This year’s Road Safety Week campaign, run by Brake, the Road Safety Charity, focussed on being Bike Smart. The idea of Road Safety Week is to educate both cyclists and motorcyclists about staying safe whilst out on our roads, as well as raising awareness among other road users of the vulnerability of cyclists and motorcyclists.
Brain Injury Group has supported Road Safety Week for the last 7 years and work with our member firms to interact with primary schools across the country. This year we ran a poster competition at each school for children to put their ideas down on paper as to how cyclists can stand out and be more noticeable on our roads or to design their own cycle helmet.
Paul Fretwell, partner at member firm George Ide, is a keen cyclist, cycling to and from work for much of the year, he notes ‘I see far too many cyclists without helmets. I strongly believe that all cyclists should wear helmets and that riders, pedestrians and drivers can all behave with greater care and consideration to make our roads safe’.
As well as being a keen cyclist, Paul heads up George Ide’s personal injury team and is a specialist in brain, spine and catastrophic injury claims. In this role, he deals with many people who have sustained injury because of a cycling accident, including those who have sustained a head injury.
In this article, Paul looks at the impact not wearing one can have on a personal injury claim.
The impact of NOT wearing a cycle helmet
Firstly, there is no legal obligation to wear a cycle helmet although rule 5.9 of the Highway Code says; “you should wear a cycle helmet of the correct size, which conforms to regulations and is securely fastened”.
Scientific research confirms that cycle helmets provide basic protection for the head and brain. Most experts agree that a cycle helmet is designed and tested to protect a cyclist who is de-stabilised and falls at low speed. Helmets are much less effective, or even ineffective, in high velocity collisions.
When bringing a claim for a head injury because of a cycling accident, most Judges are likely to apply the Highway Code and would decide that a cyclist not wearing a helmet was negligent. This can cause a percentage reduction in the amount of damages payable, known as contributory negligence. However, a Defendant would have to prove that the helmet would have prevented the injury altogether or would have made a considerable difference.
If a Defendant can prove that the injury would have been avoided altogether if a helmet had been worn, they might be successful in obtaining a 25% reduction in the amount of compensation payable, while if the injury would have been a “good deal less severe” then a 15% reduction culd be obtained.
It is common in high value claims for an insurance company to try to obtain a 15% or 25% reduction in the compensation award, with the result that the injured cyclist may not be able to afford the professional care and rehabilitation needed during their lifetime. Good expert evidence is therefore vital.
The impact of not wearing a cycle helmet – Case Studies
In a recent case run by Paul Fretwell, in which a cyclist sustained a head injury and was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, the Defendants withdrew their argument for a deduction to the damages shortly before the final hearing. In this case, the main impact was to the skull, just behind the ear. Expert evidence concluded that the point of the main impact was lower than the area effectively protected by a helmet and that therefore the wearing of a cycle helmet would not have altered the injuries sustained.
In another case a woman who was cycling very slowly and also not wearing a cycle helmet, was hit by an opening van door and knocked from her bike. It was accepted that had she been wearing a cycle helmet at the time of the incident, her injuries may have been less severe, and she was therefore forced to accept a reduced award on the grounds of contributory negligence.
Cyclists are some of our most vulnerable road users with children at particular risk. The charity Brake estimate that around 100 children under the age of 11 are killed or seriously injured in cycling collisions every year, with around 44% of these injuries occurring at times when children are travelling to and from school*. It is important to be aware that low speed falls are frequent and do cause preventable head injury, and that a well fitted, good quality helmet can reduce the risk of serious head injury or brain injury by 69%*.
With almost a quarter of cyclists* involved in crashes suffering a serious head injury – is it really worth the risk of not wearing a cycle helmet?
Tragically those with brain injury can sustain dramatic and life changing damage.
How can Brain Injury Group assist?
If you would like advice about bringing a personal injury claim, capacity, deputyships or managing the award of compensation, we have specialist brain injury solicitors and Court of Protection solicitors who can assist.
You can find full details of Brain Injury Group member firms on our website or there are several ways to get in touch:
- Call us on 0800 612 9660 or 01737 852203 between the hours of 9 am and 5pm
- Email us at [email protected]
- Complete this short enquiry form and we’ll get back to you
Produced with the assistance of Paul Fretwell, Partner at George Ide
Paul is a partner and head of personal injury at Brain Injury Group member firm, George Ide who have offices in Chichester, Guildford and London. Paul is a member of the Law Society Personal Injury Panel and is an APIL accredited brain injury specialist.
George Ide are one of the UK’s leading brain injury claims law firms. For more information about George Ide, see the George Ide Brain Injury Group profile.
*statistics provided by Brake, the Road Safety Charity, during Road Safety Week 2018.