If a motorcycle passenger is injured in a motorcycle crash, they can sue the person who caused the accident – even if it was the driver of the motorcycle they were on.
The only circumstance where a motorcycle passenger would be barred from suing is if the passenger was more than 50% at fault for the crash, which is not likely…
Below, we will discuss SC law related to motorcycle passenger lawsuits after a collision, including:
- When a motorcycle passenger can sue after a crash,
- How comparative negligence could affect your lawsuit,
- Who a motorcycle passenger can sue after an accident, and
- Who pays the damages when a motorcycle passenger makes a claim.
When Can a Motorcycle Passenger Sue After a Wreck?
When another person’s negligence (or gross negligence or intentional act) causes a motorcycle collision, the negligent party is liable for any damage that they caused – to other drivers, pedestrians, property owners, or passengers on their motorcycle.
To establish negligence, you must prove that the at-fault party:
- Owed a duty of care to you (to follow the traffic laws or to keep a lookout for motorcycles, for example),
- Breached their duty of care (by not following the traffic laws or failing to keep a proper lookout, for example), and
- Their acts or omissions were the proximate cause of your injuries.
Depending on the facts of the case, liability could also be established by proving gross negligence, negligence per se, strict liability, or intentional conduct.
What if You Were Not Wearing a Helmet?
If you are 21 years old or older, you are not required to wear a helmet in South Carolina (see SC Code Section 56-5-3660).
The fact that you did not wear a helmet is not negligence, comparative negligence, contributory negligence, or assumption of the risk under SC law (see Mayes v. Paxton), it is not a defense the insurance company can raise, and it is not a fact that is admissible in court.
What if You Caused the Accident?
In most cases, a motorcycle accident is not going to be the passenger’s fault. If the passenger did contribute to the crash, however, they cannot recover damages if they were more than 50% at fault in the crash.
Under SC’s comparative negligence rule, the passenger could recover damages if they were 50% or less at fault for the crash, but their recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault the jurors assign to them.
If the driver of the motorcycle was at fault, that does not mean the passenger was at fault – the driver could be 100% at fault through no fault of the motorcycle passenger.
Who Can a Motorcycle Passenger Sue After a Crash?
Any person, business, or municipality who caused the accident may be a defendant from whom you can recover damages, including the driver of the motorcycle you were on.
Depending on the facts of the case, this could include:
- Another driver – when another driver’s negligence causes the motorcycle accident, they are liable for damages to each person who was injured because of their negligence, including the driver of the motorcycle and any passengers,
- The driver of the motorcycle you were on – if your driver caused the crash, they are responsible to each person who was injured because of their negligence, including other drivers, pedestrians, and their passenger,
- A municipality – in some cases, a motorcycle crash is caused by road hazards that were caused by or should have been corrected by a municipality. The municipality may then be liable to both the driver of the motorcycle and his or her passenger,
- A business or property owner – when a motorcycle accident is caused by unsafe road conditions created by a business or property owner, the property owner may be liable to both the driver and the motorcycle passenger,
- Any defendant who was at fault – any person, business, or municipality that causes a motorcycle crash through their negligence or intentional acts may be liable to an injured driver or motorcycle passenger, or
- Your uninsured or underinsured policies may provide compensation when the at-fault party cannot be located, has no insurance, or does not have enough insurance to cover your damages, and you may be able to stack multiple policies to reach full and fair compensation.
What if the At-Fault Party was a Friend or Relative?
In many cases, your family member or friend is the person who crashed the motorcycle you were on. Should you sue your mom, your dad, or your best friend?
First, they are going to understand why you are seeking compensation – they caused the crash, you were injured, and it’s their responsibility to compensate you.
Second, they are probably not going to be paying your settlement or verdict out of their pocket. Their insurance company will pay your damages, and this is why they purchased the insurance.
If their insurance policy limits are insufficient to pay your full damages, you do not have to go after your friend’s or your family member’s personal assets – if they have assets, that will be your decision to make.
They may suffer consequences as a result of the crash – their insurance company may raise their premiums or refuse to provide coverage in the future, but their insurance company was going to do this anyway if they were at fault in the accident…
Passenger in a Motorcycle Accident?
The motorcycle accident lawyers at the Boles Law Firm can help you to investigate your crash, gather the evidence you will need in court, negotiate with the insurance companies, and recover the maximum compensation that you are entitled to for your injuries – whether you were the driver or a motorcycle passenger.
Call us at 843-576-5775 to schedule an appointment for a free consultation at our North Charleston or Walterboro offices or send us a message through our website.