Cyclists who don’t wear helmets can be guilty of contributory negligence
February 4, 2009
A new High Court judgment means cyclists who don’t wear helmets can be guilty of contributory negligence if they are injured in a road accident in the UK.
Considering a case where a cyclist and motorcyclist collided (Smith v Finch 2009), Mr Justice Griffith Williams ruled that the cyclist could have been found partly liable if wearing a helmet would have prevented or reduced his or her injuries.
In this particular case, it was accepted that a helmet would not have protected the cyclist, Robert Smith, because of the speed at which he hit the ground.
But Richard Brooks from law firm Withy King told BikeRadar that this ruling means that if you are injured and a cycle helmet could have reduced your injuries, you may not be able to recover full compensation.
Cyclists who “expose themselves to a greater degree of injury” by not wearing a helmet can now be found to be negligent, even though it is not a legal requirement in the UK to wear head protection when cycling. However, for this to happen it would have to be proved – using medical and other evidence – that a helmet would have prevented all of their injuries or made them a good deal less severe.
[Update 7 Feb]
The CTC is taking legal advice on challenging a court ruling which could leave cyclists liable to contributory negligence if not wearing a helmet when injured.
Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy manager for the CTC, called the High Court judgement in the case of Smith v Finch, “concerning,” and said the national cyclists’ association would be consulting its lawyers to prevent cyclists potentially losing out on compensation in the future.