The law expects motorists to drive with ‘due care and attention’, and also recognises the fact that cyclists are more vulnerable in the case of an accident than those driving vehicles, for obvious reasons. Careless driving may involve a motorist being distracted while talking on a mobile phone, or simply not paying proper attention to the road in front of them. They may cut corners, overtake dangerously, fail to look before pulling out at junctions, turn corners without indicating, or otherwise drive erratically. Any such behaviour can result in a collision with a cyclist and a claim being made against the motorist.
Accidents commonly occur at junctions and in front of property driveways, both places where motorists may pull out in front of cyclists unexpectedly. It only the takes the smallest of nudges to from a vehicle to cause very serious accidents, with cyclists often being thrown through the air, landing on hard surfaces, and their bicycles being damaged beyond repair. In some cases, a motorist will drive off without exchanging details with the cyclist with whom they have collided, however, compensation will still be available from the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB), the government body set up to compensate the victims of untraced drivers.
Roundabouts and traffic lights are common locations for accidents involving motorists and cyclists, and as long as it is possible to show that a motorist was not driving with due care and attention at the time, they will be held legally liable for the accident. Motorists often fail to notice cyclists, which may be the result of lack of attention, obstructed visibility due to congestion or bad weather, the layout of the roundabout or junction, adverse weather conditions, excess speed or careless driving.
As with all road traffic accidents, liability will sometimes be split, with both parties in some measure to blame for the incident, although generally the motorist involved will be obliged to prove that they were not responsible, reflecting the relative lack of protection that a bicycle affords its rider in the event of a collision with a motorist.
In the aftermath of a collision with a motor vehicle, a cyclist should try to obtain both the motorist’s details and those of any witnesses. Mobile phone photos of the scene of the accident, the cyclist’s injuries, and the damage done to their bicycle, can all later prove useful in support of a claim. Compensation will be paid out for physical injury, mental trauma, damage to property, the cost of medical treatment, and loss of earnings due to time off work. The burden of proof will be on the motorist rather than the cyclist to prove they were not to blame for an accident, the reason why many claims are successful.
Can A Cyclist Sue An Unidentified Motorist?
Our client was a cyclist who suffered a serious back injury after he was knocked off his bike by a motorist and later successfully claimed £60,000 in compensation. Mr F was cycling along a city road when a car pulled out in front of him from a side street. He was unable to brake in time to avoid a collision, and was sent flying over the bike’s handlebars, landing 10 feet away on the tarmac road surface.
Mr F was in severe pain and couldn’t move following the accident. An ambulance was called to take him to hospital, where an X-ray showed that he had sustained a fracture to his lower spine. He was unable to return to work for 3 months after the accident, during which time he was in continual pain and discomfort.
Mr F got in touch with Bartletts Solicitors after reading about a case we had previously handled involving similar circumstances to his own. We agreed to represent him on a No Win No Fee basis in a personal injury claim against the motorist in question. Fortunately in this case, a van driver who was behind Mr F’s bike at the time had dashcam footage that was important in establishing the circumstances of the accident. We were also able to obtain the vehicle’s registration number after requesting the police incident report, and were therefore able to submit our client’s claim to the motorist’s insurers relatively quickly.
Mr F experienced ongoing pain and weakness in his lower back following the accident, and had also lost a considerable sum in earnings during his enforced time off work. Within a few months of starting the claim, the insurer’s accepted full liability for the accident, and Mr F received a sum in compensation, which he was ultimately satisfied with.
A recent client of Bartletts Solicitors was a cyclist who was hit by a car while he was stationary at a set of traffic lights on a Merseyside street. Mr T was waiting for the lights to change when the car crashed into the back of his bicycle, throwing him over the handlebars and leaving him lying injured in the road. Fortunately Mr T was wearing a protective helmet at the time of the accident, otherwise he would have sustained much more serious and potentially life-threatening injuries.
Passing pedestrians immediately called an ambulance, and Mr T was taken from the scene of the accident to hospital, where an X-ray showed that he had broken the tibia bone in his right leg and had also suffered a dislocated wrist and extensive bruising to his body. While Mr T ultimately made a full recovery from his injuries, he was forced to use crutches for months after the accident and required ongoing physiotherapy to rebuild strength and flexibility in his lower leg.
During his rehabilitation Mr T contacted Bartletts Solicitors after reading about our experience with road traffic and cycling accident claims in Liverpool and Merseyside, and we subsequently agreed to represent him on a no win no fee basis in a claim against the driver of the car that had crashed into him. In correspondence with the motorist’s insurers we argued that the driver had clearly not been driving with ‘due care and attention’ immediately prior to the accident, as he would otherwise have seen Mr T in his high visibility cycling clothing waiting for the traffic lights to turn green.
The motorist later admitted to being distracted by his mobile phone as he approached the traffic lights, and that this was the reason for him failing to brake in time to avoid colliding with Mr T. Within months of starting the claim we were able to win a full admission of liability and negotiate a compensation settlement totalling £6,750 on our client’s behalf. Mr T’s compensation was paid out under the terms of the motorist’s insurance policy, and included a sum in excess of £500 to cover the cost of replacing his bicycle.
Cycling accidents have risen dramatically since the series of lockdowns began in March 2020, with car insurance provider More Than reporting a 50% rise in claims for accidents involving cyclists, pedestrians and motorists, as well as an increase in the share of motoring claims for collisions involving cyclists from 10% to 15%.
This upsurge is seemingly at odds with the fact that traffic levels have fallen significantly, with many people avoiding the daily commute by working from home, and roads far emptier than usual. While it is impossible to pinpoint a single major cause, a number of factors appear to be contributing to the situation.
Firstly, more and more people are choosing to cycle to work and to get around towns and cities, thereby avoiding public transport and maintaining social distancing. At the same time, the government continues to allocate money from the £2 billion fund it announced in May 2020 to promote alternative and greener forms of transport, and to encourage people to take more exercise to the benefit of both their physical and mental health.
In November, the Department of Transport announced £175m in funding for councils in England to create safe spaces for cyclists and walkers, including Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and segregated cycle lanes. With an increasing number of cyclists on the roads and many choosing to cycle in public for the first time, a rise in the number of accidents would appear to be a logical consequence.
Further reasons that have been suggested include an increase in speeding among motorists taking advantage of emptier roads, and the fact that drivers still using the roads present more of a risk to cyclists and pedestrians than more careful and cautious motorists who are opting for other forms of transport or else remaining at home.
It can only be hoped that government initiatives to reallocate road space and create safer environments for cyclists will reverse this worrying trend, and that the undoubted benefits of fewer cars and more bikes on UK roads will include a fall in the number of crashes involving cyclists and motorists.