Two recent fatal traffic accidents in South Carolina highlighted the deadly danger of failing to yield right of way while entering a highway. The first involved a tractor-trailer striking an SUV on Palmetto Commerce Parkway in North Charleston. The second happened on the SC-28 Bypass in Anderson County less than 24 hours later.
On January 19, 2017, a Freightliner truck attempt to turn left from a business onto the Palmetto Commerce Parkway. It hit an SUV containing three people, killing the driver of the smaller vehicle and sending one of the passengers in the SUV to the hospital with serious, but survivable, injuries. Investigators told reporters that they were considering filing charges against the commercial truck driver.
Within hours, the afternoon of January 20 saw a car pull out from a private driveway and into the path of a motorcycle on SC-28. The resulting collision threw the 55-year-old motorcyclist from his bike, and the motorcycle rider died from his injuries at the scene of the crash. The driver of the car was charged with failing to yield right of way.
Police told reporters that the deceased motorcycle rider was not wearing a helmet. South Carolina law allows anyone over the age of 21 to operate a motorcycle without using head protection. Other provisions of state law make it clear that riding without a helmet does not meet the legal definition of contributory negligence. This means that a driver found to be at-fault for causing a wreck that leaves a motorcyclist injured or dead cannot get out of settling insurance claims just by presenting evidence that the victim failed to wear a helmet.
Insurance company representatives for both the tractor-trailer operator and the car driver will likely try to direct blame for the fatal crashes back toward the men who lost their lives. Hiring a dedicated and experienced personal injury and wrongful death attorney will help the families of the deceased victims keep the focus on the negligence of the at-fault drivers. Perhaps they failed to look both ways before attempting to enter the highway. Maybe they were distracted by a smartphone or GPS device. In the case of the deadly cutoff crash with the motorcyclist, the driver of the car may have simply missed seeing the two-wheeler or misjudged its speed and distance. Those errors are understandable, but errors can still constitute negligence of the sort that makes a driver liable for paying compensation and damages.