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.