A recent court decision could have important repercussions for bicycle accident claims
Simon Reynolds was employed by estate agents, Strutt and Parker and took part in a team building exercise. The event was described as “active and energetic” but the exact circumstances were kept secret from employees until the day when it was revealed to be a cycle race. Simon was allocated a bike which was stood next to a rack of cycle helmets. Unfortunately he chose not to wear a helmet and just short of the finish line he was involved in a collision which left him with brain damage.
Simon sued his employers and last week the judgment was made known. He succeeded in his head injury claim because it was shown that Strutt and Parker had failed to properly risk assess the race. However, the compensation he was awarded was reduced by 66% on the basis that he had cycled in a dangerous manner (which had contributed to the cycle accident) but also because he hadn’t worn a helmet.
Although a deduction in compensation for head injuries if the rider is not wearing a helmet has been common in out of court settlements for a while this is the first time a Court has made the reduction. Judges have previously expressed a view that riding a bike without a helmet is negligent as it is contrary to the Highway Code recommendation that “you should wear a cycle helmet that conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and correctly fastened.” The only thing stopping a reduction being made to date was the lack of evidence on how effective helmets are at preventing head injury.
What made the Simon Reynolds case different is that it involved a collision between two cyclists, whereas previous cases had involved collisions with motor vehicles. Cycle helmets are only required to be tested to impact speeds of 12mph, which is the speed of a fall to the ground from a bike saddle. If a vehicle is involved there is a lack of proof that the injury would have been prevented had a helmet been worn. But the judge in Reynolds felt that in his case the impact speed was probably within the 12 mph test range.
We expect insurers to now use this decision to push harder for deductions and for Courts to make similar findings in low impact collisions where a rider isn’t wearing a helmet and has suffered a head injury.
Northern Ireland came close recently to making cycle helmets mandatory and in the UK there is a new bill before parliament would make helmets compulsory for children under 14, but for the moment the decision whether or not to wear a cycle helmet still rests with the cyclist.
James McNally is an accident solicitor in the personal injury department of Slee Blackwell Solicitors and can be contacted at email@example.com
More information about head injury law – https://www.headinjurylaw.co.uk/