Alexander Gibson is 67 years of age. He took up road cycling approximately 15 years ago and in any one week would cycle in the region of 200 miles.
He was involved in a cycling accident on 1st April 2013 whilst on vacation in the North West highlands. That morning he decided to take his bike out for a 20 mile loop. The incident took place on the A87 south bound approximately 4 miles from Eilean Donan Castle. Alex was wearing a bright red cycling jacket, black cycle bottoms and a specialized helmet. He was riding at approximately 18-20mph on this popular tourist route. He described the traffic flow as moderate when suddenly he recalled being thrown into the air and off his bike. He had been hit from behind by a mini bus. In all probability the nearside wing mirror on the minibus had struck the rear saddle of Alex’s bike. Alex tumbled off the bike landing on the road. His bicycle was found on the verge of the south bound carriageway and he himself was found lying in the middle of the south bound carriageway when paramedics arrived.
The paramedics treated Alex at the scene but due to Alex’s deteriorating medical condition they said that they could not long afford to wait for the Police and would have get him to hospital.
Alex was taken to Broadford hospital on the Isle of Skye.
At hospital Alex was diagnosed as having suffered from a suspected fracture of his right pelvis, a soft tissue injury to his right shoulder, a soft tissue injury to his right arm and laceration to the right elbow requiring stitches. He required to use crutches for 7 weeks and was unable to drive or cycle. It was later discovered that x-rays of the pelvis when interpreted by our medical expert showed a crack through the inferior and superior public rami together with a low acetabular fracture on the right.
Two Police officers attended the scene of the incident from Portree Police station. We don’t know when they arrived, but it was some time after the collision as Alex had already been taken to hospital. One of the Police Officers took a statement from the minibus driver. The minibus had 7 occupants and by all accounts both the driver and front 2 passengers maintained that the cyclist had veered into the path of the minibus, which seemed to us somewhat astonishing. The police officer confirmed in his statement the following:
“I believe the cyclist was at fault for the accident for veering right when the minibus was overtaking. This is why no criminal charges were brought”.
The police officer confirmed, “I did speak with the cyclist and he did not have a great recollection of events. He said he was cycling along the road and then was hit from behind. He did not recall veering to his right. I did tell him that we had come to the conclusion that he was at fault and he did not agree with this”.
Alex was struck from behind. There was clear damage to the saddle of his bike and he was found on his own carriageway with his bike to the verge of his carriageway. It was abundantly clear that the minibus driver simply hadn’t give Alex enough room when attempting to overtake.
It seemed like an open and shut case. Alex asked for help from Cycle Law Scotland in April 2013. The insurance company didn’t even respond to our letters and therefore the action was prepared and raised in Court in December 2013.
Throughout the Court proceedings, liability was denied. The case was set down for a full court hearing on 27th October 2014. Two medical experts were involved in the case as originally the fracture to the pelvis was undiagnosed. We had to instruct an individual to visit the accident scene because the police co-ordinates given in the police report were such that the accident had to have occurred in the middle of the Little Minch which was clearly not the case!
The insurance company, AIG, instructed their Solicitors to deny liability maintaining that the minibus driver had slowed his speed down and had manoeuvred “in such a way that he left sufficient space between his vehicle and the cyclist to allow him to overtake safely”. As the minibus driver drew level with the cyclist, “suddenly and without warning the cyclist pulled out and into the path of the first defenders correctly proceeding vehicle causing a collision”. The defence to this case was that a cyclist aged 67 years of age with impact damage to the rear section of his saddle caused the collision because of his sudden and unexpected movement by veering to his right which caused him to be struck by the nearside wing mirror of the minibus.
Defences were received in February 2014 and we battled right through the entire process until 13th August 2014 when the Defenders stated the following in a formal court document “the defenders admit primary liability to make reparation to the pursuer for the purposes of the present action alone”. The case was settled within weeks of that admission of liability and thankfully did not proceed to a final Court hearing.
Alex Gibson was cycling on his own in a remote part of Scotland. The police let him down badly. Not only that, he had to battle a large insurance company with huge resources who refused to deal with this claim. That same insurance company was then able to instruct solicitors to defend an action that was raised in Court in December 2013 and it wasn’t until August 2014 the Defenders eventually capitulated.