“Route 66.”  “The Lazy 8.”  “Wing of the Dragon.” “Tail of the Newt.” “K-7 to Rulo.” “Pick Your Kansas.” “Lake Perry Loop.”

If these terms are familiar to you, then you are likely an avid motorcycle enthusiast in Missouri or Kansas, as these are some of the most scenic motorcycle touring routes in the “Show-Me” and “Sunflower” States.  Every year, more and more motorcyclists take to the open road to enjoy these beautiful landmark rides. As of 2021, there were over 100,000 motorcycles registered in Kansas and more than 126,000 registered in Missouri. With gas and oil prices booming out of control, motorcycles are becoming an even more popular source of transportation.motorcycle accident

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the number of on-road motorcycles registered in the U.S. has been generally increasing between 2002 and 2021. In fact, the number of motorcycles registered during this time has doubled from 4.3 million in 2002 to 8.6 million in 2021, with cruisers and touring bikes representing the largest classes of registered motorcycles. Revenue from motorcycle sales in the United States in 2020 reached about $6.2 billion—a $500,000 million increase from 2019.  It only takes a single ride on one of these historic routes during the summer months to see that motorcycles are a multi-billion-dollar industry.

What Are the Common Types of Motorcycles?

There are a variety of different types of motorcycle designs. Standard designs include:

  • Traditional.  The traditional-styled motorcycle is a very basic model with practical features and is used for basic and economic transportation.
  • Chopper.  A “chopper” is a specialized class of motorcycle that is usually custom designed and built. Choppers have unique aesthetic features like extended front forks and high handle bars that are not typically designed for practical or long-distance riding.
  • Cruiser.  “Cruisers” are the most popular style of motorcycle and are designed for appearance (typically riding low to the ground) and sound, more so than performance. Owners can customize their cruisers with specialty parts and accessories for a preferred style and sound.
  • Touring.  “Touring” bikes are designed for comfort during extending riding, often with a riding passenger. They are heavy, durable bikes and usually are equipped with extensive accessories and amenities that accommodate riders’ needs on long road trips.
  • Sportbike.  Sportbikes are light-weight motorcycles designed for fast acceleration, high speed, and racing-styled cornering and precision. Their design is a non-traditional, aero-dynamic style for which the rider usually leans forward to steer.
  • Dual-Purpose.  Dual-purpose motorcycles are designed for “on-road” and “off-road” use.  They tend to be much lighter than strictly on-road touring bikes and have smaller engines.
  • Trike.  “Trikes” are uniquely-styled motorcycles that are designed with three wheels—usually one in the front and two in the rear on a straight axle. Although they are classified as motorcycles and have a forked front, large bodies, and handle bars, they do not maneuver like a standard motorcycle.
  • Scooters. Scooters are small, two-wheeled vehicles that are not styled as a standard motorcycle with a long body and large engine. Instead, scooters have small engines with low power output and reduced speed. They are practical vehicles for short-distance transportation but are usually suitable for highway riding.
  • Moped.  Mopeds are two-wheeled vehicles that are more akin to scooters or motorized bicycles than traditional motorcycles. They have very low power output and are designed for short-distance, economic travel. Because they have very low acceleration and reach minimal speeds, they are not usually designed for highway use.

Motorcycles are Complex Machines 

Compared to other vehicles, motorcycles are inherently dangerous machines. But with proper training, appropriate safety gear, and an added measure of caution on the road, motorcycling can be a safe and enjoyable activity.

In terms of safety features, the style, design and manufacture of motorcycles have improved over the years. For example, in 2002, antilock braking systems (ABS), which allow riders to break heavily without losing control of the motorcycle, were standard on about 0.2% of registered motorcycles. In 2021, ABS technology came standard on about 16.1% of all registered motorcycles. There has been a similar increase in optional ABS packages.

Despite advancements in motorcycle technology, however, a motorcycle is just another highly-complex machine that is designed, manufactured, and repaired by human beings. Occasionally, like any other consumer product, motorcycles sometimes are designed, manufactured, and repaired defectively. When motorcycle defects result in injury or death, the designer, manufacturer, or repair technician may be subject to liability for providing a defective product.

