A common pitfall in cycling accidents involves failure to wear or use suitable protective equipment. One obvious example of such equipment is the helmet. While it is not compulsory to wear a cycling helmet in the UK, it is a simple piece of safety gear that could save an individual’s life should they be involved in an accident. Not only can a suitable helmet reduce the risk of serious injury, but failure to wear one may also result in a significant percentage being deducted from any award of damages in a personal injury claim.
Such a deduction may be made in line with a statutory concept known as Contributory Negligence, which aims to reduce any award of damages where an injured party is considered to have failed to discharge their own duties – and that failure is seen to have contributed to the risk of the accident occurring or to the injuries being sustained. The concept is commonly relied upon by parties defending claims, particularly in slipping and tripping cases, but also in cycling accident cases where an injured cyclist, it is said, has failed to take reasonable steps to protect themselves against injury. While it is not a criminal offence not to wear a helmet, the civil Courts will often take the view that it is something that ought reasonably to be done, in line with guidance given in the Highway Code.
It is worth looking at the terms of the Highway Code, which recommends the use of a cycle helmet, “which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened”. Accordingly, wearing an unstrapped, loose fitting helmet that does not comply with the British Standards will unlikely be sufficient to satisfy this duty, and a percentage deduction may still be made for Contributory Negligence in such circumstances.
The above notion of a deduction being made from an award of compensation may equally apply in cases of failing to wear appropriately visible clothing or having poor lighting on a bicycle when riding in the dark, for example. A cyclist injured in such circumstances may also be seen to have failed to adequately protect themselves against the risk of being injured in an accident. In certain circumstances, these failures could even lead to an injured party losing the right to any compensation whatsoever should they be considered to have been the sole cause of the accident.
It is important, therefore, in terms of ensuring adequate protection against injury and in terms of any claim for compensation that may follow, to ensure that you are appropriately dressed and that your bicycle is safe before taking to the roads. Contributory Negligence is a common, yet effective weapon for insurers defending this type of litigation, but is one that can be protected against by ensuring that simple protective measures are taken.
Other common pitfalls that have arisen in cycling accident litigation include:
Although these pitfalls can all have potential to result in a less than full compensation recovery, it is rarely the case that all is lost in terms of a claim for compensation, should one or other of them arise. Often negotiation and legal argument will play an important part in determining the level of compensation achieved. It is therefore important to seek legal advice from a firm of specialist personal injury solicitors to provide appropriate advice and to negotiate on your behalf, should you be injured in any circumstances.
With you every step of the way.