According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), approximately one out of every five motorcycle crashes results in a head or neck injury. Fortunately, motorcyclists can significantly reduce their chances of sustaining this type of serious injury if they wear a helmet. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that helmets can decrease a rider’s risk of death by as much as 37 percent and the risk of head injury by 69 percent. Even law-abiding and careful motorcyclists can be involved in collisions, making it especially important for all riders to wear helmets whenever operating or riding on a motorcycle.
The Dangers of Failing to Wear a Helmet
Although some people may view motorcycle helmets as a nuisance, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence establishing that states with no helmet laws at all have a higher rate of head injuries amongst motorcyclists. For instance, in 2012, Michigan repealed its mandatory helmet law and allowed riders who were under the age of 21 years old to opt-out of wearing a helmet. Tragically, within weeks of repealing the law, emergency rooms noticed a significant increase in the number of admitted patients who required treatment for head and neck injuries sustained in motorcycle crashes. In fact, as many as ten percent of motorcyclists who failed to wear a helmet and were brought to the hospital passed away. In comparison, only three percent of patients who had been wearing helmets at the time of their crash lost their lives. Finally, the percentage of those who passed away at the scene of the accident and were not wearing helmets rose from 14 percent before the law was repealed to 68 percent afterward.
Injuries suffered by motorcyclists tend to be particularly severe because in comparison to motorists, they are relatively unprotected. For instance, motorcyclists do not have access to seat belts or air bags and unlike vehicle occupants, do not have layers of steel and glass to protect them from impact. For this reason, even relatively minor collisions can have serious consequences for motorcyclists who may suffer from the following injuries:
- Facial fractures;
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs);
- Spinal cord damage;
- Compound bone fractures;
- Road rash and severe lacerations;
- Organ damage and internal bleeding; and
Treating motorcycle accident victims can be prohibitively expensive because the injuries usually require multiple surgeries, physical therapy, and long hospital stays. Furthermore, because injuries are so severe, victims are usually required to take weeks or even months off from work, which can make it difficult, if not impossible, to stay on top of mounting medical bills. In some tragic cases, an injured party may be permanently disabled and so never able to return to work. However, victims who can establish that someone else’s negligence was the cause of a crash can collect compensation for crash-related costs, including:
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future income;
- Property damage;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Emotional distress.
Although failing to wear a motorcycle helmet does not mean that an injured party will not be able to recover compensation, it can make it more difficult to establish that the injuries were entirely the fault of another party.
Aside from an increased risk of injury, motorcyclists who do not wear helmets can also face serious penalties. In South Carolina, all operators and passengers under the age of 21 years old must wear helmets that have been approved by the Department of Public Safety, which means that they are:
- Equipped with either a neck or chin strap; and
- Reflectorized on both sides.
All motorcyclists under the age of 21 years old must also wear goggles or face shields, unless their motorcycle is equipped with a wind screen. Riders who do not comply with these requirements can be charged with a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a $100 fine and thirty days in prison.
Contact a Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today
Although no amount of compensation may be able to return a permanently disabled accident victim to his or her former state of health, collecting damages can go a long way towards helping injured parties begin the long road to recovery. Having legal representation can make all the difference in the outcome of a case, so if you were injured in a motorcycle accident, please contact the Joye Law Firm by calling (888) 324-3100 to speak with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney at one of our North Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, or Clinton offices today.