Riding a motorcycle after drinking is not recommended, but just because you had one drink may not mean you are liable for an accident. Comparative negligence laws in South Carolina may mean you still have a case if another party is at fault.

Fault Lines: Who Bears Responsibility in DUI Motorcycle Crashes?

Events like the Bike Week at Myrtle Beach and Murrells Inlet draw motorcyclists from throughout the United States to South Carolina. Many Bike Week events take place at local bars and restaurants, raising the temptation to drink even when you know you’ll need to ride your bike back to your hotel, campground, or home later. 

As with any driving, drunk driving on a motorcycle raises the risk of a crash. Yet, it doesn’t automatically place you at fault for an accident. Understanding the risks and the rules can help you make the right choices – before and after a crash. 

South Carolina Drinking and Biking Statistics

Driving a motorcycle under the influence of alcohol or other substances falls under the same laws as driving a car or truck. For instance, motorcyclists may not drive a bike on South Carolina roads if their blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or higher. However, impairment begins with the first drink. And, you can be arrested for driving impaired on a motorcycle even if your BAC is under .08. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists continue to suffer injuries and deaths on US roads. In 2021, 5,932 motorcyclists died nationwide, making up 14 percent of all traffic deaths.

Motorcyclists with alcohol in their systems at the time of a crash were more likely to suffer fatal injuries than victims of other DUI crashes, according to the NHTSA. They were also more likely to be driving at night, further increasing their crash risks. In South Carolina, 40% of all riders killed in a crash had been drinking. 

Motorcyclists also face a higher risk of suffering a deadly crash. According to the South Carolina DMV: 

  • Nearly 40 percent of all motorcyclists killed in fatal crashes had been drinking. 
  • Even one drink can affect your judgment, vision, and reaction time, which can reduce your chances of spotting and avoiding a critical safety issue while riding. 

Even when a motorcyclist is sober, they may still be injured in a crash with a driver who has been drinking. Impairment in judgment, vision, and reaction time also prevents other drivers from spotting or responding to motorcycles appropriately on the roads. When drivers are impaired, a motorcyclist often pays the price. 

Alcohol content in the bloodstream can be measured within 30 to 70 minutes after having a drink, according to the South Carolina DMV. Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises with the number of drinks, how quickly you drink, your body fat percentage, your overall weight, and whether you have food in your stomach to slow the absorption process. 

In a DUI Bike Crash, Who is at Fault? 

If a motorcyclist crashes on a bike after having had a drink, it’s tempting to assume the crash is the motorcyclist’s fault. Yet, this is not the case in every collision. 

In South Carolina, a driver who is failing to take due care on the roads can be held accountable for any injuries they cause. For instance, if a driver runs a red light and crashes into a motorcyclist, causing injuries, the motorcyclist has the right to seek compensation from that driver. 

There are several factors that contribute to motorcycle crashes. Other drivers can cause or contribute to a crash by:

  • Failing to pay attention and watch for motorcycles
  • Ignoring stop signs, traffic signals, or other signs and markers
  • Switching lanes without signaling
  • Opening a car door without checking for oncoming motorcycles
  • Making left-hand turns without checking for oncoming traffic
  • Rear-ending a motorcyclist who had to stop suddenly

Other factors can also contribute to a crash. Weather conditions may reduce road traction, sudden potholes or patches of gravel can cause issues, animals may suddenly run into the road, and other events may occur. 

South Carolina uses a “comparative negligence” system for determining who bears what portion of the responsibility in an accident where more than one person was negligent. Figuring out how comparative negligence rules apply to a case can be challenging. It is important not to assume you automatically bear 100% of the fault in a crash. Instead, talk to a motorcycle accident injury lawyer to learn more about how comparative fault rules apply in your specific situation. 

How an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Attorney Can Help After a Charleston Crash

If you’re injured in a motorcycle crash, don’t hesitate to speak to an experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyer. When you work with a motorcycle accident attorney, your lawyer can:

  • Answer your questions about your legal rights and how the law applies in your situation,
  • Gather evidence for a full, complete picture of what caused your crash, 
  • Negotiate on your behalf with insurance companies to achieve a full, fair settlement,
  • Prepare your case for a complete hearing in court if needed. 

The sooner you choose an attorney, the sooner you gain an advocate in your case – allowing you to focus on recovering from your injuries. To learn more, contact the Steinberg Law Firm to schedule a free consultation with an experienced South Carolina motorcycle injury lawyer.

Updated on June 6, 2024

You May Also Like