Liability for Bicycle Accident Injuries
UPDATED: August 26, 2013
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Both the manufacturer and the seller of the bike may be liable for your child’s injuries. When a consumer product is unreasonably dangerous, you do not have to try and figure out if the product was made that way by the manufacturer or if the product was made unreasonably dangerous by the seller. These types of cases are referred to as “product liability”. Generally, product defect cases are based on strict liability, rather than negligence. This means that it is not necessary to prove "fault" on the part of the manufacturer or seller. You only need to show that your child was using his bike in a normal way, that the chain was defective, and that this caused the accident. You may also have to show that your son did not modify the chain on his bike.
All jurisdictions require a connection between the product defect and the injury. In this case, the head-on crash (the injury) was caused by a defective bike chain (the product defect). Even if you can show that the bike chain was defective, if the head-on crash was caused by something other than the bike chain – for example, if the crash was actually caused by a rut in the course – then a product liability lawsuit will be difficult to win. An argument over the cause of the injury is one you should expect if you pursue a product liability case. Many product liability cases turn on a "battle of experts", where both plaintiff (you) and defendant (the manufacturer, retailer, etc.) use expert testimony to establish or deny a link between an alleged defect and an injury. An experienced attorney can advise you about the potential success of your case, and how the manufacturer and other defendants are likely to try to get out of liability.
Another avenue that your attorney will want to explore is how the bike was assembled or if the chain had been replaced. If the store where you purchase the bike also assembled the bike, you will want to find out if the store’s assembly led to the chain failure. Likewise, if you took the bike in to have a new chain put on, the shop that did the chain replacement may be liable as well.
bIt is not easy to tell sometimes who manufactured a product; so your lawyer may file a claim against the store where the bike was purchased or where the chain was replaced. This way, your lawyer may be successful in forcing the bike store or repair shop to show that their actions did not contribute to the defective chain. In defending themselves, the bike store may also lead your attorney to the manufacturer, as the store is in a better position than you to know who manufactured the bike.