Wanstalls Solicitors

An interesting aspect of a bicycle claim

One of the things that I like about my job is that even after twenty years of representing clients as a personal injury solicitor, there are always new issues that arise that have not been encountered before.

This is a good example and relates to a claim that I am dealing with for a cyclist who was knocked off his bike by a motorist doing a U turn across his path.

Unfortunately my client suffered some very nasty injuries but it at first appeared that his bicycle had suffered little damage.

We had the bicycle inspected by a reputable local cycle shop in Durham and they identified some minor damage to the saddle and the tape on the handlebars.

What was interesting though was that as the bike had a carbon fibre frame, although there was no apparent damage, because it had been involved in an accident then the frame and forks should be replaced.

Apparently the nature of carbon fibre is such that when it has suffered a blow there may be no apparent damage but there may be internal damage to the structure of the carbon fibre which may cause it to fail at a later date. Bearing in mind that we are talking about the frame and forks of a bicycle if the structure were to collapse the consequences could be very serious.

Liability for the accident was accepted by the car driver’s insurers and we put forward details of the client’s damaged clothing and safety equipment as well as the cost of the repairs to the saddle and handlebars. In addition we also put forward the details of the cost of the replacement frame and forks together with the labour cost of transferring all the parts to the new frame and forks.

It should be pointed out that this was an expensive bicycle where the cost of the replacement frame and forks was nearly £2,000.

The initial response from the insurers was to agree to pay for all the other elements claimed but they refused to pay for the replacement frame and forks.

This left my client in a very difficult position in that he had a bicycle that looked OK but he knew there was a danger of the frame and/or forks collapsing at some point in the future so he did not dare to use the bicycle.

The argument put forward by the insurers was that they could not be expected to pay for damage that may have occurred only for damage that could be shown to have occurred.

I carried out some further investigations by speaking first of all to a very large national cycle shop who supplied bikes by this particular manufacturer.

The cycle shop were very helpful and confirmed that their advice would be exactly the same that where a carbon fibre framed bike had been involved in an accident then the frame and forks should be replaced.

The bicycle was manufactured by a company in Italy but the cycle shop put me in touch with the UK distributors of this make of bicycle.

I spoke to the UK distributors and again their advice was the same that the frame and forks should be replaced.

I also asked them if there were any tests that could be performed to see whether there was any unseen damage to the frame and/or forks. They told me that there were two ways of checking for unseen damage but neither investigation was a viable option. They could get the frame checked with ultrasound but this would cost a lot more than the price of a new frame. The alternative investigation would involve the total destruction of the frame and forks!

The distributers very kindly put their advice in writing so that I could forward this to the insurers.

It also occurred to me that although I had not come across this situation before with a bicycle there was a very similar and very common situation in motorcycle accidents.

In motorcycle accidents if there is any chance that the rider or passenger’s helmets have suffered a blow then they must be replaced even if there is no apparent damage. Crash helmets can also suffer from an unseen compromise to their structure which could cause them to be less effective if involved in another accident.

I have never had an insurer refuse to pay the cost of the replacement of a crash helmet as the problem with possible unseen damage is widely accepted.

I put all the information I had obtained from the cycle shop and UK distributers to the insurers. I also pointed out that I could see no difference between this case and the case of a crash helmet that had suffered a blow in an accident.

To the insurance companies credit they then accepted the claim for the replacement frame and forks and paid the cost of the replacement.

My client is of course very happy that he now has a bicycle that he can use. The definition of damages is to “put the person in the position they would have been in had the accident not occurred” so it is entirely correct that my client should be put back in the position of having a bicycle in the same useable condition as it was before the accident.

Encountering a new issue in a case is always interesting and despite having dealt with accident claims for well over 20 years there are still issues that arise that I have not encountered before. The way to deal with new issues is by investigation and drawing on knowledge of similar issues that have been encountered before.

