Most sporting activities entail some inherent risk to participants, but that does not mean that those injured while taking part must go uncompensated. In one case, a novice mountain biker who broke his back during a training course has won the right to millions of pounds in damages from his negligent instructor.
The man, who had some cycling experience but had never undergone any training or attempted more demanding downhill routes, had paid £79 to the instructor for a six-hour beginners' course. He fell off his bike whilst negotiating a difficult slope and suffered injuries that have confined him to a wheelchair for life.
In finding the instructor 80 per cent liable for his injuries, the High Court noted that he had encouraged the man to ride at speed down the hill without first assessing his cycling skills. In sending him on a route that was beyond his capacity to ride safely, the instructor had exposed him to a foreseeable risk of serious harm.
The man was 20 per cent responsible for his own misfortune in that he had failed to raise with the instructor his own doubts about his cycling abilities. As an adult who had been riding bikes for some years, he could not abdicate complete responsibility for his own safety. The amount of the man's compensation has yet to be assessed but is likely to be a seven-figure sum, even after the 20 per cent reduction.