Columbia Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

South Carolina is a beautiful state with open roadways which virtually call out to motorcycle enthusiasts. Unfortunately, our Columbia motorcycle accident attorney knows these ‘joy rides’ don’t always end as planned. Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers is also well aware that the motorcycle driver isn’t always the one who is injured. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 336 passengers were killed in motorcycle crashes in 2016, and 55.1% of them were not wearing helmets.

When we think of this type of accident, we envision crumpled cars and shattered bikes — which is not necessarily an accurate picture. NHTSA statistics show that 23% of fatal collisions involve fixed objects. This percentage is higher than that for any other vehicle type. Additional data shows that 33% of riders were speeding at the time of their fatal collision.

Common Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents

Unfortunately, there is a much higher risk of injury for both drivers and passengers on bikes than for people riding in cars. Here are some of the more frequent injuries we see in bike crashes:

  • Broken bones. Arms and legs are the most commonly injured, but some riders suffer collarbone, hip, neck, or shoulder fractures. These may require a long recovery time, and if you do a very physical job, you could be out of work for a while. Dislocated joints, strains, and sprains may also occur.
  • Back and neck injuries. Unfortunately, some spinal cord injuries may lead to paralysis, while other back and neck damage could cause nerve issues and chronic pain.
  • Head injuries. These may also be very serious and carry long-lasting consequences for a passenger. Often bike riders hit their head on the ground when ejected from a motorcycle. Sometimes they have a headache for a few days and then feel better. Other times, they may have a concussion or develop a traumatic brain injury or TBI. These types of head injuries can cause problems in many areas of the body, depending on what area of the brain is affected. Some patients develop motor skill difficulties, issues with memory or cognition, severe headaches, problems with eyesight or hearing, seizures, and other symptoms. If you hit your head in a crash, always see a doctor right away, even if the blow seemed minor at the time. It’s important to get treatment right away and to rule out potentially life-threatening problems like brain bleeds.
  • Internal bleeding or bruising. Some patients may need surgery to address the bleeding, while others just need a few days of observation in the hospital.
  • Lacerations and road rash. Being thrown from a motorcycle may also result in cuts and contusions. In particular, scraping a limb or other body part on the ground can break the skin and leave gravel and other debris embedded in the flesh underneath – also known as “road rash.” Never underestimate how painful these serious scrapes caused by contact with the pavement can be. If you’ve had this kind of injury, getting your lacerations cleaned in a hospital setting is very important to prevent infection and scarring.

Reducing Your Risk

Passengers are vulnerable to many types of injuries in motorcycle accidents. Like drivers, passengers are most likely hurt when thrown off the bike due to a collision. There are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of injury in a crash:

  • Always wear a helmet and appropriate clothing when riding.
  • A heavy jacket made of leather or similar material, riding pants, and boots will provide some protection if you land on the ground. Regular street clothes do little to protect against road rash and other injuries, but gear made for motorcyclists will lower your risk.
  • Choose a full-face helmet that fits snugly for the strongest protection against head injuries. Helmets reduce your risk of dying in an accident, as a passenger, by 41 percent, and reduce the risk of head injury by 69 percent.

What to Do If You’re Injured As a Motorcycle Passenger

In most of these cases, one of the drivers involved is at fault for the accident. However, there are a few situations where the passenger may be considered partly to blame. South Carolina uses modified comparative negligence statutes, in which responsibility for any personal injury can be shared among parties. A party that is less than 50 percent responsible can receive compensation from a party that is more than 50 percent at fault.

As soon as you can get your bearings after the accident, call 911 to report the crash if someone else hasn’t done so already. Try to determine if you’ve been hurt, and if not, check on the driver. It’s a good idea to request an ambulance for any injuries, even if they appear to be minor – sometimes injuries can be more serious than they seem at first. If the paramedics think you’re okay, you can still follow up with your own doctor later on to document your injuries.

Make an effort to get the names and contact info of any witnesses to the accident. It may be important to have witness testimony later on if the at-fault party doesn’t want to accept responsibility.

Carrying a Passenger Takes Skill

Allowing a passenger to ride with you is a life-or-death responsibility that can’t be taken lightly. Any operator who carries a passenger without having an idea of the way an extra body will change the ride may be making a fatal mistake.

