A High Court judgement in what was described as a ‘landmark’ case may well send shivers down the spines of riders, team organisers and promoters of motorcycle racing in relation to insurance costs which, it seems, in many instances do not provide adequate cover.
A jockey, Freddy Tylicki, injured in a racing incident at Kempton Park five years ago has successfully sued a fellow rider, Graham Gibbons, for what was described by the judge as ‘reckless disregard for the safety of Mr Tylicki’ resulting in a broken back and life in a wheelchair. Compensation, to be agreed with Gibbons insurers, has not yet been made public but is likely to run into millions.
It is the first successful claim in horse racing, an earlier one resulting in similar injuries having been dismissed in 2001 by a High Court Judge as ‘reflecting the cut and thrust of serious horse racing’. The Kempton stewards decided on the day there was no riding infringement presumably influenced by the earlier judgement. Judge Karen Walden-Smith disagreed who said: ”The actions of Mr Gibbons were …. undertaken in reckless disregard for the safety of Mr Tylicki.”
While adding that the finding did not set a precedent either within racing or sport in general, a career ending tackle on Manchester United footballer Ben Collet resulted in a multimillion pound settlement in 2008. And an article in the Daily Telegraph newspaper suggested that as a result of this most recent judgement lawyers were expecting an upturn in claims from other sports. What might this mean for motorcycle racers where accidents, although few and far between, can be career damaging or, indeed, ending?
The article concludes:”Lawyers are expecting an upturn in cases in other sports where athletes have deeper pockets to pursue damages.” And the five years it has taken for Mr Tylicki and his lawyers to receive the judgement will not be encouraging for TT rider Steve Mercer who is still waiting for his claim against the organisers to be settled. It resulted from a 2018 practice session being halted due to an accident further down the course and a group of riders being told to return to the start in reverse direction. They met a course car speeding to the accident, Mercer collided with the car and received injuries from which he has never fully recovered.
The matter rests with the organisers insurers and their lawyers while Mercer, aided by support from the TT Riders Association and remaining ever cheerful, has to fund his own legal costs. Someone, somewhere should be ashamed of themselves.