When a motorcyclist or their passenger is injured by a negligent driver, insurance companies immediately jump into action, searching high and low for excuses and reasons why they should not have to pay for the injuries. If you or someone you care about has been injured by a careless driver, there are several key things you need to do to protect your rights to compensation. One of the most common arguments insurance companies raise is that the victim was partly responsible for their injuries because they failed to wear a helmet. At Krause, Moorhead & Draisen, P.A., we fight these nasty insurance tactics every day. Here’s what you should know about fighting against this so-called “no-helmet defense.”
In South Carolina, our lawmakers agree that adult riders should have the freedom to ride without a helmet (although certainly hold that riding with a helmet is safer and smarter). South Carolina remains among the majority of states with a partial helmet law that only requires certain riders to wear a helmet. In this state, all riders and their passengers under the age of 21 must be helmeted. So if it’s legal for an adult to ride without a helmet, how can insurance companies use this as an argument to deny compensation when the other driver is at fault?
Insurance companies sometimes get away with reducing or denying compensation for riders and passengers who do not wear helmets. This is because of an often misunderstood concept called ‘comparative fault.’ This legal theory says that if a victim is responsible for their own injuries, then they cannot recover compensation from the other party.
Under South Carolina law, a defendant is allowed to argue that a judgment should be reduced by the victim’s share of the blame. In other words, if a negligent driver strikes you on a motorcycle, and you suffer serious injuries, the driver can argue that your injuries are at least partially due to the fact that you were not wearing a helmet.
Yes, but you have a right to fight back. If you can prove to a jury that the other driver’s negligence was the direct cause of your injuries, then you may be able to get a verdict ordering the other driver (and their insurance company) to pay for your injuries. If they argue that you shared responsibility for your injuries, you have a right to argue otherwise. Ultimately, it will be up to a jury to decide what share of responsibility you have for your injuries.
For example, if a jury determines you were 10 percent to blame because you chose not to wear a helmet, then a jury verdict of $100,000 would be reduced to $90,000.
Keep in mind that although you can still recover compensation if you were partly to blame for your injuries, in South Carolina, you cannot receive anything for your injuries if your negligence exceeds that of the other party. This is why insurance companies will try hard to argue that you are mostly responsible. Do not accept this argument. Call the experienced motorcycle accident lawyers of Krause, Moorhead & Draisen, P.A. today.
Steven Krause is a personal injury, auto accident, and workers’ compensation lawyer who practices in Anderson, SC. He graduated form the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law and has been practicing law for 40 years now. Steven Krause believes in fighting for the injured. Learn more about his experience here.