A claimant had been involved in an earlier cycling accident when a car driver opened his driver’s door into him as he cycled past the car.  The bicycle was extensively damaged and was taken to a cycle shop where the claimant asked for the bike to be made roadworthy and safe to use. However, straight after collecting the bicycle and riding it for the first time after it was repaired he had a second cycling accident when the carbon forks collapsed causing him to hit his head on the road and fracture his cheekbone.

The claimant brought a claim against the bike shop for failing to replace the forks and thus failing to make the bike safe and roadworthy as requested. Liability was disputed throughout and there was much debate as to what was said when taking the bike in for repairs. But it was accepted by the bike shop that, when there is a front-on collision with a bicycle’s front wheel and a hard object, it would be sensible to replace the forks which, being carbon, were prone to developing hidden cracks following heavy impact. Defects in carbon frames and forks can often be very difficult to see with the naked eye.

The repair of a bicycle is usually covered under The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 which applies to the inspection, repair and service provided by a bike shop. In addition to suing for breach of statute under The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, the claim was brought for breach of contract on the basis that the accident was caused by a breach of the implied terms of the verbal contract between the claimant and the shop in which the services of inspection, repair and servicing of the bike were requested and offered.

The claimant’s cheek recovered after surgery but he has been left with life-long neurological symptoms as a result of the blow to his head. Thankfully he was wearing a helmet which may have reduced the extent of the injury.

Charles O’ Brien, senior associate in the Penningtons Manches personal injury team, comments: “Accidents caused by front fork failures are nearly always traumatic due the sudden nature of collapse. This case highlights the importance of communicating the mechanics of an accident and having the bike repaired properly to avoid a further, more serious, accident and the obligations of repair shops to ensure that bikes are safe for use.”