Helmet Defects and Liability in Maryland: Making Safety Claims Against Athletic Equipment Makers

Wearing protective gear like helmets and pads is an essential part of many sports. Helmets, in particular, are designed to prevent traumatic brain injuries and concussions. But what happens when the helmet itself is defective and fails to protect the athlete as intended? This article examines manufacturer liability for defective athletic helmets in the state of Maryland.

Proving Liability for Defective Athletic Helmets

To hold a helmet maker liable for injuries caused by a defective product, an injured athlete must prove:

  • The helmet had a design or manufacturing defect when it left the manufacturer’s possession
  • The defect made the helmet unreasonably dangerous
  • The athlete used the helmet in a foreseeable way
  • The athlete suffered injuries caused by the defect

Athletic helmet manufacturers have a duty to ensure their products are free of defects. Plaintiffs may argue defects existed in the initial design or arose during manufacturing.

Design Defects

Plaintiffs can demonstrate a design defect by showing an alternative, safer design was feasible. Expert testimony on helmet safety standards and alternative designs can help establish feasibility.

For example, experts may testify that the foam padding was too thin or hard to adequately absorb impact. Or the chin straps were prone to slipping and failing to secure the helmet. Plaintiffs can use internal company documents to show the manufacturer knew of the defect before sale.

Advanced testing like digital simulations and 3D modeling can also demonstrate safer alternative designs the manufacturer could have adopted. Evidence that competitors used safer designs can further prove feasibility.

Manufacturing Defects

Manufacturing defects occur when a product deviates from its design specifications. The plaintiff must show that their particular helmet contained irregularities like substandard materials, improper assembly, or deviations from the design.

Proving how their specific helmet failed requires expertise to examine the product for flaws. Minor variations from the design alone will not suffice to establish a manufacturing defect. There must be a meaningful deviation that renders the helmet unsafe.

Foreseeable Use

Athletic equipment makers will claim the plaintiff used the helmet in an unforeseeable or improper way. But plaintiffs can counter that use in the sport for which the helmet was designed is a foreseeable use.

For example, if a football helmet fails, the manufacturer cannot claim it was only intended for casual wear. If it was marketed and sold for football, it’s foreseeable that players will use it in games and practices, including contact drills.


The final element for liability is proving the defect actually caused the plaintiff’s injuries. While concussions and brain trauma can have complex causes, reconstruction experts can analyze the forces involved in the accident and the injuries sustained. Medical testimony will also be key in linking the defect to specific harms like traumatic brain injury.

Advanced medical imaging like CT and MRI scans can confirm injuries consistent with a helmet defect. Plaintiffs may also need to rule out pre-existing conditions or prior concussions as alternative causes.

Statute of Limitations

Maryland law imposes a strict 3-year deadline from the date of injury for filing general product liability lawsuits against manufacturers, and a 3-year deadline for wrongful death. Athletes must act quickly to preserve their rights, or the manufacturer may have a complete defense based on late filing. An attorney can help determine the appropriate claims and deadlines.

Potential Damages in Athletic Helmet Cases

Successful plaintiffs can recover damages including:

  • Medical expenses from initial treatment through long-term care
  • Lost income and reduced earning potential
  • Pain, suffering, and loss of normal life activities

Punitive damages may also be awarded if the manufacturer exhibited a reckless indifference to safety. An experienced products liability attorney can evaluate the full extent of damages.

Holding Negligent Manufacturers Accountable

Athletes have a right to expect that safety gear will perform as advertised. When negligent designs and manufacturing lead to preventable injuries, the manufacturer should be held accountable. Contact Monge & Associates today if you or a family member has suffered a head injury using defective athletic equipment. We handle helmet defect claims and will thoroughly investigate to prove liability. Our dedicated legal team will fight to obtain the maximum recovery so you can focus on healing.

With decades of experience in product liability, our attorneys have the resources and expertise to take on large manufacturers. We have 32 offices in 19 states, including Maryland, Washington, and Utah, and we are committed to making the playing field safer by holding companies accountable when they cut corners on quality and safety.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for a free case evaluation if you believe defective safety gear contributed to your injuries. You can call us on (888) 477-0597.