FindLaw’s Motorcycle Accident section contains information and resources to help if you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident. Motorcycle accidents can touch on many areas of law, such as product liability, personal injury, and property rights. Here you’ll find helpful information about motorcycle accidents and the law — including helmet laws, fault issues, and product defects and recalls – as well as tips on protecting your legal rights and what to expect after a motorcycle accident. Motorcycles can be particularly dangerous vehicles. These articles will help guide you through the legal ramifications of a motorcycle accident.
Many of the considerations before and after a motorcycle accident are no different than they would be for an accident between automobiles. However, there are some issues that are particular to motorcycle accidents.
Some states have laws that require motorcyclists to wear a helmet when driving. These laws are unpopular among some motorcyclists. Riders challenging these regulations have even been successful overturning them on constitutional grounds in some jurisdictions. However, it is inescapable that riders who do not wear a helmet are three times more likely to suffer a brain injury when they have an accident. State interest in the safety of motorcyclists and in keeping insurance rates low in their state has justified the implementation of mandatory helmet laws.
None of this means that failing to wear a helmet will prevent recovery when an accident isn’t your fault. Nor does this mean that wearing a helmet will necessarily help your case. However, failure to wear a helmet, particularly where there is a law requiring that a helmet be worn, may help your opponent claim that your own negligence caused or contributed to the accident. This can reduce or even bar a claim for damages.
It is always advisable to use the protective equipment your state requires. There may even be criminal penalties for failing to do so. On the other hand, evidence that an injured motorcyclist failed to wear a helmet is inadmissible in personal injury suits in some jurisdictions. Helmet laws are very inconsistent and regardless of how you decide to ride it is helpful to know what the law requires.
Motorcycle Defects and Recalls
Motor vehicles are frequently the subject of recalls, but this can be particularly important to motorcyclists since a defect has a much higher chance of endangering the driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and vehicle manufacturers themselves may issue a safety recall in response to a discovered defect.
Whenever a safety recall is conducted the manufacturer must file a public report describing the defect, the involved product, the events leading to the recall, a description of the remedy, and a schedule for the recall. Motorcycle manufacturers also have a duty to try to notify owners of recalled vehicles. The manufacturer has a duty to remedy the defect without cost to the owner.
A periodic check for recalls is one preventative measure motorcyclists can undertake to increase their safety. Certain kinds of accidents are also suggestive of a defect. A motorcycle with an alignment defect may experience a front-end wobble, particularly at higher speeds, that can result in an accident.