Anyone who rides on a motorcycle in South Carolina that is under the age of 21 – operators and passengers alike – must wear a helmet that has S.C. Department of Public Safety approval. To meet this standard, the helmet must have a neck or chin strap. It must also have reflectors on both sides.
At McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC, we believe all motorcyclists should wear helmets for safety, regardless of your age. Although South Carolina law does not require motorcyclists age 21 or older to wear a helmet, we know that helmets can save lives.
Still, if you were injured by a negligent driver while you were on your motorcycle, a Rock Hill motorcycle accident lawyer from our law firm will aggressively protect your right to recover compensation – regardless of whether you were wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
What Are South Carolina’s Helmet Laws?
Helmet laws differ from state to state. Currently, 47 states have some type of motorcycle helmet law in place, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). In 19 of those states, all motorcycle riders must wear a helmet, regardless of their age and experience. Most people call these laws “universal helmet laws.” In 28 states, including South Carolina, the law requires only certain riders to wear helmets. Only three states have no motorcycle helmet requirement.
So, if you just moved to South Carolina, or if you are traveling on your motorcycle in the state, you should know that our state’s helmet law may not be the same as your home state. Under S.C. Code § 56‐5‐3660, all motorcycle operators and passengers under the age of 21 must wear a helmet that:
- Has S.C. Department of Public Safety (DPS) approval
- A neck or chin strap
- Reflectors on both sides
- DPS-approved goggles or a face shield
- Wind screen that meets DPS specifications.
If a person under the age of 21 violates South Carolina’s motorcycle helmet law, that person can face a conviction for a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, the person could face a fine of up to $100 and up to 30 days of incarceration.
Why Should You Wear a Helmet?
Since motorcyclists and passengers age 21 and older are not required to wear a helmet, you may wonder why you should wear a helmet. The short answer is safety. Helmets save lives and prevent serious injury to your head, brain, neck, eyes and ears if you should get into a crash.
South Carolina has the 10th highest rate of motorcycle fatalities in the country, according to the most recent statistics from the GHSA. In recent years, female motorcyclist fatalities have increased nationally. If all motorcyclists and passengers wore helmets, many of these fatalities could be prevented.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that wearing a helmet reduces the rate of motorcycle fatalities by about 37 percent. More than 1,100 lives are saved annually in motorcycle accidents due to helmet use, and more than 600 additional motorcyclists could have survived fatal crashes if they had been wearing a helmet, according to the NHTSA. However, only about 58 percent of motorcyclists currently wear helmets.
Wearing a helmet can prevent traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a motorcycle crash. Concussions and severe TBI result from a jolt or blow to the head. Even in minor motorcycle crashes, TBI can occur and can result in long-term consequences. However, helmets absorb the impact in a crash and prevent a motorcyclist from sustaining a serious injury. Motorcyclists who choose to wear helmets are taking an important step to keep themselves safe.
What Happens If You Get in a Motorcycle Wreck Without a Helmet?
Under South Carolina’s comparative negligence law, a plaintiff can still recover damages in a motorcycle accident claim if she or he is partially to blame. However, the motorcyclist’s fault cannot exceed the combined fault of the other party or parties. In other words, if a motorcyclist is 51 percent or more to blame for an accident, the motorcyclist can be barred from any financial recovery. If the motorcyclist is less than 51 percent at fault, he or she can recover compensation. However, the award will be reduced based on the percentage of fault assigned to the motorcyclist.
For example, if a motorcyclist is injured and files a claim against a negligent car driver, that motorcyclist may ultimately be due $100,000 in compensation. If the motorcyclist is found to be 20 percent at fault, that award would be reduced by 20 percent, or $20,000. So, the motorcyclist would recover $80,000 in compensation.
Because of South Carolina’ comparative negligence law, an insurance company might try to use the fact that you were not wearing a helmet against you when you file a claim for compensation. For instance, the insurance company may argue that you were negligent for failing to wear a helmet. As a result, the company may try to reduce the amount of your recovery or deny your claim altogether.
At McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC, we will protect a motorcyclist’s right to choose not to wear a helmet. After all, if you are age 21 or older, exercising your right to ride helmet-free in South Carolina should not be held against you – especially if you would not have suffered any injury in the first place if it had not been for the negligence of another driver.
Our Rock Hill Motorcycle Accident Lawyers Will Fight for You
At McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC, we are committed to seeking maximum compensation for motorcycle accident victims in Rock Hill and throughout surrounding communities. If a negligent motor vehicle driver injured you while you were riding on a motorcycle in South Carolina, we will demand full and fair compensation for you, regardless of whether you wore a helmet. To learn more about how we can help you after a motorcycle crash, contact us today and receive a free consultation.
Ed Anderson is a Tennessee native who came to South Carolina to attend Furman University – and liked the state so much that he decided to stay here to pursue his legal career. After he earned his law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law, Ed joined McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC, in 2017, where he focuses on family law and personal injury law. In addition to his law practice, Ed is an active member of the South Carolina Bar’s Young Lawyers Division.