Motorcyclists are at a greater risk of being seriously injured or killed on the road than drivers or passengers of other types of vehicles. In one recent year, there were about 85,000 motorcycle injuries and more than 5,500 motorcyclists killed in traffic around the United States. In South Carolina, 137 motorcyclists were killed. Those numbers may sound small compared with the number of traffic injuries and deaths overall. However, the rate of injury and death is much higher for motorcyclists. The percentage of traffic fatalities attributable to motorcycle accidents fluctuates from about 13-15%, though motorcycles make up only 3% of the registered vehicles in the United States.
Motorcycles are more dangerous than cars for two separate reasons: motorcycles face unique crash risks, and the injuries sustained are likely to be significantly more serious.
Motorcyclists are at greater risk of crashing on the road for several reasons. One is that drivers of cars and other vehicles don't always notice motorcyclists. In part, this is because motorcycles are objectively less visible. They are considerably smaller than passenger cars and other vehicles, can easily fit entirely into a driver's blind spot, and may not maintain a constant position in a lane. However, researchers have suggested that it is also possibly attributable to inattention blindness. In simple terms, this means that the brain is constantly filtering and giving priority to certain types of information, since it is impossible to process everything at once. Research conducted with still photographs found that study subjects were more than twice as likely to notice a taxi that had unexpectedly been added to the photograph as they were a motorcycle.
Motorcyclists also face different risks because hazards on the road that might have little or no impact on a car or truck can do significant damage. For example, a pothole might just cause an unpleasant bump for a driver of a passenger vehicle, or in a worst case scenario might pop a tire or even do some minor damage to the vehicle. On the other hand, a motorcyclist hitting the same pothole Is likely to lose control of the bike. The same is true for grass cuttings on the road, which can cause a motorcycle to slide and debris left in the road which can have an impact similar to hitting a pothole.
While motorcyclists generally are at greater risk than those traveling in other vehicles, not all motorcycles are created equal. “Supersport” motorcycles are about four times as likely to be involved in fatal crashes than standard models.
The main reason that motorcyclists often suffer more serious injuries in a crash is obvious– a motorcyclist has no protective surfaces between them and the ground. While a passenger in a car is generally protected by the outer shell of the vehicle, restrained by a seatbelt, and protected by airbags, the motorcyclist has no protection.
Some of these injuries can be long-term or permanent, and can have a significant impact on the injured motorcyclist’s quality of life. They may also require expensive medical care, ongoing treatment, rehabilitative services, and even assistance with self-care or daily activities. Even when the injuries are temporary, recovery can be difficult, the injured rider may lose a significant amount of income, and medical expenses can be high.
South Carolina personal injury law offers a way for a motorcyclist injured through someone else’s negligence to recover compensation to cover those losses and help the victim rebuild.
In some crashes, the motorcyclist is responsible for the collision or shares responsibility. One common reason a motorcyclist might be wholly or partly responsible for their own injuries is operating a motorcycle under the influence of alcohol. A substantial percentage of motorcycle accidents involve intoxicated riders.
When the motorcyclist is under the influence of alcohol or other substances, speeding, disobeying traffic laws, not paying attention to the road or otherwise negligent, they may be entirely or partly responsible for a crash. However, partial responsibility doesn’t necessarily mean the injured biker can’t recover compensation.
In South Carolina, an injury victim may be entitled to some compensation if they are partly responsible for their own injuries. But, there are two limitations. First, no injury victim can recover damages from another responsible party if the injured person was more than 50% responsible. Establishing the percentage of responsibility and persuading the insurance carrier’s attorney or arguing the point to a jury is complicated, and may be the determining factor in whether or not you receive any compensation for your injuries. So, it’s important to work with an experienced Charleston injury lawyer.
If you were partly responsible for your injuries but not more than half, you may be entitled to compensation. But, your compensation will be reduced in proportion to your fault For example, if you have $1,000,000 in damages but are found to be 40% responsible, you can recover only 60% of the total, or $600,000. You will be responsible for the remainder, since you were at fault for that portion.
To secure compensation, you will first have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the other party was responsible for the accident and your resulting injuries and property losses. If you were partly responsible for the accident, you will have to establish what percentage of fault is attributable to you. This can be a point of contention, since it will determine whether and to what extent you are entitled to damages.
You will also have to establish all of your damages through evidence such as medical records and bills, doctor recommendations for therapy, equipment and other services and the bills for those services, the amount of income you lost, the value of your property loss and more. If you are seeking compensation for continuing medical care and/or decreased future earnings, you will need expert witnesses to establish those claims.
In other words, it can be tough to build an effective case on your own. Your best next step is to talk to an experienced motorcycle accident attorney who can handle communications with the insurance carrier, investigation of fault, assembly of evidence, identification and hiring of experts, and prepare your case for trial. Attorney Frank Hartman has focused his legal practice on helping injured people receive fair compensation. He has the skills and experience necessary to build the strongest possible motorcycle accident claim on your behalf, and he cares about your future.
To learn more, call 843-300-7600 or fill out the contact form on this page.
Your first steps after a motorcycle accident will depend on the severity of the crash. If you are able, you should exchange insurance information with the other driver, collect contact information from any witnesses, and take photos or video of the scene. However, taking care of your health comes first. Even if you do not believe that you are seriously injured, let emergency personnel check you out and, if necessary, follow up with a doctor or at the local emergency room. Once you know you are stable, you’ll want to contact a Charleston motorcycle accident attorney right away, before talking with the responsible party’s insurance carrier.
South Carolina isn’t the most dangerous state in the nation for motorcycle riders, but the state does have the fourth-highest rate of motorcycle fatalities in the country. In 2021, South Carolina saw 11.2 motorcycle fatalities per 10,000 motorcycles, or more than one death per thousand motorcycles.
The most recent motorcycle crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that 67% of motorcycle fatalities occur in urban areas and more than 90% are on non-interstate roads. About 35% happen at intersections. Most occur during daylight hours in clear weather conditions. But, motorcycle accidents, including fatal crashes, can happen anywhere at any time of the day or night. Because motorcyclists are more vulnerable in many ways, it is important to remain especially vigilant no matter where you are riding.