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Defective Bicycle Injury Claims – Should You Sue?

Defective Bicycle Injury Claims – Should You Sue?

A black trail bike in the woods

In this article, we’ll break down the following:

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that 938 cyclists die yearly from road-related accidents. This figure accounts for 2.4 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Anytime there’s a traffic incident involving a bicycle, the assumption is that a negligent driver was the cause. In most cases, this assumption would be right. However, in many instances, defective bicycle parts are to blame.

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an accident resulting from a faulty bicycle, you may be able to recover damages. Here’s everything you need to know about defective bicycle injury claims.

Defective Bicycle Injury Claims – Definition

The NHTSA points to negligent motorists and bike defects as the two leading causes of cycling injuries on American roads. When an accident is caused by a defective bicycle, designers, manufacturers/assemblers, distributors, or sellers must be held accountable for the resulting damages and injuries.

If a defective bike or bicycle component has injured you, you can sue for compensation in a product liability claim lodged against the liable parties.

Common Types of Bicycle Defects

Product defects arising in bicycle accident claims typically fall into any of the three categories below:

Design Defects

A design defect occurs when an accident stems from a poorly designed bicycle. It is a flaw in the basic blueprint of the bicycle or in the components associated with the structure that renders it inherently dangerous to cyclists or other road users.

A design flaw can be anything from an inept braking system to a hazardous tire design. Any feature that is not designed properly and, as a result, makes the bicycle dangerous to ride qualifies as a design flaw.

By law, a manufacturer would be strictly liable for any accident or injuries that result from a design defect.

Manufacturing Defects

A manufacturing defect is an error that occurs during the bike’s construction and assembly phase. It typically only affects a specific portion of the entire bicycle inventory, such as those manufactured in a specific month/year or those made in a specific plant.

Marketing Defects

A victim can also file a product liability claim against the designer, manufacturer, distributor, or seller based on their failure to warn prospective consumers of specific hazards associated with the bike at the time of sale.

If a bike is sold without proper instructions to the user detailing how to use it safely, and the user subsequently gets injured due to the failure to warn, the designer, manufacturer, or seller may be liable for damages.

Some common bicycle defects in defective bicycle injury claims include:

  • Defective design
  • Defective wheels/tires/tubes
  • Faulty brakes
  • Faulty chains
  • Faulty frames
  • Fork failure
  • Improper assembly
  • Malfunctioning gears
  • Use of inferior materials

Common Types of Injuries Caused By Defective Bicycles

In most reported bicycle-related accidents, the most severe injuries were to the head. It is why wearing a helmet is so important when riding a bike. With that in mind, here are some of the most common injuries caused by defective bicycles:

  • Concussion
  • Facial fractures
  • Neck and spinal cord injury
  • Orthopedic trauma
  • Road rash
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Wrongful death

Liability in Defective Bicycle Injury Claims

Several parties can be held liable in defective bicycle injury lawsuits. These entities include the designer, manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler, or retailer. These five parties collectively form the chain of distribution. In other words, the “path” the bicycle took to get to the end-user from when it was designed.

In most cases, the manufacturer will be held liable for any injuries to consumers and property damage resulting from defective bicycles and bicycle components. Depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the incident, the parties involved in distributing and selling the defective bicycle in question may also be legally responsible for damages.

Consumer Liability

Suppose a recall was issued on a certain make and model of a bicycle. Suppose the distributor or retailer goes ahead and sells the defective bike despite its recall, and the bicycle in question causes harm and injury. In that case, they can be held liable in a civil lawsuit filed by the victims.

In the same breath, suppose the bicycle in question wasn’t the subject of a recall, but the retailer was aware of certain defects in its structure that would make it dangerous to ride. If they failed to warn the consumer, they would be liable for any injuries the rider sustains due to the failure to disclose.

In some instances, the victim of a crash resulting from a defective bike may be liable for their own injuries. For instance, suppose a bike you own was the subject of a recall (assuming the recall was issued long after you purchased the bicycle in question).

Suppose further that you knew or were expected to know about the recall but continued to use the defective bicycle in defiance of the directives from the manufacturer and the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).

Any injuries you sustain or damage to property you inflict from riding the defective bike would be your responsibility. You would not be able to hold any third party liable for damages.

Examples of Products That Caused Bicycle Injuries

Defective Design

  • A user purchased a new mountain bike for their child and noted that the pedals appeared dangerously close to the front tire. As the child rode, their foot got caught in the front tire before being pulled upward between the wheel and the front fork. As a result, the wheel immediately stopped, causing the child to be flung off the bike.

Defective Wheels/Tires/Tubes

  • A cyclist was riding their mountain bike on a well-paved street when the front wheel came apart without apparent cause. The rider fell head-first onto the pavement, suffering a concussion, bruises, and abrasions.

Faulty Brakes

  • A cyclist lost control and was thrown off their bike while riding down a steep descent after the front brakes locked up while the bicycle was in motion. They attributed this to faulty brake calipers.

Faulty Frames

  • A user was riding their bicycle when the handlebar hinge cracked, causing them to fall off the bike. The user noted that there was very little metal attaching the handlebar to the main frame, which would render it unable to hold the weight associated with normal day-to-day use.
  • A cyclist had stopped at a red light. When the light turned green, they started pedaling, at which point the bike frame broke at the center, causing their feet to crash painfully onto the road surface.

