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If you were injured in a motorcycle accident but you were riding without a helmet, you may be concerned that the insurance company will deny your claim or, at the very least, assert that your damages should be reduced. Fortunately, the South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that the defenses of “contributory negligence” (when the rider is over 21) and “assumption of risk” do not apply to these cases. Therefore, even if your failure to wear a helmet contributed to the severity of your injury, you may still be able to recover compensation for 100 percent of your damages.
The state of South Carolina follows a “modified comparative negligence” rule. If your own negligence contributed to the accident or to the severity of your injuries, your award of damages could be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you incurred $100,000 in damages and a jury finds that you were 20 percent at fault, you would only be able to recover up to $80,000. If a jury determines that you were more than 50 percent at fault, you wouldn’t be able to recover anything.
The insurance company may assert that your failure to wear a helmet was negligent and, therefore, your award of damages should be reduced; however, contributory negligence would not be a valid defense if you were at least 21 years old at the time of the crash.
Under S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-3660, motorcycle riders over the age of 21 are not required to wear a helmet. The South Carolina Supreme Court cited this law in their ruling on Mayes v. Paxton, 437 S.E.2d 66 (1993), when they held that the plaintiff had no statutory duty to wear a helmet and, therefore, failure to wear a helmet does not constitute contributory negligence.
Another argument the insurance company might make is that you “assumed the risk” of suffering a catastrophic injury by choosing to ride a motorcycle without a helmet; however, in Mayes v. Paxton, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that a motorcyclist’s decision to ride without a helmet does not constitute implied consent that other motorists are relieved of their duty to exercise reasonable care.
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident and you weren’t wearing a helmet, you can expect the insurance company to look for any possible reason to dispute your claim. They may even assert arguments that have no basis in South Carolina statute or case law.
The skilled attorneys at Hodge & Langley Law Firm won’t let the insurance company take advantage of you. We will aggressively fight for the full compensation you deserve. To discuss your case in a free, no-obligation consultation, call us today at 864-585-3873 or send us a message HERE.
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