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.
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.
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.