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 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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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, 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 (803) 470-5298 today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!