Cyclist’s Fine Is A Warning To All

Bicycle claims specialist lawyer James Pritchard looks at the legal issues surrounding a recent case in which a pedestrian ended up in a coma after being hit by a cyclist.

James PritchardIn my job as a personal injury solicitor, I usually look after the interests of cyclists injured by motorists who have failed to live up to their duty to drive with sufficient care and attention.

But the unfortunate case of a cyclist who must pay more than £1,000 in fines and costs after seriously injuring a pedestrian should serve as a warning to all road users.

Reeve Allen rode through a red light at a pedestrian crossing, hitting 34-year-old City worker Anthony Da Costa and fracturing his skull.

An off-duty doctor in a nearby coffee shop came to give Mr Da Costa CPR, which may have saved his life, but he was in a coma for six days and could not return to work for 10 weeks

Mr Allen, 26, of Nunhead, appeared before Hammersmith Magistrates Court where he admitted charges of cycling without due care and attention and causing serious injury.

Witnesses said Mr Allen had gone through a red light, a fact backed up by CCTV footage. He was fined £850 and ordered to pay £150 in costs and an £85 victim surcharge.

The case demonstrates just how important it is for all road users to look out for each other. Cyclists are extremely vulnerable to motor vehicle and often suffer serious injuries on the roads.

However, cyclists themselves can pose a significant risk to pedestrians, especially at pedestrian crossings where they interact.

Road bikes can easily travel at speeds in the region of 30km per hour. Hitting a vulnerable pedestrian at this speed will cause injuries, potentially very serious ones, as in this case. Just as you shouldn’t travel at excess speed in a motor car, the same applies to cyclists – especially in built up high-density urban areas.

Some cyclists also “jump” red lights, arguing that it makes them more visible to motorists and thus less vulnerable. But the rules of the road apply to all road users. Their purpose it to keep everyone safe, including pedestrians.

Mr Da Costa, from Westminster, who remembers nothing about the accident, is reportedly considering suing Mr Allen. He told newspapers he was surprised there was no compensation in such cases, as there would be if he was hit by a car and could claim against the insurance company.

He had spent up to £700 on medical care, cancelled a holiday and paid for taxis to get him around during his recovery.

Mr Da Costa isn’t alone in being surprised by the insurance position regarding cyclists. There is no requirement for mandatory public liability insurance, as there is for motor car drivers.

What’s more, the Motor Insurers Bureau – which compensates the victims of uninsured or untraced motor vehicle drivers – will not compensate someone injured by a cyclist, as a bicycle is not classed as a motor vehicle.

This can often leave those injured as a result of a cyclist’s negligence struggling to recover compensation for often very serious injuries and financial losses.

The cyclist may be held personally responsible. However, if he doesn’t have sufficient financial assets to cover a judgement against him, this may prove an expensive process that ends up achieving little for the victim.

Many home contents insurance policies do include public liability insurance for accidents caused away from the home. It’s worth investigating this, although you will be reliant on the cyclist to provide their home insurance details.

If they don’t have either home insurance or significant financial assets, then, unfortunately, you may find it difficult to recover compensation.

Some cyclists, including me, choose to purchase optional insurance to protect themselves against any damage caused outside the home. Such insurance is surprisingly cheap and often comes with additional benefits, such as payments to the cyclist themselves if they are injured as a result of an accident which is their own fault – this is invaluable if you ride off-road trails regularly, as I do.

Having such insurance does not mean you can disregard the rules of the road, but it does provide peace of mind that if an accident happens and I hurt someone else in the process, they will, at least, be compensated for their losses.

Finally, there is the question of whether such insurance should be compulsory for cyclists. I personally think that would be a good idea, but I doubt that such a law will end up on the statute book any time soon.

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