South Carolina is one of the most dangerous states for bicyclists. In fact, South Carolina had the steepest drop in the League of American Bicyclists’ rankings of the best states for bicyclists, sliding all the way from a rank of 15th in 2008 to 47th in 2015, NPR reported.
In its 2017 rankings, the organization placed South Carolina 41 out of 50, as a result of its five bicycle-friendly communities, 21 bicycle-friendly businesses, and three bicycle-friendly universities.
Out of the 50 states, South Carolina ranked 40th in infrastructure and funding, 29th in education and encouragement, 32nd in legislation and enforcement, 18th in policies and programs, and 47th in evaluation and planning.
South Carolina was 46th in safety, with a rate of 22.1 fatalities per 10,000 bike commuters.
It’s clear that safety is a significant issue for bicycle riders in South Carolina. Bicyclists share the roads with motor vehicles, and negligent drivers often cause devastating accidents.
Did you suffer severe injuries or was your loved one killed in a bicycle accident in South Carolina? You should not to wait to get legal advice. An experienced attorney will know how to handle your case and help hold the negligent party accountable.
Stewart Law Offices, LLC represents injured bicyclists in South Carolina and many other surrounding areas of South Carolina. You can have our lawyers review your case and help you understand all of your legal options as soon as you call us or complete an online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Types of Crashes and Leading Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Bicycles are used in a variety of settings, and the types of accidents they can be involved in depend on the particular settings they are used in. Bike crashes occur in both urban and rural areas of South Carolina.
Examples of bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles generally include:
-Right-Turn or Left-Turn Accidents — Many drivers turn in front of or into bicyclists. A left-turn accident involves a driver turning in front of an oncoming cyclist, while a right-turn crash usually occurs when a driver turns into a bicyclist traveling in the same direction.
-Intersection Accidents — Motorists who fail to stop at traffic lights or speed through intersections can collide with bicyclists who are also crossing at the same intersections.
-Sideswipe Accidents — Drivers may bump or strike bicyclists from the side while attempting to pass them.
-Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs — A motorist who is impaired by drugs or alcohol is more likely to commit an unexpected action that can injure a nearby bicyclist.
-Distracted Driving Accidents — Drivers who are using cell phones or engaging in any one of a number of other behaviors that take their mind off driving and their eyes off the road are much more likely to cause collisions with bicycle riders.
-Head-On Collisions — Some drivers who cross into the paths of bicyclists may strike them head to head.
Most of these accidents are the fault of motor vehicle drivers, but insurance companies for the motorists will often try to find any way possible to claim that an accident was the fault of a bicyclist. One way this is accomplished is by simply getting a victim to unknowingly admit to fault during a phone conversation, which is exactly why you should not speak to any insurer until you have legal representation.
Motorists’ Responsibilities to Bicycle Riders
Under South Carolina Code § 56-5-3420, a person riding a bicycle on a roadway is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a motor vehicle. Drivers in South Carolina are expected to pass bicycles with caution and provide at least 3 feet of clearance.
When streets have bicycle lanes, bicyclists are expected to use them, and drivers are prohibited from blocking the bike lanes. When there is no bike lane, a bicyclist must ride as far to the right of the road as possible.
South Carolina Code § 56-5-3445 prohibits harassing, taunting, or maliciously throwing an object at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle. An offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of at least $250 and/or up to 30 days in jail.
Cycling Accident Injuries
Bicyclists are not required by law to wear helmets, which may help reduce or prevent certain kinds of head injuries. In many accidents, helmets do very little to reduce other types of injuries that bicyclists may suffer.
Some of the possible injuries people sustain in bicycle crashes include but are not limited to:
- Neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal organ injuries
- Nerve damage
- Road rash
- Muscle strains
Serious crashes can result in fatal injuries. If a bicyclist dies because of injuries caused by another party’s negligence, family members could be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party.
South Carolina Bicycle Accident Statistics
The South Carolina Traffic Collision Fact Book reported that one bicyclist is killed every 15.3 days in South Carolina. According to the South Carolina Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis, 4,570 reported crashes involving bicycles occurred between 2009 and 2017. The 18 fatalities in 2017 were the second-highest total of this period.
According to the analysis, there were:
- 817 crashes (17.9 percent) involving bicyclists between 50 and 59 years of age
- 683 crashes (14.9 percent) involving bicyclists between 40 and 49 years of age
- 507 crashes (11.1 percent) involving bicyclists between 30 and 39 years of age
- 992 crashes (21.7 percent) involving bicyclists between 20 and 29 years of age
- 799 crashes (17.5 percent) involving bicyclists between 10 and 19 years of age
Fatalities reported between 2009-2017 included:
- 20 bicyclists between 60 and 69 years of age
- 45 bicyclists between 50 and 59 years of age
- 32 bicyclists between 40 and 49 years of age
- 18 bicyclists between 30 and 39 years of age
- 11 bicyclists between 20 and 29 years of age
Compensation for a Bicycle Accident Case
Many bicycle accidents are resolved through settlements that are intended to cover the lifetime of expenses a victim incurs relating to their crash. A lawsuit may be filed, however, when settlement negotiations do not produce an acceptable offer.
A jury can award compensatory damages to a victim who proves their case by a preponderance of the evidence (the greater weight of the evidence required in a civil lawsuit for the jury or judge without a jury to decide in favor of one side or the other). Compensatory damages usually refer to a combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages relate to tangible costs that can be readily calculated and proven, such as medical expenses, lost income, and property damage. Noneconomic damages, on the other hand, are more subjective, typically including pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and emotional distress.
Punitive (or exemplary) damages can also be awarded in certain exceptional cases, such as those in which the defendant engaged in willful, reckless, or wanton conduct. Drunk driving is an example of the kind of situation that could involve punitive damages. State law limits punitive damages to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000.
Steps to Take Immediately After a Bicycle Accident
If you’re involved in a bicycle accident, you should seek emergency medical attention. Even if you do not think at first that you’ve suffered any injuries, you should still get a thorough exam. Many serious injuries involve delayed symptoms, and the trauma of a crash can mask signs of injury.
Another valuable step that you can take is to try to collect any evidence from the scene of the crash. Take photographs of everything involved in the accident and take pictures from multiple angles and distances. You will never be told that you took too many. The easiest way to do this is to use your cell phone. If you are too injured to take the photos yourself, ask someone on the scene to take them for you.
Also, get the names and phone numbers of any people who saw your accident. As soon as you can, make sure to contact a personal injury lawyer for help.
How Our Law Firm Can Help After a Bicycle Accident
If you sustained serious injuries or your loved one was killed in a bicycle accident in South Carolina, you should not have to deal with the hardships created by another party’s negligence. Help is available. Stewart Law Offices, LLC can immediately commence an independent investigation of your crash to determine the cause, preserve key evidence, and identify liable parties.
Our firm represents bike accident victims in Rock Hill, Spartanburg, Columbia and Beaufort and surrounding areas throughout South Carolina. Call us or contact us online to have our attorneys provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case during a free consultation.