For the most part, motorcycle safety has improved in South Carolina in recent decades, yet there are still a couple thousand motorcycle collisions annually on roadways throughout the state, causing around a 100 deaths and thousands of injuries each year. Riders remain at the mercy of negligent, reckless or aggressive car and truck drivers, who do not see the bike until it is too late or who drive recklessly around motorcycles and force a crash. When motorcycle riders are injured due to the negligence or aggressive driving of others, or when a biker’s own careless or reckless riding causes an accident, responsible parties should be held accountable.
The Columbia motorcycle accident attorneys at Peake & Fowler have served clients in South Carolina since 2000. We have several decades of combined personal injury experience and a strong track record of success recovering full compensation on behalf of injury victims and their families. We understand the physical, emotional, and financial toll serious injuries can take on a household, and we do everything possible to make the legal process smooth and stress-free. We work closely with our clients, and we have the experience, resources, and commitment to provide the skilled and personalized representation you need and deserve.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
There are many reasons motorcycle crashes occur, some of the most common include:
- Speeding: Exceeding the speed limit is a leading cause of all types of automobile accidents in South Carolina. The faster a vehicle is moving, the less time they have to react to other vehicles on the road and prevent a collision. This is especially true with motorcycles because they have a small profile, and other drivers who are speeding often do not see them until it is too late.
- Reckless Driving: Speeding excessively, weaving in and out of lanes, running stop signs and stop lights, and tailgating are all examples of reckless driving. Drivers who engage in this type of behavior are often in a state of mind in which they have willful and wanton disregard for their safety and the safety of other motorists on the road.
- Unsafe Lane Changes: Before changing lanes, drivers are supposed to look back and check their blind spots. Many drivers fail to pay attention to motorcyclists who may have entered their blind spot, and if they fail to signal and/or don’t turn their head back before changing lanes, they might automatically assume that it is safe to move over.
- Left Turn Accidents: Another scenario in which bikers are at great risk is when a driver is turning left and fails to see a motorcycle in the lane to the left of them that is going straight. As mentioned in the previous point, if the driver does not signal they are turning and/or look to their left to see if there are any vehicles in that lane, it can lead to a collision.
- DUI/DWI: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a major contributor to motorcycle accidents. Those who drive in this state are often more careless or reckless and/or they have slower reaction times. Drivers who cause accidents due to DUI or DWI may face both civil and criminal penalties.
- Distracted Driving: In today’s society, a growing number of people feel the need to stay connected. This has led to drivers being more distracted, making our roadways more hazardous. Texting while driving is one of the worst types of distracted driving, because the driver’s visual focus is on his/her electronic device rather than the road.
- Car Doors: Some motorcycle accidents occur because of the carelessness of other drivers after they have parked their vehicle. When a driver or passenger in a regular vehicle fails to look outside before opening the door, they sometimes strike oncoming motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.
- Vehicle/Vehicle Part Defects: Motorcycle accidents can sometimes happen because of a poorly designed or poorly manufactured vehicle or vehicle part. In such cases, the designer, manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of the vehicle or part may be liable for the accident.
Why Motorcycle Accidents are More Severe
Good riders are trained and experienced enough to know to drive defensively and watch out for other drivers on the road. They also know the limitations of their machine and their ability to handle it in all situations. Unfortunately, no amount of skill and care can prevent a collision with a negligent, distracted driver or an overly-aggressive driver who doesn’t respect motorcycles or understand their limitations for safe handling and operation.
Many advancements have been made over the years to make car crashes safer for the occupants of the vehicle. Little can or has been done for the motorcycle rider, however, who may at most be protected by a helmet and riding leathers. The exposure and vulnerability of the biker puts the rider at risk for serious injury or death in a collision with a larger, heavier motor vehicle.
Some of the injuries that commonly occur in motorcycle accidents include:
- Cuts and bruises to the face, head, arms, legs, and other parts of the body;
- Brain injuries;
- Whiplash injuries;
- Soft tissue injuries;
- Neck and spine injuries;
- Shoulder, hip and knee injuries;
- Fractures and dislocations;
- Severe burns;
- Amputations/loss of limbs;
- Paralysis; and
- Wrongful death.
Damages in South Carolina Motorcycle Accident Cases
Those who are seriously injured in a motorcycle accident may be entitled to several types of compensation, such as:
- Medical Expenses: Severe injuries can incur large medical bills for recovery, rehabilitation, and in some cases, treatment of an ongoing/permanent injury or disability. Victims injured in motorcycle crashes deserve to be compensated for past, present, and future medical expenses.
- Lost Income: If an injury keeps you out of work for an extended period of time, you should be compensated for income lost due to time missed from work. If the injury results in a long-term partial or total disability in which the victim is no longer able to perform his/her current job and/or obtain any type of gainful employment, this must also be taken into account.
- Pain and Suffering: Personal injury victims often live with excruciating physical pain on a daily basis. Compensation should be given for the pain and suffering an individual goes through after a motorcycle accident.
- Emotional Trauma: Accident injury victims deal with more than just physical pain, they often have psychological pain as well. Victims should be compensated for the emotional trauma that resulted from the accident.
- Punitive Damages: In extreme cases in which the actions of the party at-fault were especially egregious, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the responsible party and deter them (and others) from engaging in similar actions in the future. In South Carolina, punitive damages are limited to the greater of three times actual damages or $500,000. However, if a defendant is deemed motivated by financial gain, or if his or her conduct rises to a felonious level, the award can be increased to either $2 million or four times compensatory damages. In the most extreme cases, where the defendant is found to have intended his or her conduct, if the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if the defendant committed a felony arising out of the same act, there is no cap for punitive damages.
South Carolina applies the legal doctrine known as “modified comparative negligence”. This means that if the parties share fault for the accident, the amount the victim can recover in damages is reduced in proportion to the percentage they are found to be at-fault. For example, if an injury victim is entitled to $100,000 in compensation but is 10% at-fault, their compensation would be reduced to $90,000. If the victim is found to be 51% or more at fault, they are barred from recovering any damages at all.
Speak with a Seasoned Motorcycle Accident Attorney
In South Carolina, there is a three-year statute of limitations (from the date of an accident) for a victim to file a personal injury lawsuit. Two years for a lawsuit against a governmental entity. For this reason, it is best to retain skilled legal counsel sooner rather than later to ensure that your rights and interests are fully protected. In Columbia and surrounding areas, call the experienced lawyers at Peake & Fowler at 803-788-4370 to schedule your free consultation. You may also send us a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.