Ian Wanstall – Contact me at ian.wanstall@wanstalls.co.uk

Wanstalls Solicitors are based in County Durham in the North East of England. We represent clients both locally and nationwide and offer a friendly personalised service. If you would like to discuss any aspect of a personal injury claim, we would be delighted to hear from you.

Passionate about Motorcycling – Durham to Suffolk

I have never made a secret of the fact that I am a fair weather biker! I don’t mind the rain so much but I do hate getting cold. As the days shorten and the weather gets colder another riding season comes to an end and it is time to put the bike away until spring 2013.

The end of the riding season inevitably causes me to look back over the highlights of the season just gone and to ask myself the question which was the best bike ride of the season?

I had many great motorbike rides in Durham, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders during the season though I do seem to remember getting wet more often than I would have liked!

I think though the best ride I had was a trip to see an old friend who lives down in Suffolk so that we could have a ride out together in the beautiful countryside of East Anglia.

My friend and I have made the journey to and from Suffolk to Durham on many occasions and have tried many different routes to avoid the obvious though boring route of using the A1 and the A14.

As I had all day to make the journey I chose what is my favourite route which begins by heading down the A19 to York. I then pick up the York ring road heading for the A1079 towards Hull via Market Weighton and Bishop Burton.

On approaching Hull I follow signs to the Humber Bridge. I have crossed the Humber Bridge on many occasions and I always find it impressive. What is impressive in a car is even more so on a motorbike. There is something very special about crossing such a huge expanse of water on a motorbike and of course it’s even better that motorbikes cross the bridge for free!

Over the Humber Bridge and follow the A15 towards the M180. On some occasions when I have made this trip I have got onto the M180 heading west for one junction and then re-joined the A15 towards Lincoln. This stretch of the A15 is remarkable by virtue of it being almost entirely straight, well at least on a map!

On this occasion I avoided the M180 and took the A18 heading East and then South East towards its junction with the A16. Then follow the A16 South via Louth and Boston all the way down till it joins the A17. Then East on the A17 toward Kings Lynn.

What made this journey particularly special was not just having a long ride through great scenery but also that it was supposed to rain but didn’t. As anyone who rides a bike will know you keep an eye on the sky to see what sort of weather is coming up and even change your route if rain can be avoided. There were black clouds but they kept to the far distance so I was able to ride in warmth and sunshine!

I rang my friend to see if he was going to ride out to meet me somewhere along the A17. It was raining where he was so he declined my invitation, something to do with not getting his highly polished Harley wet!

I followed the A17 around Kings Lynn and then picked up the A10 heading South to the junction with the A134 which is a great road going through Thetford and then down to Bury St Edmunds.

Just as I was riding into Bury St Edmunds it started to rain for the first time that day and boy did it rain!

I only had to go from Bury St Edmunds along the A134 to Long Melford which is very near to where my friend lives. It was a very wet ride for the last part of the journey and I could quite see why my friend had not wanted to come out to meet me.

The following day was glorious, the sun shone and we had a great ride out up into Norfolk and then back to a small custom bike show in the wilds of Suffolk.

The next day was the ride home and this was very different from the ride down. It was raining when I left my friend’s house and it did not stop till I got back to Durham. With the dreadful weather I decided against a nice route and went for the most direct, A14 from Bury St Edmunds to the A1 then North all the way back to Durham. Over 250 miles in the pouring rain! I have certainly had better rides.

The good thing was that however wet I got it was at least not cold and if you ride a motorbike in the UK you have to expect to get wet some times. There is a certain satisfaction in arriving home wet and bedraggled but having made it. Would I rather have been in the car?  Certainly not. The great thing about a long journey on a motorbike is that it is always more than a journey, it’s always an adventure!

Ian Wanstall – Contact me at ian.wanstall@wanstalls.co.uk

Wanstalls Solicitors are based in County Durham in the North East of England. We represent clients both locally and nationwide and offer a friendly personalised service. If you would like to discuss any aspect of a personal injury claim, we would be delighted to hear from you.