I have seen so much around this topic that I don’t know where to start. I need some absolutely firm advice on hiring a bike. The background is I got knocked off by an old boy pulling out of a junction. It was his fault and he accepted blame. My ‘Big Bang’ R1 took a bit of a battering and is off the road being repaired; I was given a crappy CB500 as a replacement. I signed a form when the CB500 was dropped off and now I have been sent a hire bill for £12,000.
I am bricking it, as I have been told I am liable for this sum. This cannot be right as the bike hire place told me verbally that I don’t have to pay a penny. The insurer for the old boy who knocked me off is refusing to pay the £12,000 and I have been told I need to go to court. How is this fair?
This might be an expensive lesson, so let’s go back to basics. Hire bikes do have their place, but I see this being abused more and more. In the law of tort, the defendant must ‘put you back in the same position as you were pre-accident’. That is to say, he must pay for your broken ‘Big Bang’ R1. If it cannot be repaired, he owes you the bike’s value.
Hire bikes can be provided if you ‘need it’ – if it is your only form of transport, or you commute into a city centre on two wheels. If you have access to a car and your bike is your toy, then why do you need a hire bike? You probably don’t.
If there is a legitimate need to hire, then you need to work out if you are ‘impecunious’, which, in plain English, is ‘do you have enough money?’ If you do, then you can go and hire a bike and pay up front. This is the most common way of hiring anything. If you don’t have enough money, then you can use ‘credit hire’, which is basically hiring a bike but at an inflated cost, because the hire company is offering this on credit. It doesn’t get paid until the end of your claim.
Here lies a problem. It appears that your ‘delivery note’ is actually a contract. You are liable to pay a daily rate of up to £150 for the CB5OO. If anyone is telling you ‘it is free’, they are simply wrong. I hope they didn’t tell you that to ‘get you signed up’ – that is not only morally wrong, but it would also mean the contract would fail for lack of certainty. That is good for you as you wouldn’t owe them a penny.
Unsurprisingly, the defendant is not paying the credit hire bill and the only way for the hire company to get back its £12,000 is to issue court proceedings. It must issue in your name, as it has no legal standing to sue the other driver. Only you can do that. If this wasn’t explained to you up front, it does beg the question: what was the hire company thinking? I hope it wasn’t about its bank balance.
If you are required to issue court proceedings in your name, it means you have the hassle of seeing this through to the end. Don’t forget, these proceedings are in your name, so this matters to you! At some stage, you will need to provide a witness statement; be honest in this document. It comes with a statement of truth, so don’t lie for the benefit of the hire company.
If your evidence is ‘they told me it was free’, then they might end up getting zero. I have seen firms ‘lean’ on bikers or even complete their witness statements for them. Don’t fall into that trap. I hope this comes good in the end, but at this moment in time you have a contract under which you must pay £12,000. Always read the small print!
Fast Bikes February 2023