On August 1, 2014, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) announced that Harley-Davidson will be recalling motorcycles around the world for the same type of ignition-switch defects that have prompted recalls by GM, Chrysler, and Volkswagen. A total of 4,500 bikes will be recalled, worldwide, including more than 3,300 from the United States. According to national media reports, the recall will cover bikes manufactured between January 6, 2014, and June 19, 2014. Though no injuries have yet been reported, this defect can cause accidents, serious injuries, and wrongful death.
The issue leading to the recall was discovered through testing initiated after Harley received notification from its service department that the ignition switches on the affected bikes can slip out of the “on” position and into the “accessory” position. The problem can be triggered by the engine’s vibration and will cause the bike to stall while it is being ridden, creating a higher risk of a crash. Documents posted by NHTSA have indicated that although the affected bikes are set at 5,600 RPMs, optional performance electronic control module calibrations available on the affected models may allow the bikes to run at higher than 5,600 RPMs, creating excessive vibrations in an engine mount bracket that knock the bikes out of the “on” position. Owners of these 2014 Harley bikes are instructed to bring their bikes into Harley dealers, who will replace the bikes’ bracket assemblies and ignition-switch knobs free of charge.
Can Harley be held legally responsible for injuries or deaths caused by this ignition-switch defect? Would the recall of the defective Harley bikes affect the company’s liability? The answers to these questions may depend upon the law of the jurisdiction in which an accident caused by this defect occurs as well as the particular circumstances of the case. In most states, however, manufacturers of motorcycles and other motor vehicles may be held strictly liable for injuries or deaths caused by a vehicle defect. In addition, the manufacturers (and others in the chain of the vehicle’s distribution) may be held liable for such injuries or deaths even if the vehicle had been recalled before the accident occurred. In many cases, the negligence of a driver may also contribute to an accident victim’s injury or death.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a motorcycle or other vehicle accident as a result of someone’s negligence or a defect in one of the vehicles involved, the Killino Firm’s nationally-recognized motorcycle accident and wrongful death lawyers will employ their expertise and extensive experience with such cases in helping you obtain the compensation to which you and your family are entitled.
Legal Liability for Injuries or Deaths Caused by Motorcycle Accidents
Injuries or deaths sustained in motorcycle accidents can result from someone’s negligence, a defect in a vehicle involved in an accident, or both.
Liability under Product-liability Law
Under the product-liability law of most states, the manufacturer and others in the chain of a motorcycle or other motor vehicle’s distribution may be held liable for injuries or deaths caused by a defect in the motorcycle or other motor vehicle. Such actions are generally brought against the designer, manufacturer, assembler, supplier, and in some states, the retailer of the defective vehicle or vehicle component. In many states, however, the retailers of motor vehicles are relieved of liability for injuries and deaths caused by vehicle defects of which the retailers had no knowledge. These actions are generally brought as strict liability claims, which allow a plaintiff to hold the defendants legally responsible for injuries or deaths caused by a vehicle defect even if the defendants were not negligent in creating the defective vehicle and had no knowledge of the vehicle’s defect at the time the plaintiff’s accident occurred.
The defect leading to such liability can occur at the design or manufacturing stage or exist as a result of the manufacturer’s failure to warn of certain dangers associated with the vehicle’s use. Manufacturers and designers of motorcycles and other motor vehicles have a duty to create vehicles that are crashworthy and otherwise safe for their intended use. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), which are established and enforced by NHTSA, set requirements for motorcycles and other motor vehicles that are manufactured in, sold in, or imported into the United States. Manufacturers that violate these standards are subject to civil penalties for each violation as well as for series of violations. A manufacturer need not have violated one of these regulations in order to be found to have manufactured a vehicle that contains a defect, as that term is defined by product-liability law, however.
Liability for Driver Negligence
Even in cases where a defect in a motorcycle or other motor vehicle has been determined to have been a cause of an accident victim’s injury or death, driver negligence may also be found to have contributed to the accident and resultant injuries or death. In such cases, if the driver’s negligence is determined to have been a cause of the accident victim’s injuries or death, the negligent driver as well as the manufacturer and others in the chain of distribution of the defective vehicle may be held liable for the victim’s injury or death through the institution of an action by a personal injury and defective product’s lawyer.
Obtain Expert Assistance from The Killino Firm, P.C.
The Killino Firm’s highly-respected team of accident and wrongful death attorneys has extensive experience with cases arising out of injuries or deaths caused by motorcycle and other vehicle accidents and is dedicated to holding negligent drivers and the manufacturers of defective vehicles and vehicle components responsible for the injuries and deaths they have caused. If you have been injured or one of your family members has been killed in a motorcycle or other vehicle accident as a result of driver negligence or a defective vehicle, The Killino Firm will help you achieve justice from those responsible for your injuries or loved one’s death.