If you’re an avid motorcyclist in South Carolina then chances are you are aware of how important it can be to wear a helmet. Study after study has confirmed the vital role helmets play in keeping riders safe. Those wearing helmets are far more likely to survive a motorcycle crash and avoid debilitating conditions such as traumatic brain injury.
Given all that we know about the benefits of helmets, you may wonder whether there are legal consequences for those that choose not to wear a helmet when out for a ride. Beyond the issue of helmet safety laws, there is also the question of how the choice not to wear a helmet could impact a potential personal injury lawsuit. To find out more about what not wearing a helmet could mean, keep reading.
South Carolina helmet law
The law in South Carolina is clear that helmets are only mandatory for those under the age of 21. Section 56-5-3660 of South Carolina Code requires helmets to be worn by everyone who operates or rides a two-wheeled motorized vehicle.
Punishment for violators
If a person is under 21 and is found to have violated the law, he or she can be fined and potentially even jailed for violating the mandatory helmet law. For those 21 and over, there is no legal or criminal punishment for being caught riding without a helmet.
Impact on a personal injury lawsuit
Though we just got done explaining that for those over 21 there are no criminal consequences for riding without a helmet in South Carolina, that doesn’t mean that the decision won’t impact you in other ways. One example is that a choice not to wear a helmet may result in a reduced recovery in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit. Now let’s discuss why that is.
Can you file a personal injury lawsuit?
Yes, you can still file a lawsuit for injuries against the personal responsible even if you were not wearing your helmet at the time. No law in South Carolina would preclude an injured motorcyclist from attempting to recover damages from the person responsible for causing his or her injuries. That being said, the amount you recover may be diminished.
Why would damages be reduced?
Though you’re still allowed to bring a suit, the reality is that failing to wear a helmet can, in some cases, reduce the amount of money a person recovers in a South Carolina personal injury case. The reason is that if the lack of the helmet made your injuries worse than they would otherwise have been, the at-fault party can argue that you ought to be held partially responsible for the accident and your resulting injuries.
How much could the damages be lowered?
There’s no hard and fast rule about this, the answer will instead depend on the facts of your case. The issue boils down to what percentage you are found to be at fault for your injuries. If your decision not to wear a helmet is deemed negligence, then your share of any subsequent damage award will be reduced by that percentage. This is because South Carolina has adopted a system known as modified comparative negligence, which allows plaintiffs to collect money even if they are found to be partially responsible for their own injury.