Motorcycle Accidents Lawyers in Columbia SC
Each year, about 50,000 people are injured and nearly 2,000 are killed in motorcycle accidents in the United States. Motorcycle riders in accidents involving other vehicles have a 98% chance of sustaining an injury. And while most motorcycle riders could not have avoided this type of auto accident with another vehicle, in most cases the driver of the other vehicle involved could have!
A motorcycle accident is likely to result in catastrophic injury or death for the motorcycle rider because of the size of the bike and the lack of protection. If you are a motorcycle rider who has been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, then you deserve maximum compensation for your injuries. For a free case evaluation, please call our experienced South Carolina motorcycle accident lawyers at 888-353-5513.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
There are many causes of motorcycle accidents, some caused by other drivers and some caused by environmental factors. Motorcycles are smaller and lighter than other vehicles. This makes them harder to see, and more susceptible to defective roadways and spills, on which they can easily lose control.
When this type of crash is caused by someone else’s negligence, the driver may have caused the motorcycle crash by:
- Making a left-hand turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle
- Failing to see and recognize a motorcycle before changing lanes
- Following a motorcycle too closely
- Refusing a motorcycle the full width of the lane
- Misjudging the speed of a motorcycle
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving while distracted by electronic devices or other distractions
Accidents can also be caused by riding on poorly-maintained roads, especially when it is raining or in high winds. In certain cases, the accident may have been caused by a defective design or motorcycle part, which could become the basis of a defective product case.
Types of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents can happen in a number of different ways. Although some accidents are caused by the motorcyclist’s own actions, poorly maintained roads, environmental reasons, or a defective design or motorcycle part, many are caused by the negligence or recklessness of other drivers on the road.
Here are some of the most common types of motorcycle accidents caused by other drivers in South Carolina:
- Dooring – If a driver or passenger of a car parked on the side of the road opens their door in the path of an oncoming motorcycle, it can have devastating consequences.
- Fixed object collision – This is when a motorcyclist is forced to swerve to avoid an object, like another vehicle, but ends up hitting something else. Oftentimes, it occurs when a large truck forces a motorcycle off the road, causing them to hit a stationary object such as a utility pole or a tree.
- Head-on collisions – This happens when a driver is in a lane illegally and collides with a motorcycle traveling in the opposite direction. This could happen because the at-fault driver was passing another driver in their lane, or because they unintentionally weaved into the wrong lane.
- Left-hand turn collisions – Many drivers simply don’t see motorcycles when driving, and make left-hand turns in front of them, causing the motorcycle to crash into their vehicle.
- Rear-end collisions – This occurs when a motorist crashes into the back of a motorcycle because they were following too closely or failed to see the motorcycle stopped at a red light or stop sign.
- Side collisions – These types of accidents happen when a car merges or changes lanes into a motorcycle.
- T-bones – These accidents take place when a vehicle hits a motorcycle directly on its side. This usually happens in intersections where the vehicles are traveling at right angles to each other.
Motorcyclists who have been injured in accidents caused by other drivers shouldn’t be responsible for their own medical bills or rehabilitation costs, nor should they have to suffer financially because they are unable to work due to their injuries. If they find themselves facing permanent disability, they need to be fairly compensated for the financial, physical, and emotional consequences that they will continue to experience for the rest of their life.
If you’ve been seriously injured in a South Carolina motorcycle accident, it is a good idea to contact a personal injury lawyer who can assess your case, put a value on it, and negotiate with the other side’s insurance company so that you receive the compensation you are rightfully owed.
No one looks forward to having to file a personal injury claim, but doing so is often the only way to ensure you receive a fair sum following a serious accident. Hiring a lawyer can help ensure the legal legwork is taken care of, and typically leads to a much better outcome than trying to represent yourself against the powerful lawyers working for the other side’s insurance company.
The best thing about hiring a South Carolina motorcycle accident lawyer to take care of your case is that it allows you to focus 100% on your recovery.
Who is at fault in most motorcycle accidents?
In 2020, motorcyclists were about 28 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash, and were four times more likely to be injured. But who is to blame for most of those accidents taking place?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes happen when other drivers simply don’t see the motorcyclist.
There are a number of reasons why a driver might not see a motorcycle, but most of them are avoidable. For instance, they might be distracted because they’re texting or fiddling with the radio, or they might be driving in a habitual manner while relying only on their peripheral vision to spot other vehicles.
It’s true that motorcycles are harder to see than cars, SUVs, trucks, or tractor-trailers. However, that’s simply no excuse. When motorists take their driving tests, they learn how to look out for motorcycles, and they understand that they have to share the road with motorcycles, bikes, and pedestrians.
Motorcyclists can increase their visibility by applying reflective materials to their motorcycle and by keeping their headlights on at all times, but there’s only so much they can do. If a driver doesn’t see a motorcyclist because they’re distracted, they don’t check their blind spots, or for any other avoidable reason, the situation is out of the motorcyclist’s hands.
