Saracens Blog

Would Bradley Wiggins ever claim compensation for a cycling injury?

Bradley Wiggins’ sensational triumph at the Tour De France last week is an inspiration to us all and was a high point for the entire nation. Indeed, Wiggins overturned conventional ‘tour wisdom’ that it was a disadvantage to wear the prestigious yellow jersey early on in the tour. He led from the front and his success boils down to his exceptional athletic ability and astute tactical nous as a front runner cyclist. In essence, he successfully broke the mould.

He has brought excitement and momentum to the sport of cycling not just for athletes but also for us keen every day cyclists making our way to and from work, or those of us just generally trying to keep fit. In the UK, cycling has become a phenomenon whose popularity is at fever pitch as a result of the nation’s collective desire to go ‘green’. Like most phenomena, Wiggins is somewhat of a role model. Many of us aspire to be like him and do what he does in the saddle and outside of it.

His magnificent victory for Britain has again raised the question of whether the roads in this country are safe for cyclists. Other road users may be adequately protected but it is clear that cyclists are not. Bradley Wiggins like other cyclists, is not immune to the unpredictability of lurking dangers of what can potentially happen on the roads.

There is no doubt that cyclists are a different kind of ‘animal’ to motorists in terms of their attitude to the environment, personal fitness and social responsibility. I also see a difference between the groups when it comes to each party’s propensity to claim compensation for a cycling injury.

Car drivers and passengers exist in a world where they now claim compensation for the slightest injury whereas cyclists appear to be of ‘hardier’ stock – They contend with multiple dangers, scrapes, falls, knocks, potholes, extreme weather but when compared to car drivers and passengers, they rarely claim compensation for a cycling injury. Should they now start to do this and is this what is needed to force other motorists to take more care around cyclists? I guess the question that I am asking is that if Bradley Wiggins claimed compensation for a cycling injury, would this encourage other cyclists to do the same and in turn force other road users to take more care around cyclists?

Cyclists know of the hidden hazards of being on the open road, from the danger of rear end shunts, car doors unexpectedly opening, cars overtaking without looking in their mirrors;  turning lorries and buses. In fact many injured cyclists who end up claiming compensation for a cycling injury are painfully aware of the vulnerability and exposure they face on a daily basis on the roads. There are still comparatively few claims for compensation by them as their culture doesn’t encourage it.

Although road safety campaigns seem to have focused on pedestrian and car user safety, recently there has been a drive by the government to encourage us to ‘get on our bikes’. Whilst this is a bonus for reducing road traffic congestion it has not in any way reduced the number of cycling fatalities and serious injuries.

On the darker side, insurance companies continue to maintain budgets when it comes to dealing with victims who are claiming compensation for a cycling injury, but the number of cyclists suffering injuries is on the increase.

In my many years of private practice advising those who have suffered injuries on the road, I have found that the increasing number of injuries is a proven fact, despite concentrated road safety campaigns and this is finally starting to lead to an increase in accident victims claiming compensation for a cycle injury.

Recently in the news it was announced that there has been a stark 33% rise in pedestrian deaths in just one year and the “highest number of cycling injuries” for a decade. Coincidently the number of cycling fatalities has been on the up since 2005 and at its highest level since 2006.

Although Transport for London have indicated that they are now reviewing cycling safety policies, sadly for a lot of cyclists out there  it is a case of “too little too late.”  In 2011 there were 3730 cyclist killed or injured on UK roads. Compare this to 2010 when then the department of transport reported 117 cycle deaths alone on British roads.

When victims are claiming compensation for a cycling injury, there are a number of tactics which insurers and Defendants use in order to try to reduce or negate any compensation payable. They will place extra emphasis on whether or not the cyclist was wearing a bicycle helmet, whether appropriate protective footwear and lighting was being used etc… Interestingly, the Highway Code itself does not insist on all these forms of protection being used by a cyclist so these tactics should not put us off from claiming compensation for a cycling injury. Please note that I am not advocating cycling without a crash helmet or alternate protective equipment but asking you to look at the reality of the situation.

Think about it. What difference would the style of helmet used by a cyclist make in the event that he suffers a serious leg injury?  Common sense tells us that it is irrelevant. Yet it is a question that insurance companies will still ask. In my experience, lack of helmets or safety wear is the number one argument used by insurance companies to withhold payment of damages when cyclists attempt to claim compensation for a cycling injury.

Insurance companies all too often attempt to use their usual reasoning that a victim who is claiming compensation for a cycling injury, must have caused or contributed to their own pain and suffering by not wearing appropriate safety equipment. It should be remembered that in high speed impact cases, correct use of safety equipment makes little or no difference to the injuries suffered.

Injury claims arising out of cycling accidents are therefore on the increase despite the fact that in many cases, criminal prosecutions are abandoned because of a reluctance to blame car drivers for the injuries.

This can be a complex area of fact and evidence gathering but when claiming compensation for a cycling injury, if one can establish that there has been a degree of negligence by a driver, then more often than not, financial damages will follow. Success in claiming compensation for a cycling injury depends very much on seeking legal advice very quickly. Securing the evidence early and fact gathering is vital as is the choice of experts.

As we live in an era where there are constant articles in the press about injury management companies, lawyers and victims of cycling accidents, quite often victims feel there is a lack of confidence or uncertainty about whom to approach when they start claiming compensation for a cycling injury.

High quality expert forensic and engineering evidence may be needed to determine the precise cause of an accident. Often this is not appreciated by the accident victim so it is vital that they get correct legal advice from the start.

If you are a cyclist and are contemplating claiming compensation for a cycling injury, at Saracens, you will always receive quality legal advice from specialist personal injury lawyers with extensive experience in personal injury.

When claiming compensation for a cycling injury during the course of adventure cycling events organised, for example by a school or employers or by a cycling club, the issue of who is liable (particularly if there are various parties involved) needs early speedy scrutiny. There are technical regulations in place concerning health and safety and you should remember that every effort will be made by whoever it is that you are claiming against to avoid compensating you.

When you are claiming compensation for a cycling injury, professional legal advice will keep you on the right track. Don’t be embarrassed to stand your ground and make a claim. It is your legal right.

That is why although I don’t wish injury upon him, I do believe that someone like Bradley Wiggins, a high profile cyclist making a claim for compensation would send out the right signals to us cyclists and encourage us to do the same. Hopefully it would make the streets of London a safer place for us all.

 

Minal Popat
Personal Injury
Saracens Solicitors

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