Monday, 7 September 2009

Helmets and ‘contributory negligence’

A new legal ruling means that cyclists could be held partially responsible for injuries sustained during accidents if they are not wearing a helmet – even if the accident was not their fault.

“This has left the door open to insurers and their solicitors to argue that damages should be reduced in all cycle cases where the injured person was not wearing a helmet and could lead to a reduction in the levels of compensation being paid out.

“In our experience of other road accident cases, successful contributory negligence claims reduce payments from insurance companies by around 15- 25 per cent.

“Cycling helmets are not designed to withstand the high velocity impacts associated with an accident involving a car or motorcycle. They are simply not made of robust enough materials and their shape means they do not cover the entire head like a motorcycle helmet does.”

Chris Boardman, the former British racing cyclist and Olympic gold medalist, was recently quoted in a national newspaper as saying: “It’s ludicrous that someone should be penalised for not wearing a helmet. Helmets are not designed to take anywhere near the level of damage incurred in a crash.”

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) every year in the UK over 16,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents, including around 2,500 who are killed or seriously injured.