I know Easter Sunday was freezing cold, but I wasn’t expecting to find ice on the road. I might be strange going out for a pleasure ride in freezing conditions, but I am from the Peak District.
I really wasn’t expecting anyone to be out washing their car though. On my way home, I go past a small close of bungalows at the top of a hill. Someone had washed their car, water had run down the gutter, and created an ice patch about a metre square. The inevitable happened, and I fell off.
Luckily, I was going very slowly. I had a few bumps and bruises, and my Suzuki GSX1400, which doesn’t have a lot of plastics on it, has about £1,800 worth of damage to plastics, one bar-end, lever, pedal and so on. The bike is still rideable.
I don’t want to put in a fully comprehensive claim, because my policy excess is £200. Is there anything I can do?
Paul Everett, Derbyshire
It might be a bit late for you now, but if you had your mobile phone with you, it’s a good idea to take photographs both of the ice, the trail, and the freshly cleaned car.
You need to get the details of the guy who was washing his car. He put something on the highway which he would have realised was dangerous with reasonable thought. Putting a metre square patch of ice on the highway is dangerous on the face of it, and it’s up to the guy who was washing his car to show what precautions he took for what was not an essential job.
The law on this point can become exceptionally complicated, but for the purposes of your question, the guy who was washing his car and allowed water to freeze is liable.
The law is easy enough. The biggest difficulty you have is proving who it was that caused the ice to be on the highway. If you had taken mobile camera shots, then your evidence would be much stronger. However, the chances are the guy who cleaned his car will admit to it, not realising that he is actually setting up liability for you. His insurers might be a little bit more on the ball, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Anyway, as your claim is worth less than £5,000 and you aren’t suing for bumps or bruises, if you don’t get the result you want, you need to start the matter up in the small claims court.
As I’ve previously said in this column, small claims courts are pretty straightforward. You simply need to say what happened, and what your losses were on forms you can pick up from the court. You’ll have to pay a court fee for this, which you will recover if you are successful.
Usually, when insurers are faced with a small claim where they think they are going to lose, they will pay up rather than have the aggravation of sending a very junior barrister to court for the princely sum of a couple of hundred pounds.
Mind you, if you rode this Easter Sunday, you ought to be riding right through the winter!