Cycling is a great way for people to exercise, enjoy some scenery or commute to their jobs in California. More Californians are turning to bicycles as an alternative form of transportation because of a desire to help to protect the environment while enjoying the health benefits of cycling. When bicycle riders share the roads with motor vehicles, they have a higher risk of suffering serious injuries or being killed in accidents because they have little protection from the forces of collisions.
Wearing bicycle helmets every time that cyclists ride their bicycles can help to protect them from severe injuries when they are thrown from their bicycles or struck in the head in accidents. Unfortunately, however, cyclists must be careful when they purchase bicycle helmets. According to a report in NPR, counterfeit bicycle helmets that do not meet U.S. safety standards are flooding the market via the internet.
Why counterfeit helmets are dangerous
NPR reports that counterfeit helmets do not meet the rigorous safety standards for bicycle helmets that are outlined by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The helmets are made to look like helmets from companies such as Specialized Bicycles that do meet or exceed the safety standards but do not have important safety features. The counterfeit helmets are made out of cheaper, rigid plastic and have thinner cushioning on the interior. They also do not have the protective fiber skeletons inside of them that help to keep the helmets from breaking when people hit their heads.
In one test that was performed by Specialized Bicycles on an authentic Specialized Evade II helmet and a counterfeit version, the counterfeit helmet failed crucial tests. When the counterfeit helmet was put on the head of a dummy and the strap was pulled, the helmet came off. To protect cyclists in accidents, the strap should remain in place and should not be able to be pulled to remove the helmet. In another dramatic test, the counterfeit helmet was strapped to a machine before it was lifted up five feet and then smashed down onto an anvil. While the authentic helmet did not break, the counterfeit helmet broke in half. Specialized Bicycles stated that a cyclist who hit his or her head in an accident while wearing the counterfeit helmet would likely have suffered a skull fracture, a traumatic brain injury, or death.
Extent of the problem
The rise of e-commerce sites has led to a large influx of counterfeit products. The Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, an umbrella agency of the Department of Homeland Security that coordinates the work of 23 different investigative agencies, is tasked with prosecuting companies that sell counterfeit goods, including helmets. A spokesperson stated that Customs is seizing an average of double the number of counterfeit goods than it did a decade ago because of the rise of e-commerce. The spokesperson reported that 90 percent of the counterfeit goods that were seized in 2017 arrived by international mail or as express shipments from overseas.
Specialized Bicycles employs a team of 14 people who monitor 85 different e-commerce websites for counterfeit bicycle helmets. One team member noted that there were more than 34,000 listings for helmets from Chinese companies on eBay. The company reports that when it identifies counterfeit helmet listings, it notifies the e-commerce sites. The sites take down the listings when they learn that they are for counterfeit goods.
Some bad actors simply open new accounts and begin listing their counterfeit helmets again. Specialized Bicycle states that it takes repeat violators to court and has been able to recover millions of dollars by doing so. The company reportedly worked with Chinese authorities last year to close down four facilities that were manufacturing counterfeit helmets in China.
How to tell if a helmet is authentic or a counterfeit
There are several ways that you can identify a helmet that is a counterfeit. While it might look like an authentic helmet on the exterior, there are several differences. Counterfeit helmets weigh less than authentic helmets because of the cheaper construction. They might have logos that purport that the helmets meet European standards, but they will not have the certification stickers that they meet the standards of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Counterfeit helmets are often priced significantly below the price of authentic helmets. If you see a helmet that is advertised for a much lower price than other listings for authentic helmets, it is likely a counterfeit. Finally, many of the listings for counterfeits originate in Asia.
Bicycle helmet laws in California
Under Cal. Veh. Code § 21212(a), all people who are under the age of 18 are required to wear bicycle helmets when they ride skateboards, bicycles, roller skates, inline skates or non-motorized scooters on streets, bicycle paths, or public trails. The helmets must meet the standards of the USPSC or the American Society for Testing and Materials. If cyclists are caught without helmets or with helmets that do not comply with the legal standards, they may face fines of $25. The parents of children who ride bicycles without helmets are responsible for paying their fines.
People who are over the age of 18 are not required to wear bicycle helmets. However, it is important that cyclists always wear helmets that meet the safety standards as well as other safety gear when they ride. Wearing helmets can help to protect against catastrophic injuries when cyclists are struck by cars.
Injuries in accidents when counterfeit helmets are worn
Cyclists who are struck by cars may suffer many different serious injuries, including fractures, abrasions, road rash, and others. When they wear authentic helmets, their heads may be protected from more severe injuries. Cyclists who wear counterfeit helmets have little to protect their heads. If they are thrown from their bicycles and hit their heads on the pavement, the helmets may break. The cyclists may then suffer skull fractures or traumatic brain injuries, or they may be killed.
As we have previously noted, people who suffer brain injuries in accidents may face lifelong disabilities that require round-the-clock care. Their injuries may permanently reduce their ability to enjoy life and to earn incomes. Each year, more than 50,000 people in the U.S. die after they suffer traumatic brain injuries. Wearing authentic bicycle helmets can help to prevent cyclists from suffering these types of injuries when they are struck by cars.
Contact an experienced brain injury lawyer in Los Angeles
If you or your loved one has suffered a brain injury after a bicycle helmet failure in an accident, you may have legal rights. Meeting with an experienced Los Angeles attorney may help you to identify all of the potential defendants so that you might recover compensation to pay for your losses. Contact the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat today to schedule a consultation so that you can learn about your potential claim.
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