A tale of two Councils and an expansion joint.

On the 17th of October 2019, Gail and some of her friends decided to go on a bike ride around Strathclyde park. One of the riders was partially sighted so Gail had arranged the ride around the park to reduce the risk of any injuries.

Gail was up front leading the way. The park contains a bridge which crossed over the river Clyde. Unbeknown to Gail, a surface defect was awaiting her on the west bank of the river. This defect was at the expansion joint of the bridge. Her front wheel came into contact with some failed repair work around the metal bridge expansion joint and she was thrown from her bicycle.

Gap at edge of bridge expansion joint
Gail landed quite heavily on her left elbow. She was taken to hospital and diagnosed with a severely broken shoulder and facial injuries. Unfortunately, Gail did not recover fully and was left with permanent disability in her left elbow. As well as her elbow injuries, she was also made disabled by the injuries to her head and experienced a reduction in her mental faculty.

Gail was forced to change job as a result of her injuries and reduce her working hours. Her employer was supportive of her and made a role available to her, but this role came with reduced pay putting Gail in a difficult financial position.

Gail bumped into one of our specialist cycling solicitors at a cycling event. When she told us what had happened, we agreed to represent her and got to work on her case straight away. We established that the defect was located within South Lanarkshire Council and got the claim intimated straight away.

Frustratingly, South Lanarkshire took a while to come back to us but when they did, they advised that they had an agreement with North Lanarkshire Council that the bridge was actually their responsibility. However, North Lanarkshire Council advised us that as the defect was located on South Lanarkshire’s side of the bridge, they were not to blame. North Lanarkshire Council had noted the surface defect in their records, but rather than doing anything about it or informing South Lanarkshire Council, they had simply decided to leave it.

Just like that, we’d entered the world of local politics where it’s always someone else’s problem. That’s all fine and good when you’re discussing how often a blue bin is to be collected, but when you’ve got a cyclist injured through no fault of her own, action is required.

For this reason, we raised the case in court against both Councils. We were confident that the defect should have been remedied and readied ourselves for Court. We continued to chase both Councils for one of them to see sense and admit they were to blame. Rather than doing so, they instead made a suggestion that Gail had been responsible for her injuries by ignoring a cyclist dismount sign they claimed to be there. Gail had helpfully gathered photographs of the scene and we were able to show that no such signs had been in place.
Nothing that we do is done in vain. Through careful preparation and the gathering of all available evidence, we were able to build a wall of evidence that left the Councils with no option but to propose a settlement offer. We were eventually able to agree a settlement which would allow Gail to get on with her life.

Over three years after the incident and with considerable delays, it was a relief to be able to conclude matters. Gail had been successful, but the journey had been a long and hard one. Liability had been denied by two local authorities, rehabilitation had never been in place and Gail had been unable to continue doing the job she loved. The financial pressure had been enormous and the fear of what the future would hold was always a constant worry.

In refusing to agree who was at fault, just as they had failed to agree who should fix the defect, this ended up costing the Councils (and more importantly the taxpayer) significantly more. They were obliged to not only pay Gail for her injuries and losses together with interest, but also our legal expenses for the full case. It is always in the interests of everyone involved to be proactive, but when they’re not, then we will do everything in our powers to get our clients a good result.


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