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Bike collisions, injuries, and rehabilitation – an expert view from Lee Elmore

Lee Elmore

For most bikers, biking is a way of life, rather than just a mode of transport. As one of the largest specialist bike teams in the UK, Minster Law understands the impact an accident can have on a biker. Our specialist team has the expertise in dealing with bike related injuries, including the most severe, and we’re proud to look after approximately one third of bike clients in the UK.

We sat down with Lee Elmore, chartered legal executive and a keen biker at Minster Law, for his expert opinion on bike legal services, injuries and rehabilitation.  

How did you become involved in bike personal injury cases?

I became involved in bike PI cases whilst working as a Defendant at Direct Line.  My involvement and expertise expanded when I started working for Minster Law in March 2009.  My interest piqued when I became involved in the rehabilitation of seriously injured bikers and through meeting them and their families in person to see the devastating impact that the accidents had on them.

What have been some of the changes you’ve seen in the work you do over this time?

I’ve seen changes to the way that rehabilitation intervention has improved to help the injured person get back to some sort of normality.  Changes to CPR and the implementation of costs budgeting has given a greater impetus to get good quality medical evidence in place well before litigation.

In your experience, what are some of the factors which dictate the severity and outcome from a bike collision?

The speed and mechanism of the collision are the major factors which determine the severity of injuries and the likelihood of a full recovery.  Early and effective rehabilitation intervention is the key to the best possible recovery from the injuries. 

In addition, the quality of the helmet, boots, gloves and riding kit are factors that affect the level of injuries sustained.  Often, younger riders on smaller machines won’t be wearing boots, protective clothing or gloves and will suffer serious injuries to feet, ankles, legs, hands, etc, that would very likely have been lessened – or not suffered at all – had the appropriate clothing been worn. 

Cheaper helmets don’t provide optimum protection to the head in the event of a twisting/shearing impact on the road surface which leads to brain injuries that can have a catastrophic effect on the person’s ability to function on a daily basis.

What do you see as the biggest opportunities to prevent the most serious consequences of bike collisions?

Awareness for car drivers is the first step.  Most collisions with bikes occur when the car driver looked but didn’t see the bike because the bike is small and car drivers expect large objects approaching when they check whether it’s safe to move.  The human eye can’t accurately assess the speed of a single light approaching from a distance.  As a result, many larger bikes now have multiple lights in a triangle or diamond pattern to help drivers see them and assess their speed.

Making bikers, particularly younger riders, more aware of the consequences of serious injury through failure to wear appropriate protective clothing.  Currently, in the UK, the only legal requirement for bikers is to wear a helmet, that’s fastened, and complies with British Standards.  Riders don’t appreciate that it’s potentially negligent to fail to wear protective boots, gloves, etc so better education of the risks of serious injury at training stages (CBT, Mod 1 & 2 tests) should be given.

Post accident, what single piece of advice would you offer injured bikers or their families to maximise their chances of recovery and justice?

My advice is always to go with the advice of your treatment team to both maximise their recovery but also to prevent re-injuring themselves through, for example, returning to work or hobbies earlier than appropriate. 

Always tell the truth and be honest about past and current medical issues as the Defendants will always find out!

What industry or cultural change do you think would most benefit bikers who suffer a serious or catastrophic injury?

As previously mentioned, better education for car drivers as to the risks they pose to bikes and also to bikers in the wearing of protective gear.  In France, it’s a legal requirement to wear CE certified gloves and I think the UK should follow suit.

The motor insurance industry needs to be aligned with the legal practitioners about how bike claims are dealt with, in relation to rehab, as there are still some companies whose policy is to provide as little rehab as possible in the interests of costs savings.

It’s good that civil law recognises bikers as vulnerable road users and that bike cases are exempt from the rise in the small claims limit that came in with recent changes to the civil justice system.

In supporting bikers following serious injury, what aspect of your work gives you the most satisfaction?

The greatest satisfaction for me is the reassurance that clients have from knowing their case is being handled by a biker who has over 25 years’ experience in dealing with seriously injured motorists.  I find that bikers want somebody who knows their “world” and knows both their passion for their machine and riding.  Certainly, for experienced and riders of “big” bikes, riding is more than a means of transport or a pastime, it’s a way of life and after serious injury, that way of life and the associations with co-riders, friends, clubs, etc, will very often end, or at least halt for a number of months or years in some cases.

 As a biker, I can give them that reassurance that I know how the injuries impact their lives and how the loss of their pride and joy makes them feel.

We, at Minster, have that level of empathy from day 1 and the injured biker needs to know that we have their back at every turn.