I was waiting to turn right into a pub car park with my wife as a pillion when a rider came flying down the outside of the traffic, heading straight towards me.
I began to panic and decided to get out of his way by turning right into the car park. He then seemed to notice me, hammered on his brakes and started skidding – then sliding – towards us, hitting my left leg. As a result my leg was so badly mangled that it was amputated a few weeks later.
I was referred to a solicitor who I felt perfectly comfortable with. She specialised in personal injury, but not bikes. We got an offer from the other biker’s insurance company offering an equal split of blame, with them accepting that he was speeding but also blaming me equally for turning across him. My solicitor now appears to be vague. She tells me that 50/50 is a bad day in court but possible, and she has asked a barrister to advise, but I have read his advice and it is clear that he has no understanding of bikes and he has just repeated exactly what my solicitor has said.
Both my barrister and solicitor have said that they will reject the 50/50 if that is what I want, but then came a bombshell: my solicitor has said that to go to court I need to find £10,000 just to pay the court fee, which I don’t have. The insurers for the other rider refuse to make an interim payment for me to pay this court fee and I am now stuck. I feel I have to accept 50/50 because I cannot see any other way forward. What can I do?
You need to shift law firms. Specialist litigation firms like mine, or big firms, have the resources to fund these massive issue fees, which shot up hugely in March 2015. A case worth more than £300,000 – which yours certainly is – went up from less than £1500 to £10,000 to start in court.
The firm you mention is a decent high-street firm and your solicitor is an experienced injury solicitor with impressive additional qualifications in injury work. The point is that you cannot afford to stay with this firm and the insurers know this. You need to go to a firm that is financially strong enough to support your case.
In so far as liability is concerned you are right to reject the 50/50 offer. The skidmarks left by the other bike show a lock-up on your side of the road, with the other bike sliding down the camber towards the kerb, before sliding on its side. Scratch marks show the impact of the sliding bike about 60cm from the centre of the road. You had barely started moving when you were struck. The length of the slide, combined with the skidmarks, gives the other rider a minimum speed of 44mph when he started braking in a 30mph zone. Witness evidence, and the evidence of the police forensic reconstruction expert, indicate that his maximum speed may have been closer to 70mph.
He put you in an agonising position, and if you reacted imperfectly faced with him bearing down on you, he cannot blame you. You need to either change solicitors or magic up £10,000 to get your case into court. I do worry whether the firm you have instructed can instruct all of the specialist experts you will need for an amputation case, such as prosthetic experts, care experts and housing needs experts. We would budget no less than £35,000 for these types of experts and court fees, which your current law firm seems unable to fund.
Your choices are, it seems to me, either to take an undersettlement; to remortgage your house to fund your claim; or to change solicitors for new ones who are able to take the financial hit of running your case. Good luck.
RiDE Magazine February 2016