Fork Failure

  • A cyclist fractured their hand and suffered severe cuts on their face, elbows, hands, and knees after their bicycle’s front forks bent backward, causing the bike to lock up. The rider was flung forward over the handlebars when the bike came to an immediate stop.
  • A young boy was riding an 18-inch bicycle when the fork and handlebar suddenly went out of alignment after hitting a small pothole on the road. The impact caused him to fall off the bike. The parent of the young boy attributed this to fork failure and an assembly flaw.

Florida Case Law on Defective Product Claims

There are three legal theories under which injured parties in Florida can recover damages under defective product claims: Design defect, manufacturing defect, and marketing defect.

The State adopts a strict liability system, meaning that designers, manufacturers, assemblers, distributors, wholesalers, or retailers can be liable for injuries consumers incur from using their products without plaintiffs having to provide evidence of negligence in the design or manufacturing process.

The plaintiff has to show that:

  1. There is an existing relationship between the liable party and the defective product;
  2. The product in question was defective;
  3. The defect made the product unreasonably unsafe to use; and
  4. The defective product was the direct cause of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff.

Holding designers, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers to a strict liability standard protects consumers from sub-standard products. It ensures that these entities adhere to the highest possible safety standards at every stage of the distribution chain. These standards are in addition to other safety requirements provided by federal agencies, including but not limited to NHTSA, CPSC, etc.

Title 16 of the Consumer Protection Safety Act also provides a series of regulations bicycle manufacturers must abide by. These standards govern the production of various bicycle components, including the braking system, steering system, pedals, drive chain, tires, fork, frame assembly, etc.

Florida Case Law Related to Defective Bicycles

Trek Bicycle Corp. v. Miguelez (2015) – Verdict Reversal

Issue: The initial action was initiated by the plaintiff, Antonio Miguelez, after he sustained injuries from falling off his bicycle. An object hit his Trek bike’s front carbon fiber forks, causing the front wheel to stop suddenly. Miguelez sued Trek Bicycle Corp., the bike manufacturer, for failure to warn, defective design, and defective manufacture.

In his claim, the plaintiff argued that he would never have purchased the bicycle had it displayed a warning indicating that damaged carbon fiber forks can cause the bike to fail unexpectedly. The jury ruled in his favor and ultimately awarded him $800,000 in damages.

Result: Trek Corp. appealed this decision at the Third District Court of Appeal, arguing that the bicycle had a warning sticker. The court sided with the defendant, adding that the damaged carbon fiber forks resulted from the road conditions at the time. The damage had nothing to do with the bicycle components or the presence/absence of warning stickers. The earlier verdict was subsequently reversed.

Sackrin & Tolchinsky: Background

Alan Sackrin and Larry Tolchinsky’s courtroom experience spans several decades. They have secured winning verdicts for hundreds of clients in various legal issues, including hard-to-prove product liability and personal injury cases.

The firm specializes in several practice areas, including:

  • Business law
  • Family law
  • Insurance claims/denials
  • Landlord-tenant disputes
  • Personal injury claims
  • Probate
  • Real estate litigation
  • Real estate transactions

At Sackrin & Tolchinsky, we work tirelessly to provide the best possible legal representation to help you get the most favorable outcome in your claim.

Sackrin & Tolchinsky’s Experience as Injury Claims Lawyers

Alan Sackrin is an experienced attorney with extensive knowledge and expertise in product liability claims. He has single-handedly represented clients in dozens of product liability suits and helped them get the compensation they deserved.

One of the most notable cases Alan handled in the past involved Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., where he won a significant settlement for his client. The plaintiff sustained severe injuries after a defective tire manufactured by Goodyear blew out while driving on the highway.

Get Legal Help

If you or a loved one has been injured by what you believe to be a defective bicycle, consult a product liability lawyer as soon as possible.

Sackrin & Tolchinsky attorneys have decades of experience representing victims of defectively manufactured products. They have extensive knowledge and expertise to help you prove your case and get the compensation you deserve.

Reach out to us today for a free case evaluation to discuss the specifics of your case.

Frequently Asked Questions

What steps should I take if I am injured due to a defective bicycle?

If you have been injured by what you believe to be a defective bicycle, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Seek medical care as soon as possible.
  2. Preserve evidence and document everything, including your medical records.
  3. Consult an experienced product liability attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case’s specifics.
  4. Identify what kind of defective bicycle injury claim you have. Were your injuries due to a design, manufacturing, or marketing defect, etc.?
  5. Identify the liable parties in your claim.
  6. Determine your damages.

What kind of damages can I recover in a defective bicycle injury claim?

You can recover compensation for the following:

  • Medical expenses you’ve incurred so far
  • Projected expenses for any future medical care you might require
  • Lost wages if you had to miss work as a result of your injuries or if your ability to work has been impaired
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional distress

What is the statute of limitations for filing a defective bicycle injury claim in Florida?

The statute of limitation for product liability cases based on strict liability is 4 years. For product liability cases based on negligence, please call us to discuss your case, as a recent statutory change in the law has caused uncertainty to the limitations period.

Do You Have A Question? Call Alan Sackrin Today For a Free Case Evaluation

As a Board-Certified Civil Trial Expert for over 40+ years, Alan Sackrin has extensive experience with product liability lawsuits. He offers a free initial consultation (over the phone or in-person) to answer your questions. When you’re ready to speak with an expert civil trial lawyer about your product liability case, call Alan at 945-458-8655.