The rules about liability for road crashes need to be changed to make it easier and quicker for cyclists and pedestrians to be compensated if they are injured in collisions with motor vehicles.
Cycling causes little harm to others, but the actions of those engaged in a hazardous activity (i.e. driving), can put cyclists at risk.
Most drivers are generally considerate, but the fact remains that pedestrians and cyclists are disproportionately affected by road crashes and the compensation process is often complex and protracted.
This imbalance could be corrected by introducing ‘presumed liability’ (also known as ‘stricter liability’), a system already common in many west European countries. This is the legal presumption made in civil law that injured cyclists and pedestrians are entitled to compensation from drivers who hit them, unless the victim was obviously at fault.
In collisions between pedal cycles and cars, 99% of the cyclists are injured, but only just over 2% of car occupants.
In road crashes involving pedal cycles and one other vehicle, cyclists are about half as likely to be at fault than the other party.
In most western European countries, the bigger vehicle is presumed responsible in collisions, and/or motor vehicles are held strictly liable for injuries to non-motorised users (NMUs). The exceptions are the UK, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy):
The UK should introduce ‘presumed liability’ rules to compensate cyclists and pedestrians for road crash injuries, as is normal in most west European countries. They should be entitled to full compensation from the driver’s insurance unless the driver (or in practice their lawyers/insurers) can show that the injury was caused by the cyclist or pedestrian behaving in a way that fell well below the standard that could be expected of them, taking account of their age, abilities and the circumstances of the collision.
Findings of ‘contributory negligence’ – i.e. a partial reduction in compensation where the injured party is at least partly at fault – should be exceptional, and certainly not be found against cyclists for: riding without a helmet; riding without high visibility clothing; not using a cycle facility; or for mere technical breaches of the Highway Code’s non-statutory rules for cyclists.
Particularly vulnerable people (e.g. children, the elderly and those with learning difficulties or physical disabilities), should receive full compensation from the driver’s insurance in any event, unless they evidently wanted to harm themselves.
Passing any proportion of the legal costs of pursuing compensation to the innocent victim of a road crash is unfair and wrong. The objective of damages in these cases should be to provide full compensation for injured people both for their injuries and financial losses. They are also a way of holding the person who caused the injury to account.
Taking out third party liability insurance is a sensible precaution for regular cyclists, but it should not be compulsory for everyone wanting to cycle.