27 July 2015
A significant number of personal injury claims we are asked to deal with concern accidents involving cyclists hit by cars. For obvious reasons the cyclist usually ends up as the injured party, and with little protection they can often suffer serious injuries.
Over the years, the courts have frequently concluded that a car driver is likely to be to blame in these situations (and in collisions with pedestrians). Car drivers are in control of a heavy, dangerous machine, and they owe a clear duty to take reasonable care for the safety of other more vulnerable road users.
The recent case of Sinclair v Joyner concerned a car and a cyclist travelling in opposite directions at a bend in the road. The cyclist was riding very close to the centre of the road, and as she rounded the bend she strayed onto the wrong side. The car was travelling at an appropriate speed and within its own lane, and it hit the cyclist.
The judge held that, in this situation, a reasonable car driver should have seen the cyclist, noticed that she was very close to the centre of the road, noticed that she was struggling (she was standing up on her peddles) and anticipated that she might stray into the other lane. Therefore, the car driver should have come to a stop to allow the cyclist to pass, not just slowed down, and the driver is therefore liable to pay compensation to the cyclist.
The cyclist’s compensation is, however, to be reduced by 25% to reflect her own contributory negligence in cycling so close to the centre of the road, when it would have been safer and reasonable to cycle closer to the curb.
This case once again highlights the importance which the courts will give to the provisions in the Highway Code which identify the special care needed in respect of “road users requiring extra care”, including cyclists. It also goes to show that a car driving within the speed limit, correctly positioned may still be regarded as being driven negligently.