The unfortunate truth is that many drivers simply refuse to “Look Twice, Save a Life” or share the road with motorcyclists – even though bikers have the same rights as they do. As the NHTSA puts it, no one has sole rights to the road. Instead, it’s a shared space where we all have rights and responsibilities.
When a driver fails to take their road safety responsibilities seriously, accidents can occur. Motorcyclists who fall victim to the negligence or carelessness of other drivers on the road should never be faced with mounting medical bills for an accident they didn’t cause. Instead, the other side’s insurance company should provide a fair amount to cover all of their economic and non-economic damages, including pain and suffering.
Many motorcycle accident victims choose to hire a personal injury attorney to fight their corner so they can build a strong case and recover the highest amount of compensation. Even if it’s abundantly clear that the other motorist was at fault, an attorney can still be extremely beneficial when it comes to getting the money you’re rightfully owed.
An experienced South Carolina motorcycle accident lawyer will examine the police report and traffic citations issued, along with photographs of your damaged motorcycle and the crash scene. They will assess your medical records, including imaging scans of your injuries, and gather testimonies from eyewitnesses. They will also determine whether traffic cameras captured the crash occurring, and will obtain that footage if possible.
They will push back against the other side’s insurance company, who will do everything they can to downplay your injuries and place blame on you. Personal injury lawyers deal with insurance companies all the time, so they know all their tricks and they’ll refuse to accept a low-ball settlement offer. If a settlement can’t be reached at all, they will take your case to court and argue in front of a judge and jury.
Who is at fault in a lane splitting accident?
Lane splitting is the act of a motorcyclist driving between two lanes, and it’s illegal in South Carolina. It usually happens when a motorcyclist is feeling impatient with stopped traffic or slow-moving vehicles in front of them.
If a motorcyclist gets in an accident while they’re lane splitting, they will be ticketed. However, since South Carolina is a comparative negligence state, there are some instances in which they might not be found entirely at fault.
For example, imagine a motorcyclist is lane splitting to avoid rush hour traffic. At the same time, a driver makes an illegal left-hand turn into the motorcyclist. The motorcyclist’s attorney could argue that the left-hand turn is what actually caused the accident, in which case both parties might be assigned a percentage of fault for the collison.
South Carolina’s comparative negligence rule states that a person can receive compensation if they were less than 51% responsible for the accident, but damages will be reduced based on that percentage. So, in the example above, if the motorcyclist was found to be 40% responsible because they were lane-splitting, and damages were set at $100,000, they would only receive 60% of the full award amount ($60,000).
Comparative negligence cases can be complicated, particularly as the other side will be trying to place all or most of the blame on you, rather than take responsibility themselves. Hiring a personal injury attorney is highly advisable in these cases.
Even if a motorcyclist who is lane splitting is not deemed 100% at fault, it is important to remember that lane splitting is still illegal in South Carolina, prohibited by SC Code Section 56-5-3640 which states that “no person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic, or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.”
Although proponents of lane splitting say the practice is safe enough, those who are against it believe the risks outweigh any benefits.
Here are a few reasons why those against lane splitting believe it is an unsafe practice:
- Lane splitting causes unpredictability in a motorcyclist’s actions, making it more difficult for other drivers to anticipate their movements on the road.
- Lane splitting usually happens in heavy traffic situations where motorists are frequently changing lanes in order to stay in the fastest-moving lane. Being in between lanes when so much lane-changing is happening puts the motorcyclist at a higher risk of getting hit.
- Drivers often unintentionally drift into another lane without even realizing it. If this happens when a motorcyclist is lane splitting, the motorcyclist could easily get side-swiped.
- Lane splitting can cause road rage when other motorists see motorcyclists breezing through heavy traffic.
- Since motorists don’t expect a motorcycle to be riding in between two lanes, seeing lane splitting in action can startle a motorist. This can lead to them accidentally jerking the wheel and causing an accident.
Lane splitting should not be confused with lane sharing, however, which is when two motorcyclists utilize the same lane side-by-side. This practice is perfectly legal in the Palmetto State.
If you are a motorcyclist who was involved in an accident while lane splitting, you should contact a personal injury attorney who can help you determine if the other party is partially to blame for the accident.
Common Injuries in Motorcycle Accident Cases
When a motorcycle is struck by another vehicle at high speed, the driver of the motorcycle is likely to suffer some serious injuries. Without the protective enclosures and safety features of cars, motorcycles can cause much more serious injuries to their drivers. Safety equipment can mitigate the damage caused by a motorcycle crash, but it will not eliminate it entirely. Because motorcycles are much lighter than other vehicles and offer no protection, whereas passenger vehicles have seatbelts and crash-rated protective cabins, car drivers may be found to have an additional responsibility to look out for motorcycle drivers.
