell phones while behind the wheel.

Distracted driving has always been an issue that contributes to auto accidents. However, texting while driving and similar activities take this danger to a whole new level, because they take the focus of the driver completely off of the road. 

Approximately two-thirds of the time, the driver of another vehicle is the one most at-fault for a motorcycle collision. And in and large number of cases, the reason vehicles collide into motorcycles is because the vehicle driver fails to see the motorcycle in their blind spot.

Tips for Avoiding Blind Spot Motorcycle Accidents

All cars and trucks have blind spots, and the larger the vehicle, the larger the blind spot is. When another vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle, or even a pedestrian enters a vehicle’s blind spot, the vehicle driver cannot see whatever is there when they look at their rearview or sideview mirrors. This is the cause of thousands of motor vehicle accidents each year, and it is one of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents.

Many newer vehicles come equipped with blind spot monitors, and hopefully, this will vastly reduce the number of blind spot accidents in the future. That said, most vehicles do not have these monitors yet. And to avoid blind spot motorcycle accidents, it is important for vehicle drivers and motorcyclists to take extra precautions.

For Motorists

Here are some tips for drivers to help them avoid blind spot motorcycle accidents:

  • Properly adjust mirrors: Adjust your rearview mirror so that your rear window is completely framed; and adjust your sideview mirrors so that they are pointed toward your blind spot. This tutorial from Car and Driver provides more detailed instructions and illustrations on how to ensure that your mirrors are adjusted properly.
  • Look over your shoulders: Even with your mirrors properly adjusted, you can still miss a motorcycle that enters your blind spot. For this reason, it is always good practice to look over your shoulder to the side you are turning to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
  • Use your blinker when changing lanes: Always signal before changing lanes, so motorcyclists and other drivers know your intentions.
  • Stay alert: Pay attention to vehicles and motorcycles that may be entering your blind spot. This means avoiding smart phone activity and other distractions when you are driving.

For Motorcyclists

Here are some tips for motorcyclists to avoid danger when driving near other vehicles:

  • Stay out of blind spots: Ride behind or in front of the vehicle and avoid riding alongside a vehicle to help ensure you are not in their blind spot for any length of time.
  • Practice defensive driving: Stay alert and try to anticipate what the vehicles in front of you and behind you might do. Allow plenty of space between you and other vehicles and avoid distracted driving.
  • Pass carefully: When you pass another vehicle, complete the pass as quickly and safely as possible, so you are able to limit the amount of time you spend in their blind spot.
  • Stay visible: Wear brightly-colored or fluorescent clothing and keep your headlights on at all times to help other drivers see you.

Injured in a Blind Spot Motorcycle Accident? Contact a Seasoned Auto Accident Lawyer

There are times when you do everything right and still end up in an accident. If you or someone close to you was injured in a motorcycle accident that was the fault of another party, you may have a right to compensation. After you have received medical attention for your injuries, get in touch with a skilled personal injury attorney to discuss your legal rights and options.

At Peake & Fowler, we have in-depth experience successfully representing clients injured in motorcycle accidents and all other types of personal injury cases in South Carolina. For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 803-998-2412 or send us a message through our online contact form.

I was Injured in a Motorcycle Accident: Do I Need to Retain an Attorney?

Nearly 100,000 individuals are injured in motorcycle accidents each year. And many of these cases result in serious and catastrophic injuries, especially to the rider, who has less protection. A motorcycle accident can turn your life upside down. Medical bills can start to pile up, and you might need to miss several days, weeks, or even months from work. In the most severe cases, injuries can be permanent and debilitating, potentially resulting in the inability to participate in gainful activity.

Those injured in a motorcycle accident often wonder if it is worthwhile to retain an attorney.  After all, the attorney gets a percentage of the eventual settlement, and maybe they would be better off dealing with the insurance company on their own. In most cases, it is in your best interests to at least talk to a lawyer after a motorcycle accident to review the case and discuss your options.

The legal process can be complicated and confusing, and there are many pitfalls that could cause you to lose out on the just compensation you deserve. A skilled personal injury lawyer has the experience needed to navigate the complexities of the process and help bring your case to a successful conclusion.

Here are just a few reasons to consider retaining an attorney if you sustained moderate to severe injuries in a motorcycle accident:

Your Attorney can Properly Value your Case

If you have never dealt with a motor vehicle accident injury before, you may have difficulty determining whether you have a legal claim, and how much compensation to ask for. An attorney with in-depth knowledge of this area of the law can thoroughly assess your case, determine the full extent of your injuries/losses, and explore every potential legal avenue for you to recover full and fair compensation.

Your Attorney can Protect your Legal Rights

Insurance companies often use various tactics to diminish the value of a claim or deny the claim altogether. One of the most common tactics used is to try to get you to admit at least partial fault for the accident. Your lawyer will most likely advise you not to provide any official statements to the insurance company, or to admit any kind of fault for the accident. Your lawyer will also be able to put together the strongest possible argument for the compensation you are asking for, and when necessary, they can bring in expert witnesses (from the medical profession and other industries) to help substantiate your claim.

Your Attorney can Negotiate Directly with the Insurance Adjuster

Insurance adjusters are trained negotiators who deal with injury claims day in and day out. When an adjuster is dealing with an injury victim, they will often present a lowball settlement offer that is worth far less than the value of your claim. Knowing that you are unlikely to file a personal injury lawsuit without a lawyer, the adjuster has far less incentive to present a fair offer. Your lawyer can push back against the adjuster by presenting a strong argument for the compensation you deserve. In addition, the adjuster knows that your lawyer is ready and able to pursue full damages through litigation if necessary.

Retaining an Attorney allows You to Focus on your Recovery

One of the most important reasons to consider retaining an attorney after a motorcycle accident is your health. If you have been injured in an accident, you should be focusing on getting recovered, rather than dealing with the insurance company. Your lawyer can handle the legal process from start to finish, including fully investigating the case, determining the exact cause of the accident, gathering all important facts and pieces of evidence, dealing with complicated paperwork, and negotiating your settlement. This frees you up to concentrate on getting healthy again.

Injured in a Motorcycle Accident in South Carolina? Call the Seasoned Personal Injury Attorneys at Peake & Fowler

If you or someone close to you has suffered injury in a motorcycle accident, it is important for you to fully understand your legal rights and options. Before accepting any offers from the insurance company, contact us to schedule a free, no obligation consultation and case assessment. Call our office today at 803-998-2412 or send us a message through our online contact form.