Motorcycle Defects and Recalls

A defect in a motorcycle or one of its parts can cause serious accidents. For example, a defective helmet might not provide the protection it is intended to, resulting in more serious head injuries. A defect in the brakes may not allow you to stop in time to avoid an accident. If you suspect that your motorcycle has a dangerous safety defect, you can report this defect to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency tasked with investigating alleged defects, issuing safety standards for vehicles and requiring manufacturers to recall vehicles that do not meet federal safety standards. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident that you believe was caused by a defective part, an experienced attorney at Christopher J. Zachar in Phoenix, Arizona can evaluate your situation and advise you of your legal options.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Federal motor vehicle safety standards set minimum performance requirements for parts of a vehicle that affect its safe operations, including brakes and tires, and parts that protect drivers from serious injury, such as air bags, seat belts and motorcycle helmets. The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the power to issue vehicle safety standards and order manufacturers to recall vehicles with safety-related defects and vehicles that do not meet federal safety standards. Safety-related defects in motor vehicles are those problems that pose a risk to motor vehicle safety and may exist in a number of vehicles or pieces of equipment with the same design or manufacturer.1

Some examples of safety-related defects include: airbags that deploy at the wrong time, accelerators that stick or break, seats that fail during normal use, wheels that crack or break and issues with fuel system parts.1 The following defects are not related to safety issues: air conditioners or radios that do not work properly; rust on a nonstructural part of the body and ordinary wear of equipment, such as batteries, shocks and brake pads that need to be inspected and replaced periodically.1

If you suspect that your motorcycle or any related equipment has a safety-related defect, you can report it to the NHTSA so that the agency can investigate the issue. Safety problems can be reported by telephone or online at under the heading “File a Complaint.” The information that you provide the NHTSA will be used to determine whether a safety recall is necessary and to inform the public about potential safety issues that the NHTSA is currently looking into. The NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation has a four part investigative process:

  • Screening – an initial review of complaints submitted by motorists and other information about alleged defects to decide whether to start an investigation
  • Petition Analysis – a review and analysis of any petitions that call for an investigation into an alleged defect and/or reviews of safety-related recalls
  • Investigation – conducted in two phases: the preliminary evaluation and engineering analysis
  • Recall Management – monitoring of safety recalls to make sure the scope of the recall is appropriate and that the recall completion rate and remedial measures are sufficient

If the NHTSA makes a “final decision” that a safety defect exists, the manufacturer of the vehicle or part can challenge the order to issue a recall in federal district court. Manufacturers voluntarily initiate many recalls without the NHTSA becoming involved. If a recall of a component part or motorcycle that you own occurs, the manufacturer must notify all registered owners and purchasers by mail of the problem and evaluate the risk to motor vehicle safety. The letter should also inform people how to have the issue fixed and remind them that they do not have to pay for the defect to be fixed. Manufacturers basically have three options for fixing defects: repair, replace or refund.

Strict Liability Claims – Defective Motorcycles and Parts

A plaintiff may bring a strict liability action against the manufacturer of a defective motorcycle or component part. A motorcycle or part may be defective because of a design defect, manufacturing defect or the failure to provide adequate warnings about its safe use. To establish a case for strict liability for an injury caused by a defective motorcycle, the plaintiff must prove that the motorcycle was in a defective condition that made it unreasonably dangerous; the defective condition was attributable to the defendant; the defective condition of the motorcycle was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury; and the defendant is in the business of manufacturing or selling motorcycles. Some states also have a requirement that the plaintiff prove that at the time he or she was injured, the motorcycle was being used in its intended or reasonably foreseeable manner. A defendant will not be held strictly liable if the motorcycle was not defective or unreasonably dangerous; the condition of the motorcycle did not cause the plaintiff’s injury; or the condition is not attributable to the defendant.

If you were injured in a motorcycle accident and believe that your injuries were caused by a defective condition in your motorcycle, you may be able to bring a strict liability claim against the manufacturer. An attorney at Christopher J. Zachar in Phoenix, Arizona can evaluate your situation and explain your options.

1.†See Motor Vehicle Safety Defects and Recalls – What Every Vehicle Owner Should Know, available as a pdf at the NHTSA Website.

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