A serious motorcycle accident can have life-altering implications and catastrophic injuries, such as:
These are common motorcycle accident injuries with serious consequences, and McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates’ experienced motorcycle accident lawyers understand how a single crash can devastate the lives of you and your family members. We have handled many motorcycle accident claims involving various types of vehicles. We know how to investigate the details of your case to determine the cause. If the cause of your accident came about because of someone else’s negligence such as a careless driver or a defective design, then we can aggressively pursue compensation on your behalf.
What if I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet?
Helmet laws in South Carolina are fairly relaxed: only drivers age 20 and younger are required to wear helmets when riding a motorcycle. Obviously, not wearing a helmet can result in relatively more serious injuries. But if you failed to wear your helmet, you should still be able to recover damages if the other driver was at fault for your accident.
As long as the motorcycle accident was caused by another driver’s negligence, you can still bring forward a claim. If we can determine that wearing a helmet would not have made a significant difference in your injuries (e.g., if your spinal cord was injured), then it will probably not make a difference in the outcome of your case.
However, your failure to protect yourself with motorcycle helmets may influence the total amount of compensation you receive. If you sue the other driver for damages, a judge may reduce the amount you recover proportionately to how much your injuries were aggravated by your failure to wear a helmet. Even if the accident was not your fault, the court may decide that your decision contributed to your injuries, and your are therefore responsible for some of the costs.
Motorcycle accident cases can be complex. In some cases, you may be able to recover damages from another driver at fault for causing your injuries, even if you do not carry insurance coverage. You may also be able to recover damages if another vehicle caused you to veer off course without actually colliding with you. It is important, however, that you consult with a personal injury attorney with successful experience in motorcycle accident cases.
Recovering Damages from a Motorcycle Accident
When another person causes you to have an accident, it creates extra costs that put a financial burden on you and your family. A lawsuit against the responsible party shifts this burden to the person who caused the accident in the first place, so you don’t have to suffer unjustly as the result of another’s actions. “Damages” refer to the total financial costs for which the person you are suing is responsible.
Damages in a motorcycle accident case can include
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Cost of rehabilitation
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Punitive damages (in cases of special recklessness, like drunk driving)
The amount of damages for each of these categories can also vary from person to person and case to case. Some of this comes down to your personal characteristics—for example, if you were near retirement, you’re not going to get as much for lost future earning capacity as someone just starting out his career—and some comes down to how persuasively your lawyer can argue your case.
Every motorcycle accident claim is unique. The type and amount of damages you are eligible for will vary depending on the circumstances of your motorcycle accident. Some of the factors we will evaluate include:
- The type and severity of your injuries
- The circumstances of the accident
- Your employment
- Your marital status
Many motorcycle accidents happen to end in death. If you lost a parent or a spouse in a motorcycle accident due to a driver’s reckless or careless actions, you may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This takes many of the same things into account that a motorcycle accident lawsuit would. The difference is that the court is trying to put a number on the losses that your family suffered as a result of the death. Our experienced motorcycle accident lawyers understand these fatal accidents and will carefully investigate your loved one’s accident to gather the evidence you need to pursue a successful case.
Motorcycle Accidents and Insurance Companies
After your accident, it’s likely that you’ll end up dealing with an insurance company, either your own or the other driver’s. South Carolina is a “fault” state, meaning that the other driver’s insurance will have to pay for your damages if they are found to be more than 50% at fault for the accident. However, insurance companies will try to avoid paying if they can help it, and may try to deflect blame onto you. This is a situation where having an experienced motorcycle accident attorney can come in handy.
Experienced motorcycle accident lawyers:
- Can tell when an insurance company is lowballing your compensation
- Have experience negotiating with insurance companies
- Know what your rights to compensation are under South Carolina law
- Will be able to present your case persuasively and professionally in court
If you accept an initial settlement from the other driver’s insurance company, you may be unintentionally releasing the other driver from full liability for your motorcycle collision. The problem with settling fast is that the full extent of your injuries may not be apparent for weeks. In addition to this, many injured motorcyclists are not sure when they will be able to return to work. Until this can be determined, the true value of your injury claim will remain unknown.
If you are a injured motorcyclist, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer before accepting any type of settlement from an insurance company.
Motorcycle Accidents in South Carolina
The great appeal of motorcycles is the freedom of the open road, but this freedom can come at a cost. Motorcycle crashes are known for causing severe injury to the motorcycle driver, who often needs assistance for a long time afterwards. It is important, therefore, that you consult with a personal injury attorney with successful experience in motorcycle accident cases. The law firm of McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates has many such lawyers who know this area of personal injury law. Our motorcycle accident attorneys know how to work with accident reconstruction experts, and we’re familiar with issues pertaining specifically to motorcyclists and motorcycle accidents.
McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates serves the residents of South Carolina, with locations in Columbia, Lexington, Sumter, Aiken, Orangeburg, Newberry, and Camden. Please call a motorcycle accident attorney at 888-353-5513 or email our motorcycle accident lawyers in SC here at the law firm of McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates, P.A., for your free personal injury case evaluation.