Over the last 20 years we have seen a huge increase in the number of cyclists in the UK. Councils up and down the country have spent millions of pounds on cycle paths and other improvement strategies. While it is not for everyone, many people now cycle to work as well as cycling for pleasure. As a result of this increase we have seen a rise in accidents involving cyclists. Last year 130 pedestrians were seriously injured in accidents involving cyclists and 4 were killed.
A recent court case, in which a cyclist and a pedestrian were found equally to blame for an accident, may have set an alarming new precedent for personal injury claims.
The Facts of the Case:
The accident occurred at a busy road junction near London Bridge during rush hour. Both the cyclist, Robert Hazeldean, and the pedestrian, Gemma Brushett, were left unconscious following the collision in July 2015. Ms Brushett was one of a group of people trying to cross the road. She was looking at her mobile phone as she stepped out to cross the road while the lights were on green for traffic and only noticed Mr Hazeldean at the last moment.
Mr Hazeldean sounded a loud air horn attached to his bike, shouted, swerved and braked in an attempt to avoid a collision. However despite his efforts to take evasive action he collided with Ms Brushett and they were both injured.
The judge, at the Central London County Court, said Mr Hazeldean was “a calm and reasonable road user” but was still liable to pay damages to Ms Brushett, adding “ cyclists must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways.” The judge went on to add that “Mr Hazeldean did fall below the level to be expected of a reasonably competent cyclist, in that he did proceed when the road was not completely clear.”
The judge ruled that both parties were equally to blame but only Ms Brushett was entitled to a pay out because she had put in a claim and Mr Hazeldean had not. Ms Brushett was awarded just over £4000 in damages but Mr Hazeldean was told to also pay the legal costs of the two day hearing, estimated to be as much as £100,000. Had Mr Hazeldean been insured the claimant’s costs would have been limited to a much smaller sum.
Mr Hazeldean said he realised that he should have put in a counter claim for compensation at the start of the case but had been reluctant to do so because he disliked the “claim culture.” He went on to say that “had I had legal representation at the time of preparing my defence I would have taken steps to protect myself.” Mr Hazeldean’s lawyers, Levi’s Solicitors, called for an urgent change in the law to protect cyclists from expensive pay outs.
As a result of this new ruling we can expect to see a surge in personal injury claims being brought by pedestrians injured in accidents involving cyclists. However this particular case highlights two very important issues for cyclists:
- Regular cyclists should take out third party insurance cover to protect themselves from the costs of claims being brought against them.
- It is extremely important for cyclists involved in any accident in which someone is injured to seek immediate legal advice.
Should you or anyone you know have been unfortunate enough to have been involved in a cycling accident, either as a cyclist or a pedestrian, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0114 218 4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org