Faulty Equipment Motorcycle Accidents
In 2008, couple Steven and Patricia Morris were traveling from Cape Coral to Myrtle Beach, SC. when the rear tire on their Harley-Davidson motorcycle failed.
The Dunlop tire blowout caused Steve, an experienced rider and motorcycle repair shop owner, to lose control of the bike. He survived; his wife was thrown from her seat and died. The trip was to mark their 26th wedding anniversary.
Their case was not unique: apart from Patricia, four others have died and 22 injured across 11 states, as a result of blowouts for that particular tire.
While motorcycle equipment failure accounts for less than 3% of all motorcycle accidents, incidents like these can be particularly egregious. You can attend all the motorcycle safety classes, practice proper riding, and be decked out in appropriate safety gear — yet still meet an accident not of your own doing.
Common Failure Points that Can Lead to a Motorcycle Accident
Bike chassis – Motorcycle frames are built to withstands years of riding and the elements. In some cases, a manufacturing or design defect can cause premature aging or outright structural failure. A good example is the 2017-18 BMW G310. It was discovered that the R and GS models could suffer a chassis break after repeated use of the kickstand. BMW issued a recall and installed reinforcement plates or replaced the bike’s chassis altogether.
Engine – An engine failure while coasting down the road can be a frightening experience. The bike can stall at high speeds, or leave the rider stranded in the middle of a busy highway. In 2016, Honda recalled the CBR300 sports bike due to a manufacturing defect, where the crankshaft bearing can fail and the engine can’t be restarted. In Honda’s words, “If the engine stops suddenly while riding, the machine may become unstable and cause the rider to crash.”
Fuel tank – A flaw in the gas tank can result in a gas leak and risk of fire or burn injuries. Potential weakness areas can be the fuel tank, hoses and shut-off valves.
Brakes – A brake failure is bad enough for four-wheeled vehicles; it’s worse when you only have two and no protective compartment. Even well-maintained racing bikes are not immune from this issue. Last month, MotoGP racer Maverick Vinales was forced to bail from his bike while traveling over 120mph, after the brakes failed during the first turn of the Styrian Grand Prix.
Wheels and tires – Any defect with the bike’s two contact patches to the road can make the bike wobble, fall or swerve into other lanes or fixed objects, as seen in the Morris couple’s case.
Handlebars – Even the simple handlebar is not immune to defects. Yamaha recalled over 22,000 bikes due to a painting issue that can dislodge the stud bolt holding the handlebar from the mount. More recently, accessory maker Renthal issued a recall for its clip-on handlebars after receiving 22 reports of corrosion-induced cracking.
Defective helmets – As the most critical part of a rider’s safety gear, the prospect of having a defective helmet can have fatal consequences. Despite strict DOT and SNELL standards, helmets that can break under stress can still find their way to market. In 2015, Shark’s RAW helmets were pulled from shelves after they failed to meet the FMVS impact attenuation requirement.
Liability in a Motorcycle Accident Caused by Equipment Failure
There are different parties that can be liable, depending on the scenario:
In an accident due to a defective part, the fault generally lies on the manufacturer of that part.
In cases where the product design itself is defective, the brand or company may be liable.
For cases where the accident stemmed from maintenance issues, the shop or mechanic responsible for repairing or maintaining the bike may be held accountable.
Possible Damages for Motorcycle Accident Victims
Medical bills – Victims can claim compensation for past and current hospital expenses, as well as future medical expenses for treatments related to the accident.
Lost wages or earnings – This is not limited to length of hospital stay, but to all wages lost for each day of work missed. In severe injury accidents where victims are unable to resume their profession, they may be entitled to compensation that covers the rest of their career.
Pain and suffering – Victims whose lifestyles are drastically changed are entitled to compensation depending on the type and severity of injury sustained.
Mental anguish – Some victims can suffer trauma, anxiety or depression, and claim compensation for mental health treatment.
Loss of consortium – This refers to possible impact on relationships with spouses or children as a result of the accident.
Punitive damages – Victims of accidents caused by equipment failure may be entitled to more compensation than other types of motorcycle accidents, since the liable party is a brand or manufacturer.
How to Lower the Risk of Equipment Failure
- Make sure your ride and equipment meet safety standards.
- Your helmet should meet the DOT’s FMVSS218 criteria, or carry Snell’s M-95/M2000 certification.
- Use only aftermarket parts or third-party accessories that meet regulations.
- Do a walkaround before each ride.
- Check tires, brakes, chains and suspension.
- Inspect the frame, engine and hoses for any issues, before and after a long ride.
- Verify that lights, mirrors and gauges are in perfect working order.
- Dress to fail.
- Bikes lack the safety features of other vehicles, such as an enclosed compartment, airbags and seat restraints. In case of an equipment failure, the only thing between you and the road is your safety gear.
- Before heading out of the house, ensure that all gear is complete and in good condition. Inspect armor, paddings, and stitches.
- Make sure your gear is reflective or highly visible. If you end up sliding or stranded in the middle of a four-lane highway, being conspicuous can save your life.
- Maintain your bike regularly.
- Thoroughly inspect the bike after each ride for signs of damage.
- Follow the recommended service interval.
- If you’re unsure of your wrenching skills, bring it to a reputable shop.
- Stay informed.
An equipment malfunction can be a serious incident, particularly if you have trusted the brand for years. Litigation may also be challenging when facing off against deep-pocketed companies.
In case of an accident caused by equipment failure, consult with a dedicated motorcycle accident lawyer to help you claim proper compensation and punitive damages as a result of the incident.
Have you been involved in a motorcycle accident?
Our professional legal team screens submissions and assigns cases to some of the best motorcycle lawyers in the US.