Oil dumped by plugless sump made me look like a chump

Oil dumped by plugless sump made me look like a chump

I know nothing at all about maintaining my bike. I have never adjusted the chain, checked the oil or even the tyre pressures.

I had a single vehicle crash. I was riding along an A-road when my rear wheel just shot out from underneath me. I got away with pretty modest injuries, but my bike is a mess.

The recovery guy pointed out the sump plug on my motorcycle had come out. My bike has always been serviced by a local Independent trader, who has always stamped my book. I asked him to fix the damage. His words to me were “You can piss off!”, followed by the suggestion I had crashed then removed the plug to run a scam on his shop. I used to pay him £20 cash about every six weeks to check and adjust my chain, check the oil and do the tyres.

Up until this point he was always friendly and would banter with me about how useless I am, which I took in good humour, not least because it is true. I do not want to use my fully comp cover: I am new to motorcycling and quite young, so is there anything that I can do? The repair bill is around £4000 in parts and about £1000 in labour.


The good news is your case is actually quite easy. First of all you need to show on the balance of probabilities that the sump plug shaking loose was the cause of your incident.

That is not a high burden. Ideally the recovery guy can confirm this in either a letter or a short witness statement. You’ll then need to show the oil was changed by your not very friendly mechanic. The invoice and stamped service book will prove this. Then you need to get this material before a district Judge In the Small Claims Court.

The mechanic’s suggestion that you crashed then removed the sump plug, and that your whole claim is dishonest, will struggle in court. You would need to have incredible presence of mind, as well as the correctly sized socket and ratchet to crash your bike, and then think about taking the sump plug out and dropping the oil to create a fraudulent claim against an honest dealer.

The courts only have to be satisfied as to what is likely, and when you put down what the mechanic’s allegations amount to, you can see they are intrinsically unlikely.

Bearing in mind your self admitted lack of mechanical knowledge, you may need to show the Judge how oil is changed on your bike, I think the court would be entirely satisfied with you providing them with a YouTube video showing how your particular bike has its oil changed. A Haynes Manual will also demonstrate how oil is changed, and exactly how the sump plug must come out.

This is a Small Claims Court and does not involve the wigs, gowns and theatre of the High Court. The Judge, who may never have changed oil in their life, also needs to know what a sump plug does, and what happens when it falls out. Provided you can show who did the work, that it failed and your losses arising from that failure, you will get judgement. I suspect your now ex-mechanic, once he gets the summons, may talk to you a little more constructively.

Having carried out a quick Companies House search on the limited company owned by your mechanic, it seems he is a viable and profitable business, so when you get Judgement against him In the sum of about £5000, I’d suggest you seek damages of £70 per week for every week your bike was off the road. You will not be suing the mechanic directly: he operates by way of a limited company, which he wholly owns, so you will have to name that company as the defendant.

You do not need a lawyer; this is exactly the kind of case the Small Claims Court is set up for – one of simple facts, simple law, and straightforward evidence, I don’t really need to wish you good luck as your case will take some losing.

Andrew Dalton

RiDE Magazine October 2019

Posted by Andrew Dalton. Last modified: August 19, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Andrew Dalton is a highly experienced trial lawyer who delights in taking on difficult and demanding motorcycle cases. He has a tough and relentless litigation style and is utterly focused on getting the best possible outcomes for his clients.
Disclaimer: The legal advice and statements contained within this/these articles is correct at the time of printing. If you are seeking legal advice after a motorbike accident please contact us to speak directly with one of our lawyers.


  1. Carl JonesMay 1, 2020

    Once again, excellent advice.

    The only time I have ever lost a sump plug, was after my Land rover decided to unscrew it on the motorway, about 300 miles after a full service.

  2. Steve HartshornMay 2, 2020

    It would be interesting to know how often this sort of thing happens. My ex michanic over filled the front break reservour after I asked him to renew thye seals in the front break and after only five miles the front wheel locked up and I was off. Like a fool I trusted my michanic as I had used him for tem years so I called him when I came off and he recoverd the bike to his workshop. Yes you gused it the reservour level was the ok and the insurance said it was my fault and wanted to scrap my beloved bike. By the way I am 62 and hav been riding since I was 17 so you are vulnerable at any age.

  3. Andrew DaltonMay 5, 2020

    Regrettably we do quite often have to deal with cases involving unsafe repairs. I suspect it is more to do with rushing in workshops and also motorcycles are complicated things. Most workshop cock ups are remedied easily enough but this particular bike shop appears to have some form for very aggressive denial of faults, even if no one was hurt and they just want the repair done properly. Most bike shops, in my experience, will repair with good grace and embarrassment their own mistakes. We all make mistakes, it is how you clear them up which shows whether you are a good provider or not.

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Gavin Grewal, used to volunteer his time as a special constable which gave him a good insight into how evidence is gathered from accident scenes. Gavin is partner at specialist motorcycle solicitors White Dalton.

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