With another successful ‘just riding along’ injury claim against our industry, have the floodgates opened for anybody who takes a fall to blame the manufacturer and claim compensation? Mark Sutton sources some industry opinions on one of the most controversial topics to hit the bike trade this year...

INDUSTRY OPINION: Should we be concerned?

“If stores are run by professionals there should never be problems. Consumers shouldn’t purchase crap bikes or bike parts. Sadly, they often do.
Retailers should know to keep sales records, especially servicing records on repairs and bike sales and be aware of when offered services are due. If you supply no service card, then it’s ‘goodbye customer, see you in court’. It also doesn’t hurt to have good relationships with the suppliers.”
David Wiltshire, Mission Cycles

“I’m fairly new to the trade, but am all too aware that any case that ends up in court could go either way – and it seems that there is generally an automatic erring towards the consumer.
The story of the handlebar claim concerns me more than the collapsed wheel, mainly due to the timescale involved and the fact that the rider admitted a previous crash. It seems grossly unfair that an importer should be held to blame for a ‘possible’ material fault after such a long period and where there were so many other potential contributing factors.
Naturally, others will try and jump on the bandwagon and make their own claims in light of these courtroom successes. The compensation culture has now been wholly imported from the US and it seems that many people simply look for someone to blame when things go wrong. In short, I can’t see the situation reversing when stories like this become public knowledge. The justice system can be a lottery at best, so many will consider it ‘worth a go’, whether their claims are genuine or not.
There is clearly no excuse these days for cutting corners in manufacturing and brand owners should take note of the potential for claims if things go wrong. Limited warranties and disclaimers in owner manuals clearly have no sway with a court if they decide that there is an inherent fault or that the product or part is not up to the job it is advertised for.
Montague founder, David Montague invented the CLIX system for reasons of ‘pilot error’ in the States, where riders were winding up the Q/Rs on their wheels but not clamping them properly. This unfortunately resulted in some deaths and serious injuries – not because the component was at fault, but because the rider was not using the component in the way it was intended."
Jim Griffiths, Montague UK

“I don’t believe this story will necessarily result in a flood of claims against bike suppliers, manufacturers or retailers. However it does mean that a certain precedent has been set, which could prove to be the basis for further such claims in the future. It is very difficult to know. Obviously such ‘just riding along’ incidents are incredibly difficult to prove one way or another, and the fact this case took two years is proof of that. We are living in more of a blame culture these days, and with more people cycling there is always going to be the possibility for these kinds of accidents and therefore these kinds of claims. The quality of the product is clearly an issue but a very hard one to prove. Once again a critical point remains that bikes should be properly set-up and regularly maintained by professional cycle technicians. The Cytech accreditation is our industry’s benchmark for just this kind of thing.”
Mark Brown, ACT

“I don’t think we are anywhere near the situation in the US – ‘reasonableness’ tests still dominate legal decisions here – but we all need to recognise the more litigious society we now work in, which probably involves seeking legal advice, rewriting manuals, etc. The best insurance, of course, is to insist on well-made, and fully-tested bikes/components; but as Trading Standards don’t even bother to follow up on products without British Standard certification, there isn’t much top-down encouragement for quality ahead of unit sales.”
Emerson Roberts, Brompton Bicycles

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