Crash cyclist left 'hollow' as £370k injury claim rejected

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A CYCLIST who sued a fellow bike rider after a debilitating crash told today how he had been left "shattered" after losing a £370,000 damages claim.

John Telfer suffered head and spine injuries and said he was forced to retire from full-time work after he fell from his bike in a pile-up involving a group of cyclists.

The 47-year-old former prison officer raised an action at the Court of Session against PE teacher Gordon Macpherson, who had been cycling in front of him.

But a civil jury refused a claim that the accident on the B8020 near Winchburgh, in West Lothian, on June 15 2003, was caused by the other cyclist.

Mr Telfer, who now works part-time as a lecturer at Jewel and Esk Valley College, said the jury's verdict had left him feeling "hollow" and said the case had left him with a legal bill of around 40,000.

"I had a head injury and a spinal cord injury – the effects are going to be with me for the rest of my life. It's been my good fortune that the initial paralysis has subsided. This has gone a long way towards ruining my life."

Mr Telfer, of East Calder, spent seven weeks in hospital following the accident and was forced to give up his job.

"I can't quite believe that, given all the evidence that was presented, they (the jury] came to a majority verdict," he said.

"That Mr Macpherson wasn't at fault for the accident is the hardest part to take really."

Mr Telfer said he was now considering appealing the verdict.

Damages had been agreed at 370,000 with the jurors left to decide on the issue of liability. But after 90 minutes they returned to deliver a verdict, rejecting the claim by eight to four.

Mr Telfer and Mr Macpherson, 50, of Livingston, were part of a group of enthusiasts who met up regularly for weekend bike rides.

On the day of the accident they were returning towards Livingston after a run over the Kincardine and Forth Road bridges.

Mr Telfer said the other cyclist was riding in front of him when he lost control after hitting a manhole cover and came off his bike. He said he had time to react and changed direction to avoid the fall but went on to the verge.

"Although I was braking, the bike reacted in a fashion that pitched me over the handlebars. I lost consciousness for a period. I regained consciousness and was unable to move," he said.

He claimed that the incident was caused by the negligence of Mr Macpherson and alleged he was not holding the handlebars in a way that allowed him to maintain proper control of the bike.

Mr Macpherson disputed this and said he was holding his handlebars correctly and that he could not have avoided the accident.

His counsel, Andrew Hajducki QC, said cyclists voluntarily took on the risk of accidents and injuries by cycling in such groups without sufficient stopping distance between them.

Mr Macpherson could not be contacted for comment.

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