November 4, 2013

Cyclists without helmets risk losing compensation

Cyclists who don’t wear helmets may lose up to one-quarter of their compensation if they are injured in an accident, warns Mark Hambleton of Withy King's Personal Injury team.

Although it is not compulsory to wear a cycle helmet, a Judge stated in a recent case* that an injured cyclist who chooses not to wear one is potentially at ‘fault’ and runs the risk of being found to have contributed to his own injuries in the event of an accident caused by another party.

With winter approaching and many cyclists now commuting to and from work in challenging conditions, Withy King is keen to highlight this important issue as it may cause those who choose not to wear a helmet to reconsider their position.

“This case is significant because it raises the possibility that cyclists who choose not to wear helmets may have their personal injury compensation reduced by up to 25 per cent if it can be shown that wearing a helmet would have prevented or reduced the severity of their injuries,” explained Mark Hambleton, a keen cyclist and solicitor at Withy King. “It is unlikely that many people will be aware of this given that wearing a helmet is not actually mandatory. They may assume that blame will lie with the person responsible for causing the accident – not realising that they may have to accept an element of contributory negligence if they weren’t wearing a helmet at the time.

“There are various lobbies for and against wearing helmets and at present, cyclists are free to choose because the benefits of wearing a helmet have not been proven. However, they need to be aware that the judiciary believes cyclists should wear helmets so those who decide not to are taking a chance with their damages if they are injured.

“Many cyclists decide not to wear a helmet. There are a number of reasons for this but there is an argument that cyclists wearing a helmet are more likely to have an accident. It is believed that motorists assume these cyclists are well protected and drive less cautiously around them.

“The judiciary’s leaning towards contributory negligence raises an interesting question. If a cyclist who is not wearing a helmet and a pedestrian were involved in the same accident caused by a motorist and suffered the same injuries, would the pedestrian be compensated in full and the cyclist only in part? Assuming a helmet would have reduced the cyclist’s injuries, there is a real chance this could happen but it would not create a fair result.”

According to RoSPA, approximately 19,000 cyclists are injured or killed in reported road traffic accidents in the UK every year. The number injured in unreported accidents is likely to be two or three times higher. The most dangerous hours for cyclists are reportedly between 8am and 9am and 3pm and 6pm.

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