Opinion

Safety first when it comes to replacing equipment

3rd May 2018

Safety first when it comes to replacing equipment

Motorcyclists comprise only 1% of the overall road traffic in the UK, yet statistically they are involved in a much greater number of serious accidents than other road users. Figures suggest that there are around 30 significant incidents per day on the UK roads - with the majority being caused by parties other than the motorcyclist themselves.

With the incidence of accidents so high amongst motorcyclists, it is essential that they are fully prepared for any eventuality in terms of training, awareness and most importantly equipment.

However if you are involved in an accident and manage to escape injury, the chances are that your clothing and equipment won’t have survived unscathed.  Given the cost of equipment, where do bikers stand in terms of claiming for equipment that is vital to keep them safe on the roads?

“The legal position is that the ‘at fault’ party, often through their insurers, are under a duty to put you back in the position you would have been in had the accident not occurred insofar as a monetary award can do so,” states Andy Shaw, Head of Higgs & Sons' Personal Injury team.

“On that basis, if you do not have cover for helmet and leathers under your own insurance policy, you would be entitled to make a claim against the ‘at fault’ party for the damage to your motorcycle gear. That claim could be the cost of repairing the damaged equipment or more likely replacing it, particularly if it has lost its protective properties.”

But when it comes to damaged equipment are you entitled to recover the full cost of replacement?

“Not exactly,” explains Andy, himself a motorcyclist with many years' biking experience.

“A person is not entitled to be put in a better position following an accident and often the ‘at fault’ person’s insurance company will argue that by providing you with the funds to purchase new equipment, you would be in a better position.

“The courts tend to apply a reduction to the cost of purchasing replacement equipment.  A general rule of thumb is that a reduction in the order of 25% from the new price is applied to reflect what is known as betterment.”

As a general proposition, a helmet has a life of around three to five years providing an annual depreciation of around 20% to 33%.  Helmets should be replaced following an accident, particularly if the helmet strikes the ground.  A £300 helmet which has been owned for a year might be subject to a reduction of £60 to £100 from the replacement costs, i.e. £200 to £240 towards the cost of replacing the helmet with a similar type. With regards to other items such as leathers, gloves etc., Andy states there is a lack of consistency in terms of the approach a court may take. 

“Some judges apply a set percentage per year of ownership whilst others will consider awarding the full cost of replacement on the basis that motorcycle kit is designed to be unbreakable with normal use and should not be subject to any betterment reduction. A good solicitor will argue that good, highly robust protective equipment will last for years and should not be subject to any betterment."

So what are your options in terms of recovering the cost of replacing your kit following an accident? 

“If you were injured, the cost of replacing clothing/equipment will be claimed alongside compensation for your injuries. A solicitor is able to recover a proportion of the costs of representing an injured person if the value of the injury element of the claim exceeds £1,000.

“Unfortunately if no injury has been sustained, options for legal representation are more limited because the value of the equipment claim will fall below the limit in place to allow your solicitor to recover the costs of representing you (presently £10,000).  To that end, it is often uneconomical to have a solicitor represent you if there is no injury because the costs charged will often exceed the amount claimed. 

“However, the Small Claims Court is designed for cases which do not require a solicitor and most claims can be pursued by the person themselves.”

Andy Shaw, is a Partner and Head of Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence at Higgs and specialises in catastrophic injury with a particular expertise in motorcycle claims.

 

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