As a Columbia motorcycle accident attorney knows, riders need to be taught to control their bikes with passengers onboard. The way a motorcycle handles is entirely changed by the addition of another human body. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation suggests that riders be aware of the following points before letting another person settle onto their rear seat:

  • Know that a passenger may bump your helmet with theirs;
  • Understand that your braking may be affected due to the extra weight;
  • Cornering clearances are altered; also due to added weight;
  • The rear brake may stop faster than usual;
  • It may take more throttle to start from a full stop.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has also weighed in on how to prepare for a passenger, and they suggest making sure that your guest follows these guidelines:

  • wears a helmet
  • can reach the footrests
  • does not turn around or make sudden movements
  • holds onto your waist or motorcycle handholds
  • keeps their legs away from the muffler

South Carolina Has Passenger Laws

The act of carrying a passenger on your motorcycle is not illegal — but you could be breaking the rules of the road and not know it. The South Carolina code of law has specific regulations regarding passengers that not all riders may know. Failing to abide by one of these regulations could result in a citation for you, your guest, or both of you.

  • Section 56-5-3630 says that a rider can only carry a passenger if the motorcycle is designed for two persons and that the second person may not obscure the view of the operator.
  • Section 56-5-3650 makes it a requirement to have footrests for your passenger.
  • Section 56-5-3660 outlines the necessity for a helmet to be worn by any person on the bike under 21.

Regardless of the law, it’s safer for a passenger of any age to wear a helmet. If you’re the driver, we recommend you set a good example by wearing one yourself and having a spare helmet handy for any potential riders.

Seeking Compensation for Your Injuries

After you’ve received treatment for your injuries, you may be wondering what to do about the bills. In any motor vehicle accident, the expectation is that the at-fault party should pay for the injuries of other injured parties. In most cases, this means that the at-fault driver’s insurance policy should pay (assuming they’re insured). But this is not always a cut-and-dried matter of filing a claim with the insurance carrier. Frequently the at-fault party will claim they weren’t at fault, and their insurance company will probably back them up as a reason not to pay your claim. There are also situations where both drivers were partially at fault, and are making claims on each other’s insurance, each saying the other party was mostly at fault. Remember that whoever is more than 50 percent responsible is expected to pay the injury claims.

Does this mean you will have to wait for a long court case to play out to discover whose insurance should pay for your treatment? Probably not. Most motorcycle accident cases are eventually settled out of court. However, it could take some time to work things out if both drivers say the other caused the accident. Modified comparative negligence is still an issue even without a court case, because an insurance carrier’s willingness to negotiate is often based on whether or not they think they will lose in court. So if your lawyer can show the insurance company ample evidence that their client was at fault, they will be more willing to make a deal.

Unfortunately, you are not necessarily off the hook just because you weren’t driving when the crash occurred. A passenger can also share fault in a motorcycle accident for the following reasons:

  • A rider may contribute to a crash if they don’t lean with the driver. Both the driver and the passenger can affect how the bike maneuvers depending on how they lean. In an emergency, the driver might lean one direction in an attempt to swerve out of the way and avoid an accident. If you, as the passenger, are leaning the other way, you could make this maneuver less effective, and then you would also be partially at fault for your injuries.
  • If you were squeezing the driver too hard or otherwise preventing them from operating the bike safely, you might also have shared some fault.
  • Even if you didn’t contribute to the crash itself, your actions may have worsened your injuries, especially if you are younger than 21 and weren’t wearing a helmet. Or, if you didn’t bail off the bike, it could be argued that your injuries were more severe for that reason.

If You Were Partly Responsible, Can You Still Collect Compensation?

Yes, as long as you were not more than 50 percent at fault in the collision. However, your compensation will be lowered by the amount of fault you have. So if you are 10 percent at fault, you will lose 10 percent of any compensation you’re due. This is one reason why another driver and/or their insurance company may claim that you were at fault – even if they don’t get out of paying your claim completely, they can at least reduce the amount they owe you.

Often an insurance adjuster will say that you were at fault, but they may not be able to prove it. Sometimes, they call and ask you questions in the hopes that you will say something they can interpret to mean you were somewhat responsible. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you don’t have a conversation with the insurance carrier without speaking to a Columbia motorcycle accident lawyer first.

Expert Representation Is Our Passion

No one expects that getting on the back of a motorcycle could be a life-changing event, but regrettably, it happens. When a passenger is wounded in the collision, they may suffer traumatic injuries to the head, spine, or limbs. We don’t believe that an afternoon of recreation should turn into years of physical and emotional pain or financial distress.

At Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers, we have dedicated ourselves to the rights of victims. If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, we will fight for your right to compensation. We offer a zero-fee guarantee and work on a contingency basis, so your ability to afford an attorney doesn’t have to factor into your decision to get help.

Call 828-222-7649 today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!