If you own a bicycle that had a pre-existing functional issue and its malfunction led to a bike accident, liability for damages may fall on the bicycle manufacturer. This is a tricky area of the law, though, and how the case is handled depends upon numerous mitigating factors, such as:
- whether the consumer used the product as intended;
- the nature of the malfunction; and
- whether another party created the defect that led to the malfunction.
Bicycle Accidents and Liability Claims
If you are a bicyclist and you hit a car, a pedestrian or another cyclist, the other injured party can hold you responsible for their injuries. Your car insurance isn’t applicable in these cases. You’ll have to check with your agent, but in some cases, your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance might cover the damages of the other injured parties if you were at fault.
If you’re injured by a negligent motorist, you may file a claim against the at-fault motorist.
However, if your bicycle’s malfunction is what caused the wreck, then you might be able to hold the bicycle manufacturer responsible for the accident by filing a product liability claim.
Proving a Bicycle Product Liability Claim
A product liability claim can be exceptionally hard to prove, especially with a used bike. In order to prove a bicycle product liability claim successfully, you’ll have to be able to demonstrate that:
- there was a malfunction present;
- the malfunction caused the accident;
- there were actual damages arising from the accident;
- the defect existed before it passed from the manufacturer to the distributor; and
- the owner(s) followed the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
This can be very hard to prove if you bought a pre-owned bike. You’ll have to speak about the specifics of your case with a liability attorney in order to determine who can be held legally responsible for the accident.
Common Bicycle Malfunctions
Several bicycle malfunctions might be applicable to a product liability claim. For instance:
- the crank could malfunction, causing the bike to lock up at an intersection;
- the brakes may be faulty, causing a rider to skid into oncoming traffic;
- the bicycle chain or connector could be faulty and pose a falling hazard; and
- the frame could be poorly welded and malfunction at just the wrong time.
Bicycle, accessories and parts are recalled frequently. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 25 bicycle models and bicycle accessories that were recalled in 2012 alone. It might be a good idea to check the CPSC website and perform a search for your bike and/or parts.
More Than One Party May Be Liable
It’s also important to keep in mind that multiple parties may share fault in an injury claim. In other words, more than one party may be responsible. For example, the other injured person(s) may have contributed to the accident or your protective gear could’ve failed to protect you (e.g., a defective helmet that contributed to a head injury), possibly making the bike gear manufacturer a liable party.
Because determining liability is so complex, speak to a local attorney and schedule a consultation. For legal counsel in Aurora, contact attorney D.J. Banovitz. You can call (303) 300-5060 and schedule a free consultation to determine if we may be able to help you after your bicycle accident.