Replacing your equipment following an accident

2nd June 2021

Replacing your equipment following an accident

Andy Shaw, a partner and Head of Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence at Higgs & Sons, specialises in catastrophic injury and has a particular expertise in motorcycle claims. Here he looks at the entitlements of a victim when it comes to replacing equipment damaged in an accident.

If you are involved in a motorcycle accident and manage to escape injury, the chances are that your protective clothing/equipment won’t have survived unscathed. 

The legal position is that the ‘at fault’ party, often through their insurers, are under a duty to put you back in the position you would have been in had the accident not occurred insofar as a monetary award can do so. 

On that basis, if you do not have cover for helmet and leathers under your own insurance policy, you would be entitled to make a claim against the ‘at fault’ party for the damage to your motorcycle gear. 

That claim could be the cost of repairing the damaged equipment or, more likely, replacing it - particularly if it has lost its protective properties.

But are you entitled to recover the full cost of replacing your equipment with new versions? Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.

A person is not entitled to be put in a better position following an accident and often the ‘at fault’ person’s insurance company will argue that, by providing you with the funds to purchase new equipment, you would be in a better position.

The courts tend to apply a reduction to the cost of purchasing replacement equipment.  A general rule of thumb is that a reduction in the order of 25% from the new price is applied to reflect what is known as betterment.

As a general proposition, a helmet has a lifecycle of around three to five years, providing an annual depreciation of around 20% to 33%. 

Helmets should be replaced following an accident, particularly if the helmet strikes the ground.  A £300 helmet which has been owned for a year might be subject to a reduction of £60 to £100 from the replacement costs, meaning around £200 to £240 towards the cost of replacing the helmet with a similar type would be received.

Insofar as other equipment is concerned (boots, leathers gloves), there really is a lack of consistency in terms of the approach a court may take to betterment. 

Some judges apply a set percentage per year of ownership whilst others will consider awarding the full cost of replacement on the basis that motorcycle kit is designed to be unbreakable with normal use and should not be subject to any betterment reduction. A good solicitor will argue that highly robust protective equipment will last for years and should not be subject to any betterment.

So, what are your options in terms of recovering the cost of replacing your kit following an accident?  If you were injured, the cost of replacing clothing/equipment will be claimed alongside compensation for your injuries. A solicitor is able to recover a proportion of the costs of representing an injured person if the value of the injury element of the claim exceeds £1,000.

Unfortunately, if no injury has been sustained, options for legal representation are more limited because the value of the equipment claim will fall below the limit in place to allow your solicitor to recover the costs of representing you (presently £10,000).   To that end, it is often uneconomical to have a solicitor represent you if there is no injury because the costs charged will often exceed the amount claimed.  However, the Small Claims Court is designed for cases which do not require a solicitor and most claims can be pursued by the person themselves.




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