Imagine your forks snapping and the feeling of being catapulted through the air to land with a bump – not a pleasant experience. This is what happened to Jonathan Pratten during a training session in September 2015. Despite the bike being second hand we at Cycle-SOS helped the claimant gain compensation for his injuries due to the failure of a component on his bike.
Jonathan Pratten was at a club cyclocross training session when his front forks catastrophically failed, “we were cycling on flat park land, when both forks legs snapped and I was suddenly thrown on the floor and seeing stars. Even to this day I don’t have much memory of what happened.” During the impact he sustained a fracture dislocation of the left arm close to the shoulder joint but luckily he was close to the A&E department of Cardiff hospital and was seen immediately. The injury required surgery, inserting plates and screws to correct the damage to the bone, “I was operated on next morning followed by a week in hospital.”
Once he returned home Pratten took a good look at his bike, “I’m an engineer and looking at the damage it seemed to be a manufacturing fault.” His first port of call was the manufacturers, “My son was cycling with me and his friend had the same bike, same model, same year, so I wanted the manufacturer to know there had been an issue in case it affected other bikes.
They said they were sorry to hear that and offered me a discount on some new forks! This wasn’t the response I was looking for!” Next Pratten, as a member, contacted British Cycling, who put him in touch with their solicitors but unfortunately after an initial discussion about what happened, they weren’t able to offer representation as they only dealt with cycling accidents which involved motorists. He then got in touch with us at Cycle-SOS, “from then on it was easy!” Once in the hands of solicitor Paul Darlington the work of gathering evidence started.
We advise our clients not to part with a damaged component under any circumstances. The manufacturer will likely ask you to send it to them for inspection and it is common that faulty parts then go missing! In this case Mr. Pratten had sent the bike off but we managed to get it back and ensured that valuable evidence wasn’t lost. This allowed us to get an expert mechanical engineer to prepare a report. “My learning from this experience is to challenge a failure” says Pratten, “most cyclists are pretty tuned into the equipment they are riding. I knew something wasn’t right with the way it had failed. If you think something is wrong seek advice.”
Know your rights
The twist in this tale is that the bike was purchased second hand. Luckily, Pratten and the original owner had kept in touch, “I spoke with the first owner, we were in regular contact. He was a cyclist and he’d looked after the bike properly, it was immaculate.” This was an important part of the evidence for the case, to show that the bike had not been involved in any crashes and it was always well cleaned and maintained. The original owner was very happy to help; after all it could have been him riding the bike! “I wasn’t aware if you purchased something second hand you still have rights over the manufacturer” Pratten told us.
If you have bought a bike or component second hand it is still worth investigating a claim and we at Cycle-SOS invested a lot of time to prove this case. Other firms may have rejected the case at the outset given the age of the bike and the difficult nature of the claim. A non-cycling Solicitor most likely wouldn’t recognise the problem with the component and another firm may not have approached the previous owner for witness statements but we knew that pursuing this case was important. Whilst we had a lot of work to do it is important to us to make the process as easy as possible for the client.
“Once I had decided to make a claim and signed it over to the solicitors I left it to them really,” Mr. Pratten explains, “I walked away from it, Cycle-SOS gathered the information and the only thing I had to do was keep Mr. Darlington updated by email about my repeat hospital visits.”
To our way of thinking that is exactly as it should be!
Paul Darlington secured a significant settlement for the claimant for the injuries sustained and the damage to his bike and kit, “the compensation has of course been useful in replacing my bike and the costs of physiotherapy and changes to my car but mainly I wanted acknowledgement from the manufacturers that there had been a failure.”
The outcome of this case was a success for several reasons. Firstly Mr. Pratten recognised that it may have been equipment failure that caused the accident and pursued it, secondly Paul Darlington took the right action at the right time. A firm that doesn’t deal with cyclist claims on a regular basis or a solicitor that does not cycle themselves may not have picked up on small details that ultimately win or lose a case like this.
Pratten is back on his bike and enjoying cycling again, but not racing, “my range of motion is not as good as it was, I have a lump of steel holding my humerous together and I’m aware complex surgery could follow if I had another crash.” He is happy that he pursued the claim, “yes it was a long three-year process but once I’d signed it over to the solicitors it was very simple, Mr. Darlington was amazing!”
Through its many years, Cycle-SOS has a wealth of experience in gaining compensation for cyclists who have been injured through no fault of their own, whether that’s due to a road traffic accident, a pothole or a faulty component. If you have had an accident similar to this one and need advice, then you can talk to a member of our dedicated helpline on 0808 100 999 5.