Though negligent driving contributes to or causes most motorcycle accidents, accidents may also be caused by defects in motorcycles that cause them to malfunction or operate in an unsafe manner. In addition, the injuries sustained by motorcyclists in accidents may be enhanced (increased beyond what they might have been) by defects in cyclists’ safety equipment, such as helmets and other protective gear. When either of these events occurs, the manufacturer and others involved in the production and sale of the defective motorcycle or safety equipment may be held strictly liable, under product-liability law, for a motorcycle rider’s injury or death.

Under federal law, motorcycles and motorcycle helmets must be designed and manufactured in compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). These standards are established and enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and are intended to reduce the likelihood of accidents caused by cycle defects and to diminish the severity of injuries and the number of deaths suffered by cyclists in motorcycle accidents.

defective motorcyclesTitle 49 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), section 571.218, for example, contains FMVSS No. 218, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulation for the design and production of motorcycle helmets. Helmet manufacturers are required to submit helmet models to testing to ensure their compliance with FMVSS No. 218. Manufacturers are then entitled to place compliance stickers on the backs of helmets that are found to meet the regulation’s standards. Designers and manufacturers of motorcycles must also meet applicable FMVSS. FMVSS No. 122 (49 CFR §571.122), for example, contains standards that must be met for motorcycle brake systems, while FMVSS No. 123 (49 CFR §571.123) relates to motorcycle controls and displays.

Motorcycle and helmet designers and manufacturers may be found liable in product-liability actions, however, even when they have fully complied with current regulations and industry standards. Cycles and helmets may be found “defective” (as that term is defined in product-liability law) despite such compliance, if the motorcycle or helmet is determined to be “unreasonably dangerous” for use by consumers.

Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts describes, or “restates,” the product-liability law generally applicable in most states and jurisdictions. Under Section 402A, the seller of a product, such as a motorcycle or motorcycle helmet, may be held strictly liable for injuries and deaths caused to the product’s users or consumers if the injuries and deaths are determined to have been caused by certain types of product defects. Though the Restatement specifically refers to sellers, strict liability for injuries and deaths caused by product defects also applies to other individuals and entities involved in a defective product’s production and sale. Thus, strict liability (or liability without the necessity of proving negligence by any of the defendants in the creation or selling of a defective product) may be imposed on a product’s designer and manufacturer, the designers and manufacturers of product parts, the suppliers of parts, the product’s assemblers, and the product’s wholesalers and retailers.

Defects for which such defendants may be found strictly liable include defects in the design or manufacture of a product or of a product’s parts, as well as defects caused by the failure to adequately warn of certain dangers associated with a product’s use. Motorcycle helmets have been found defective, for example, when they too easily come off riders’ heads, when their interior padding insufficiently protects riders from certain types of head injuries, when they are too small to adequately protect certain parts of riders’ heads, or when they contain rigid projections inside their shells.

Motorcycles may be found defective for many reasons, such as a tendency to wobble at high speeds. This may be due to a defect in a motorcycle’s design rather than in its manufacture. Defective parts in an otherwise safely designed motorcycle may also render it defective under product-liability law. Tire defects that affect a cycle’s stability, brakes that malfunction (including those that cause riders to be thrown over bikes’ handlebars upon braking), defective accelerators that cause a loss of speed control, seat defects that increase a rider’s risk of being thrown from a bike, brake-light malfunctions that fail to alert other drivers to a biker’s reduction in speed, improperly aligned handlebars that can cause a loss of control, engine defects that cause bikes to lose power, or fuel tank defects that can result in fire or explosion are among the many examples of parts defects that can cause motorcycle accidents and motorcyclists’ resultant injuries and deaths.

Motorcycles and motorcycle helmets may also be found defective as a result of a failure to provide adequate instruction regarding their safe use or adequate warnings regarding certain dangers associated with their use. The failure to instruct helmet users regarding proper placement and securing of helmets, for example, may result in product-liability defendants’ strict liability for a helmet user’s enhanced accident injuries.

Defects in motorcycles and motorcycle helmets have the potential to cause motorcyclists’ serious injuries and deaths. Our national motorcycle-accident team has extensive experience with motorcycle-accident cases, including those arising out of injuries and deaths caused by motorcycle or safety-equipment defects. Our motorcycle-injury and wrongful-death lawyers are well-acquainted with defective motorcycle, helmet, and other motorcycle equipment laws and work with the best of engineering and other experts to reconstruct motorcycle accidents, determine their cause or causes, and assess the full extent of motorcyclists’ injuries and resultant damages. If you have been injured or one of your family members has died in a motorcycle accident due to a defective motorcycle or motorcycle helmet, our nationally respected team of motorcycle-injury lawyers and paralegals is ready to fight aggressively for the justice you and your family deserve.