Defective Motorcycle Helmet and Product Liability Laws

Our motorcycle helmets protect us from severe head injuries as well as unwanted police tickets. However, if your helmet is defective, then you no longer have the protection that you need to prevent head, spine, and other devastating injuries. You also may not find out that your helmet is defective until it is too late. So what happens if you were in an accident and your injuries were a result of a defective helmet?

How can a helmet be defective?

A defective motorcycle helmet may still look like a regular, effective helmet on the outside. Regardless of how normal it looks, it may still be ineffective due to some reason or another. Common helmet design defects include:

  • Exterior shell of the helmet is too thin to handle heavy impact and breaks or cracks from a hit/crash
  • Inadequate interior padding fails to absorb impact or blows to the head
  • Defective chin strap, snap, fastener, or buckle causes the helmet to come off during a hit/crash

Who is liable if my helmet was defective?

If you were injured in a motorcycle accident because of a defective helmet, then you may have a product liability claim. Such a claim holds the maker of the product liable for supplying a defective safety product to buyers. If you purchased a motorcycle helmet that is intended to protect you from injuries and it failed to do so, then you should consult with an attorney and have them assess your case and guide you with how to proceed.

What are the laws on product liability in California?

In California, defective products are held to a “strict liability” standard. This means that the plaintiff is not required to prove that the other party was negligent in order to recover damages. So if a motorcycle helmet was defective, strict liability applies. However, the plaintiff must still prove the following:

  • The helmet was designed, manufactured, and distributed by the defendant
  • The helmet was unreasonably dangerous due to a design or manufacturing defect, or incorrect safety warnings (for example, a DOT-approval sticker on a helmet that is not DOT-approved)
  • You were using the helmet as instructed and intended by the manufacturer
  • You suffered injuries as a result of using the helmet

What is the difference between a manufacturing and design defect?

A manufacturing defect is specific and unique to your individual product, or your individual helmet. For manufacturing defects, you would have to prove that something went wrong in the manufacturing process that caused your particular product to function in a way that it was not intended to. On the other hand, a design defect is a defect found in all of the products across one line. If all of the helmets from a particular brand or a line from that brand function as the manufacturer intended but are defective, then it is due to a design flaw.

How to avoid buying a defective motorcycle helmet

Unfortunately, defective motorcycle helmets still make it to the market from time to time. That is why we always recommend to make sure the helmet you are buying is DOT-approved and, if possible, has a SNELL certification. Read more about what to look for when buying a helmet here.