Cyclists, Cycle Helmets and Contributory Fault…

Toby Barrett, head of the Personal Injury department, has previously written about the deductions (if any) made from an injured passenger’s award of damages as a result of failure to wear a seatbelt but what of a cyclist who fails to wear a cycle helmet?

Unlike a seatbelt in a car there is no law requiring a cyclist to wear a cycle helmet.

If a cyclist sustains a head injury as a result of the fault of a driver you can be pretty sure that the driver’s insurers will allege that there has been contributory fault on the part of the cyclist and that the cyclist’s award of damages should be reduced as a result if a helmet was not worn.

Toby indicates “I don’t know of any Court decision that has resulted in a cyclist’s damages being reduced as a result of not wearing a cycle helmet “on the road” though there are some decisions indicating that, had the “at fault” motorist been able to show that wearing a helmet would have made a difference to the injuries then a deduction of damages would have been appropriate”.

The counter arguments to an allegation that a reduction in damages should be made include:

  1. There is no law requiring a cyclist to wear a helmet – the last time the matter came before Parliament it was not enacted (there was concern that such a law may reduce the amount of cycling/cyclists). If a cyclist’s damages are to be reduced because of a failure to wear a helmet, why shouldn’t a pedestrian’s damages be reduced or, for that matter, a motorist if it can be shown that wearing a helmet would have made a difference to the injuries sustained?
  2. Even if a Court finds that not wearing a helmet amounts to contributory fault – it is for the person who caused the accident to show that wearing a helmet would have made a difference to the injuries before any deduction should be made.

In short – the matter requires detailed consideration. A Personal Injury lawyer should consider the issues carefully before accepting a reduction for contributory fault.

The information contained in this article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be legal advice. Professional advice should always be taken on the application of the law in any particular situation.