Motorcyclist is psychologically traumatised

Collision, Locus, Circumstances

On 6 October 2017, motorcycle enthusiast Stuart was riding a brand-new Harley Davidson Street Rod 750cc. He was working at West Coast Harley Davidson at the time as an apprentice technician and had been tasked to take the newly delivered motorcycle out for a test drive around the local area. Whilst travelling on Kelvin Avenue, Glasgow, a car failed to give way and pulled out from a side junction across his path.

Stuart Conway's damaged Harley Davidson motorcycleA collision was unavoidable and Stuart collided with the rear passenger door, smashing his head through the window in the process. The new Harley then flipped over, landing on Stuart’s right leg.

Extent and Impact of Motorcycling Injuries

Stuart was taken to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital by a work colleague for treatment. He had suffered a soft tissue injury to his right shoulder. Given the accident circumstances, he was lucky not to have sustained more serious injuries.

At the time of the collision, Stuart was working towards obtaining his qualification as a motorcycle mechanic. His employers rated his technical ability greatly and he was a valued member of West Coast Harley Davidson.

On his return to work a month after the accident, it became clear that Stuart was suffering psychological trauma. He developed anxiety whilst riding motorcycles. His apprenticeship required him to road test motorcycles after having repaired them. The psychological impact of the accident was so great he was unable to continue working at West Coast Harley Davidson, his “dream job”. Reluctantly, Stuart took the only decision he could and terminated his employment taking a trip around the world with his fiancée in the Summer of 2018.

Motorcycle Accident Claim Process

On intimation of a claim to the third-party insurance company, liability was swiftly admitted.

Although Stuart’s psychological trauma was his most significant injury, his right shoulder still proved problematic. We instructed a Consultant shoulder specialist and were able to arrange private physiotherapy. Stuart made a complete recovery from his physical injuries within 12 months but unfortunately his psychological trauma remained.

Recognising the severity and impact of Stuart’s anxiety whilst riding motorcycles, we instructed a Consultant Psychologist, Dr Allison Harper. She diagnosed Stuart as having suffered an Adjustment Disorder together with a Specific Phobia in respect of motorcycling.

Although Stuart’s phobia persisted, this did not hinder his passion and enthusiasm for motorcycles. Whilst on his travels, he was able to visit Deus Ex Machina Temple of Enthusiasm and Custom Shop in Bali before undertaking a scooter ride around the car-free island of Nusa Lembongan.

Nusa Lembongan, Bali

Upon his return to the UK in late December 2018, and although still suffering from his phobia, Stuart chose to tackle his problems head on. He attempted to ride his motorcycle to Tighnabruaich with friends. Unfortunately, his anxiety whilst riding, showed no signs of improving. Stuart underwent counselling sessions and CBT in order to combat his anxiety. He realised that it was not a fear of riding motorcycles but rather a fear of being injured whilst riding which was causing him anxiety.

Stuart’s desire to continue working in the motorcycle industry also remained and he secured a job servicing motorcycles. Although a far cry from his job as an apprentice technician at West Coast Harley, it was a job and he didn’t have to test ride motorcycles.

Getting the Right Result

The third-party insurers were skeptical. They refused to fund private treatment by way of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and ultimately given this stalemate, we had to raise an action in Court for Stuart.

We then received an early and very low five figure offer. Given the impact of the psychological trauma on Stuart’s future career, we couldn’t understand why the defenders had pitched their offer so low. We were miles apart in our respective valuations. On the final day for lodging evidence by way of expert reports and productions, it became abundantly clear why the defenders had pitched their offer to settle so low. Two Surveillance reports and an Internet Surveillance report were produced by the defenders. The reports showed in great detail every aspect of Stuart’s social media activity, including photos of him around motorcycles at work and riding in Bali.

We were quick to act on these reports. Having reviewed all three in great detail, we contacted our expert Consultant Psychologist for comment on the reports. She went through the contents of the reports with Stuart and came to the conclusion the reports did not change her diagnosis that Stuart suffered a significant phobia of motorcycles, specifically of being injured whist riding.

The defenders remained confident that their position would be accepted. They took the view that Stuart had not been honest in reporting his difficulties to their expert medical witness. Whilst they accepted the extent of the physical evidence, the view held was that none of Stuart’s reported symptoms of anxiety could be relied upon.

The case proceeded to a full hearing before Sheriff Fife. At the end of the case and after time for consideration of all evidence presented, he accepted the evidence of our expert witness Dr Alison Harper and awarded the pursuer a sum of £61,252. The decision can be found here.

Why are Motorcycle Law Scotland different?

This case highlights the importance of choosing the right solicitors. We are specialist motorcycling lawyers and know that so many motorcyclists are psychologically traumatised following a collision.

Because motorcyclists have limited real protection other than a helmet and protective clothing, the “What if” factor can remain. “What if it happens again?,” “What if I don’t survive the next time?” Feelings of anxiety and the fear surrounding a return to motorcycling is not something most motorcyclists find easy to talk about. Indeed, many don’t admit to such fears and anxiety. Postings on social media are not a true reflection of what an individual feels, rather they are a reflection of how they want others to perceive them.

At MLS we take our responsibilities seriously. Stuart was concerned about giving evidence in Court and that is only natural. Despite being presented with seemingly concrete evidence in the form of the Surveillance reports, through intricate and careful investigation, we were able to secure an excellent result for Stuart.

It’s not always the accident circumstances that are disputed. Often insurers will dispute the value of a claim. It’s not uncommon for insurers to instruct surveillance companies but it’s worth remembering that the Courts will listen to expert medical evidence. Our expert, Dr Allison Harper, was unwavering even after reviewing the surveillance reports. Social media posts often represent how an individual wants others to see his or her life. A rosy picture is frequently painted that is far removed from the true feelings of that individual.

As motorcyclists, we know that so many do battle to come to terms with their demons and many never do. For Stuart, the fear of being involved in another accident remained with him to such an extent his future career was placed in jeopardy. The Sheriff recognised that and awarded damages accordingly.

Here’s what Stuart had to say: “I am over the moon with that result I can’t tell you how thankful I am for the support and belief in me you and the whole team have shown throughout the entire process. I will make sure to leave reviews every way possible and continue to promote to my friends and clients in the motorcycle industry.”

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