What Are Common Types of Motorcyle Defects? 

Every style of motorcycle is designed differently and comprises hundreds of component parts that must operate together for the motorcycle to function properly and safely. Defects can occur in the design of the motorcycle or in the manufacture of any of the component parts necessary for the motorcycle to perform safely.

A design defect may occur when the motorcycle is styled or designed in a way that causes or increases the risk of malfunction.  For example, if a motorcycle is not aerodynamically designed to resist wind at high speeds, it could become unsteady or difficult to handle, putting the rider at risk for skidding or crashing. If hot side-pipes or tail-pipes are not positioned appropriately on the motorcycle, riders or passengers may easily burn their legs when riding. These may be considered defects in the design of the motorcycle.

Manufacturing defects may occur when the manufacturer uses sub-par material to make the necessary components of the motorcycle or constructs the motorcycle improperly, putting the rider at risk for a malfunction and subsequent crash.  For example, low quality or defective break pads can result in a loss of breaking power, thereby putting a rider at risk for a rear-end collision or inability to maneuver a curve in the road. Likewise, defective tires can easily blow out when riding at high speeds, which can throw the rider from the bike or cause a crash.

Although any component part of a motorcycle could be defective, there are common types of motorcycle defects that often lead to injury or death. These include:

  • Brakes
  • Tires/wheels
  • Gas tanks/Fuel lines
  • Engine parts
  • Handle bars
  • Safety equipment (Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved helmets)

When any part or component of a motorcycle is defectively designed or manufactured and causes injury to, or the death of, a rider who was using the product in the manner in which it was intended to be used, the designer, manufacturer, or seller of the defective product may be subject to a motorcycle product liability claim.

What Do I Have to Prove in a Motorcycle Product Liability Claim?

To successfully assert a motorcycle product liability claim, the plaintiff must prove that:

  • The motorcycle, or any component of the motorcycle, was defective in such a way that caused the motorcycle to be unreasonably dangerous or present an increased risk of harm;
  • The defective condition of the motorcycle was caused by the defendant designer or manufacturer;
  • The rider’s injuries were caused by the defective condition of the motorcycle;
  • The defendant is engaged in the business of designing, manufacturing or selling motorcycles; and
  • When the injury occurred, the plaintiff was using the motorcycle as it was intended to be used or in a reasonably foreseeable manner.

It may be a defense to a motorcycle product liability claim that the plaintiff misused the motorcycle or that the defect in the motorcycle was so open and apparent that the risk or danger of using the motorcycle should have been obvious to the rider.

Do I need an Attorney to Raiser a Motorcycle Product Liability Claim? 

Yes.  The key to raising a successful motorcycle product liability claim is proving that the motorcycle was defective.  This can be extremely difficult to prove because there are so many factors that may account for a motorcycle accident. When a motorcycle is damaged in an accident that was caused by a defective part, it is difficult to reconstruct the motorcycle to know what caused the accident and whether a component of the motorcycle was defective. Motorcycle product liability cases almost always require expert testimony from motorcycle technicians who can determine what caused a motorcycle to malfunction. To present such testimony, you will need an experienced motorcycle accident attorney to aggressively investigate the cause of your accident.

At Foster Wallace, LLC, we have the training and experience necessary to prove designer or manufacturer defects when they occur in motorcycle accidents. We will pursue any appropriate defendant who may be responsible for a defective condition on your motorcycle that may have caused your injuries. We will see that you receive the full compensation that you deserve.  If you or a loved one has experienced a motorcycle-related injury, call Foster Wallace, LLC, today at 816-249-2101 to schedule a free consultation.

Have You Been Injured in a Kansas City Motorcycle Accident?

If you've been injured in a Kansas City motorcycle accident you should speak with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.249.2101 to schedule your free consultation.

Michael Foster
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Kansas City Personal Injury Attorney