As we watch the successes of the Great British cyclists at the Paralympics, Mark Hambling considers the clear and tangible benefits of cycling to his professional practice.

26th Aug 2021

This time last week I was enjoying a 27.5 mile cycle ride with my client and the barrister who was retained in the case.

The client sustained life changing injuries in the accident at work when his employers TW Page & Son Ltd negligently caused him to be electrocuted whilst operating a drilling rig at work. As a consequence my client sustained life changing injuries, he is unable to walk independently, requires the use of two sticks, has a very slow and restricted gait and can take up to an hour to walk to and from the local shops, a half mile round trip.

Before the accident my client was a very fit man, regularly cycling, fell running, doing the three peaks on many occasions and living his life outdoors to the maximum. He worked hard for an employer to whom he had been loyal, but worked for his holidays and weekends and would often be finishing work on a Friday and in his beloved Peak District by Saturday morning, enjoying all the outdoors offered. The accident removed in an instance all of his independence, caused life changing injuries and seriously restricted his mobility. My client now requires significant mobility aids, in all likelihood this will include a wheelchair and he s in the process of moving to a new house adapted for single storey living.

My client’s counsel David Sanderson of 12 Kings Bench Walk and I are both keen cyclists and encouraged the client to invest in an ICE trike with electric assist as part of his rehabilitation programme. Once arrived, almost instantly the client realised what he had been missing and suddenly he was on a parallel with cyclists who had not been the subject of significant and life changing injuries. Within days of purchasing and being fitted for the bike he was out on Marriotts Way, with his assistant enjoying a small degree of normality and independence. The ICE cycle, which is designed for both able bodied and those with disabilities, provided the client with the ability to return to a pre accident hobby, achieved cardio vascular exercise and importantly allowed a degree of independence and escape from the confines of his home and garden. All of these factors had been taken away from my client in an instant as a result of his employer’s avoidable negligence causing such catastrophic injuries.

Beyond the much needed physical exercise to aid the client’s rehabilitation, mentally it gave him a focus beyond the accident, it allowed him a reason to be outside and also something to help for a moment take his mind of the life changing consequences of his injuries. It provided the degree of normality and equality with able bodied cyclists whilst out on a ride.

To quote the client, ‘When I am out on a bike I am equal, I can enjoy a small amount of what I lost and it makes things normal for that time”. This means so much to me as his solicitor. Although my role is to achieve 100% compensation which I successfully achieved, my role is more than that. Finding a route to rehabilitation and helping my clients psychological wellbeing by achieving some normality is a very important part of my role as the legal advisor. I am proud and delighted to say that my client, his barrister David Sanderson and I now have an annual tour of Suffolk and this will be a regular event and one I would like to expand to include more clients.

I have found that cycling is the perfect environment for discussing the case and receiving instructions and agreeing how the case will be moved forwards. The conduct of a personal injury claim is a challenging and emotional time for the client, so finding an environment where the client feels relaxed is often better than a formal meeting in the office or Teams call. I cannot think of a better venue for discussing a case than either on a ride in the quiet countryside or whilst enjoying a tea and cake at a half way stop.

I have recently arranged for a second client to acquire an ICE trike to aid his rehabilitation and agreed funding for this with the compensating insurer. This client can now share dog walks with his wife, a simple thing his accident took away from him due to his life changing leg injuries. A further client has just bought an electric bike from Smile Bikes in Langley and on his trial ride, which was filmed by his occupational therapist, the client is seen somewhat tired, (it was his first time on a bike in four years) but beaming with a smile as suddenly he can travel further and has some independence. The damages in a personal injury claim are necessary and very important, but helping with the rehabilitation as the case progresses to a damages award has an equally important role and should not be overlooked.

Cycling is good for us all physically and certainly helps the environment, but it has huge benefits in an injured claimant’s rehabilitation and also provides independence and a degree of normality which all clients need. It is now an essential tool in my focus on managing a client’s claim in appropriate cases to ensure the clients rehabilitation and often the best way to take instructions.

Cycling has been in the press more widely recently due to the announcement by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that the new version of the Highway Code to be published this autumn will include a hierarchy of road users in a bid to boost the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. In terms of Personal Injury claims, the new Official Injury Claim Portal has been set up by the Ministry of Justice for all Road Traffic Accident whiplash injuries with a value of under £5000, however this excluded cyclists and children. As such not only is cycling providing excellent rehabilitation for my clients but cyclists are quietly rightly protected as a vulnerable road user and we should all be encouraged to not be afraid to user our cycles, at whatever level we choose to enjoy the sport.

My hobby has not only bought me joy but has also helped me as an experienced personal injury solicitor to understand my client’s needs and how cycling can be a major rehabilitation tool. Cycling has taken me around the country raising money for charity and I hope to help more clients going forward with this shared interest and many more cycle rides.