September 10, 2021

“It all happened so quickly” – a triathlete’s experience of personal injury

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Brad Williams was not expecting his health or career to be endangered when he went out on a training ride in Oxfordshire back in September 2018.

Cycling along the Abingdon Road, Oxford, around 11.30am, Brad was struck by an oncoming driver who turned right across his path without looking properly. The front of the driver’s van knocked Brad off his bike resulting in a fractured collarbone, AC joint instability, a fractured elbow, damaged ribs and a psychological injury.

“It all happened so quickly I was really just in disbelief that the driver had pulled out in front of me. It was perfect riding weather, I had on a bright red helmet, an extremely bright flashing light and there were no obstructions so it really caught me off guard. I tried my best to avoid the vehicle and ended up going over the hood and smacking the pavement pretty hard. I knew it was bad when I went to get up and couldn’t put weight on either arm.”

The driver pleaded guilty to the charge of driving without due care and attention (careless driving). The driver was fined £234, with a victim surcharge of £30 and costs of £85, and had five points added to their licence.

A career on hold

Brad Williams is a professional triathlete and triathlon coach, who competes at an elite level around the world. This accident was therefore a huge blow not just to his physical health, but his mental health too – and he suffered an adjustment disorder following the accident as a result, affected as he was by his inability to train as he once did.

“The biggest disappointment post-accident was the outcome of the charges. It was frustrating when someone causes bodily harm to another individual that they were not required to take a safe driving course, or attend any mandatory or recurring training.”

It was at this time that Brad considered making a claim for compensation. As a US citizen, who at the time of the accident lived in the UK due to his wife’s work, Brad first spoke to US cycling law experts hoping to bring litigation against the driver who hit him. They did not have jurisdiction in England & Wales and so the US lawyers set about trying to find a suitable cycling law expert in the UK.

Finding the right support

That’s where Mark Hambleton came in. Fortunately thanks to a web search the US lawyers contacted Mark and referred the case to him, recognising his expertise in cycling accident claims. Upon hearing the circumstances of Brad’s cycling collision, Mark immediately agreed to take the case on.

“I had known about BikeLaw in the US for quite some time before being hit by the vehicle, and was fortunate that Rachel and her team there acted so quickly to refer me to Mark.

I had already made a few enquiries into other firms on my own, and at each one I spoke to low-level staff that did not know much and simply pointed me to fill out very entry-level forms only to be told it would be five to seven days before anyone would contact me.

With Mark, I was given his direct line and reached out unscheduled at which point we spent 30 minutes going over my initial concerns. He answered all of my questions and I left that call feeling that I would be properly taken care of and that it would be on a very personal level.”

Mark set to work on the case and began to assess the damage that Brad’s collision had caused to his health, finances and his career. Liability was accepted on behalf of the motorist at an early stage.

Quantifying Brad’s claim

Mark’s team determined what Brad needed in terms of treatment and rehabilitation to maximise his recovery. This included use of a bone stimulator, physiotherapy, further x-rays and there was the possibility of future injections. Thanks to medical experts instructed by Mark on Brad’s behalf, it was determined that Brad was likely to experience long term problems affecting his right shoulder and left elbow. The elbow pain was particularly noticeable when Brad was swimming.

As you can tell from the nature of Brad’s injuries and status as a professional triathlete, it was essential to assess his loss of income and loss of opportunity which obviously depended on what his results would have been had he not been injured in this crash.

Brad had international races planned in into December 2018, and had planned to continue racing into May/June of the following year when he would take his end of season break. In fact, Brad only became able to resume full training in February 2019 and was back to competing in April 2019 – though his previous level of fitness had been reduced and so was only really back to full competitiveness between June and September 2019 although he was competing with the right shoulder and left elbow issues mentioned previously.

During the time in which Brad wasn’t competing at all he missed an Olympic distance triathlon and three half Ironman triathlons in China, a half Ironman triathlon in Lanzarote and a half Ironman triathlon in USA. To assess the potential financial losses caused by missing these events, Mark and his team obtained the prize purses for each race and looked at Brad’s professional results to consider his likely income, including; race winnings, appearance fees, loss of opportunity to attract new sponsors, and loss of bonuses from existing sponsors.

Mark and his team also established that there was a loss of opportunity for Brad to attract new triathlon coaching clients during this period, as he could not compete and build his profile as planned.

There were also the more common losses we tend to see such as travel costs, in this case wasted flights to triathlons abroad, repairs to his valuable bike, replacing his cycling helmet and a sum to rcognise the gratuitous care provided while Brad’s injuries were at their most painful.

“As a self-employed person, I think the most frustrating part about the process was not being compensated for the time it took me to attend medico-legal appointments and to go back through my records to supply evidence in support of my claim. Obviously that’s no fault of Mark and his team, just how the law is.

The signs of the accident are still very much there as well, the experts Mark instructed told me that would always be the case. The future holds no certainty for anyone, but my biggest fear is that the long-term effects will be worse than envisaged by the medics, especially when it comes to future arthritis – when going through the rigorous medical examinations as part of the case, the doctors were quite concerned about that.

Overall though my day to day to health is back to “normal”, but it’s also more of a “new normal” than back to my old self.”

Brad’s situation, whilst a unique one, is overall not that uncommon. A split-second error from a driver and a cyclist is left injured, in pain, and worrying about whether they can continue to work.

Fortunately for him, he managed to get the right team around his claim to ensure that his case was dealt with efficiently and effectively. He may not be back to his old self yet, finding himself in a ‘new normal’ as so many of us are right now, but with the right support he has managed to get back to doing what he loves.

Brad has this advice for someone who finds themselves in a similar position:

"I'd encourage you to start the search for a solicitor as soon as possible. When doing so find a solicitor who is not only experienced in cycling cases themselves, but also is surrounded by a responsive and knowledgeable team. As mentioned previously, this can be a lengthy process and the last thing you want is to have a solicitor that is not responsive to your correspondences and delays the process even longer than it needs to be.

Hands down you'd be hard pressed to find a solicitor and team better than Mark Hambleton of RWK Goodman."

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