Years of experience mountain biking in the forests and woods that surround Teesside give James Pritchard, one of the personal injury lawyers at Macks Solicitors in Middlesbrough, the edge when it comes to handling cycle accident claims.
James got into the sport as a youngster and, after a brief gap studying at university, got into cycling as a trainee solicitor.
Now he regularly spends his weekends getting muddy in Guisborough Woods or Hamsterley Forest – and he believes that puts him on the same wavelength as cyclists who seek out his help at Macks Solicitors in Middlesbrough.
“I enjoy talking to cyclists because I can relate to them,” says James, who takes on compensation claims for clients from all over the country.
“I get people coming here after ringing various other personal injury lawyers but they decide to sign up with us. Some personal injury solicitors just talk figures, but being a cyclist myself, I’m able to build up a rapport.
“They can tell me about damage to their bikes and I’ll understand exactly what they mean. I know about the different makes of bike and I’ve been told they like dealing with me because they can tell I know what I’m talking about.
“Some personal injury solicitors don’t. They’ll say they do, but when it gets down to it, they don’t.”
It’s not just about making cyclists feeling comfortable talking to one of their own. James’ specialist knowledge enables him to offer very practical help as well.
“I had a client recently who’d had a quote for repairs to his carbon-framed Cube road bike that had cost him about £2,000,” he says.
“The shop said it would cost about £130 for the repairs and that set alarm bells ringing with me. It was a new bike, and in my view was probably written off.
“I spoke to another shop close to where he lived, in Oxford, and the mechanic there confirmed my suspicions. So my client got £2,000 for a new bike instead of £130.
“With carbon bikes you can’t guarantee the integrity of the frame once it’s had a shock like that. The risk is that you’re riding it one day and it will just come apart. Some bike shops will say it’s fine and will patch them up and send you on your way. Most personal injury solicitors wouldn’t have spotted that.”
James knows only too well how painful it can be coming off your bike, although fortunately, he hasn’t been badly injured.
“I’ve come off a few times,” admits the compensation claims lawyer. “It sounds stupid, but my nemesis is a grouse. There’s a route at Guisborough called “The Chute” that’s been built by bikers, for bikers.
“I was coming down there one day when a pheasant ran out in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and went flying over the handlebars into a tree. I grazed all down the side of my face and looked a right state.
“There’s another stretch at Guisborough where a grouse attacks me every week, flying into my face. I’m sure it knows I’m petrified of it!”
And he says it’s essential to take steps to stay as safe as possible when out on the road.
“You’re pretty exposed on a bike and you’ve got to take all the precautions you can, such as wearing high-visibility clothing and having lights on even if you’re out in the daylight,” he says.
“If you have an accident and come off your bike, you’re going to be injured, there’s no two ways about it. It’s not like being in a car when you’ve got a steel cage to protect you.”