2012 was really the Year of the Cyclist in the UK, a time when the success of Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France and the all-conquering Olympic cycling team raised the profile of the sport to new heights. And for the second year running we had a cyclist as the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. From the level of Olympic competition down, interest in cycling has exploded and bike sales and club membership have shot up. More and more of us cycle, competitively or leisurely, on or off road, round the track or to work and back. We do BMX, cycle-cross, paracycling, mountain biking and Boris Biking.
Osbornes’ team of cycle collision claims lawyers are all keen cyclists and many of us commute to our office in Camden by bicycle.
We are familiar with the dangers cyclists face in London, with congested roads, super junctions, assertive (ahem) taxi drivers and left-turning lorries. It is not a place for the feint hearted but like most cyclists in London we believe the rewards outweigh the risks. It is a cheaper, healthier and much more pleasurable way to get to work than taking the bus or tube.
We wear bike helmets and fit lights and reflective gear, but cyclists can still be hard to see and we travel silently at 10 – 20 mph. Most days on London’s roads we experience a near miss or a dangerous situation because the driver of a vehicle has not seen us.
In our experience the following situations are common causes of cyclist casualties:
vehicle approaching from opposite carriageway turns right across your path without giving way to you and you collide with its nearside
vehicle emerges from side road to your left into your path (turning left or right) without giving way to you and you collide with its offside
you are overtaking or undertaking stationary traffic when a vehicle turns into your path without looking
lorry turning left at a junction fails to see you in the nearside lane
pothole or other defect in the road makes you lose control of the bike
vehicle door is opened into your path as you pass by, causing a collision
vehicles, particularly lorries, vans and buses, failing to leave enough room as they pass on the offside of cyclists.
Every year in this country over 15,000 cyclists are injured in reported road collisions of this sort. More than 2,300 are killed or seriously injured.
In 2012 London saw an increase in the number of serious injury cases to 555, a 21% increase on the previous years’s figures and the highest figure since records began (source: Transport for London). 16 cyclists lost their lives in the capital in 2012. More than half of those fatalities involved lorries.
At Osbornes solicitors we deal with many serious cases involving HGVs and cyclists. We often hear the argument that the lorry driver did not and could not see the cyclist because they were “in my blind spot”. But that is no defence to a claim that the driver failed to keep a proper lookout: lorries are now – thanks to a European Directive – required to fit wide angle and blind spot external mirrors or cameras for that very reason. Left turning lorries are a hazard to cyclists, particularly in London, because the drivers do not have the correct mirrors fitted or do not use them.
Recent case studies
Mr P, a man in his twenties, was cycling to work in London one morning, when as he approached a crossroads where he had right of way, a white van suddenly pulled out of the crossroads in front of him. Mr P tried to brake and swerve to avoid the van, but there was not enough time and he crashed into the side of the van, falling off his bike and injuring his head, face, right arm, right hand and right knee as a result.
The driver of the white van initially denied liability for the accident, but having obtained a witness statement from a passer-by who had seen the accident and who supported Mr P’s allegations, we were able to persuade the van driver’s insurers to admit liability. Osbornes eventually obtained £5,500 in damages for Mr P, which as well as compensating him for his injuries, also compensated him for the damage sustained to his bike, and for the travel expenses that he had obtained using public transport whilst he recovered from his injuries.
Mr P’s collision is an example of a common problem faced by cyclists, particularly on the streets of London, with motorists failing to look out for them at junctions. In Mr P’s case there was absolutely no warning that the van would pull out of the junction in front of him, leaving Mr P with nowhere to go other than into the side of the van.
Mr B, also a man in his twenties, was cycling along a road in West London, when he started to slow down as he approached a queue of traffic. As he did this he was passing a side road to his left. At this point, the defendant, who was driving his car in the opposite direction and attempting to turn right into the road to Mr B’s left, failed to spot Mr B and drove straight into him, knocking him off his bike in the process.
Mr B suffered injuries to his neck, lower back and right knee. Following an admission of liability from the defendant’s insurers and having obtained an initial medical report which diagnosed Mr B’s neck as his most serious injury, a further medical report had to be obtained when Mr B’s neck did not recover as quickly as anticipated. Eventually we were able to settle Mr B’s case for £6,500, which included several hundred pounds towards his travel costs, incurred whilst he recovered from his injuries.
This is a further example of a cyclist being injured in an accident which was no fault of their own, caused by a driver failing to look out for cyclists at a junction. Such accidents are common on our roads and have led to calls for increased safety measures to be introduced to make major junctions in London more cyclist friendly.
Mr N, a Canadian police inspector on secondment in London, was riding along a cycling lane at the side of a main road when the passenger door of a stationary car was suddenly opened into his path. He was knocked off his bike and suffered several injuries, the worst of which was a nasty forearm fracture/dislocation that required surgical plating. The fracture failed to unite and so because the prognosis for recovery was unclear the settlement must await the outcome of recent bone grafting surgery.
A young lady who was cycling along a main road in North London, when a car failed to see her as it turned out of a side road. The car drove into our client’s bike, knocking the cyclist off her bike and into the road. She suffered a fractured wrist as a result of the collision.
Osbornes were first contacted by this lady a few days after her collision, and she received her compensation cheque 9 months later. The insurance company acting for the defendant had tried to settle the claim a few months earlier for substantially less than the final figure, but following our advice, our client decided to wait a few months longer to obtain all the necessary medical evidence to reach a settlement that was a fair reflection of the injury she had suffered.
Osbornes’ solicitor Sam Collard was able to settle the claim for just under £6,000, recovering money for the lady’s injury as well as the cost of repairing her bike and money for the extra travel costs that she had incurred. These travel costs were incurred whilst her wrist injury prevented her from riding her bike to work and meant that she had to use public transport instead. She kept all of the compensation recovered and did not need to pay Osbornes anything at all.
Mr Y was cycling to work on his bike when a passing car clipped his handlebars and he fell into the road. He suffered a scaphoid fracture to the right wrist and will require surgery in the future. His losses included additional travel expenses (he was no longer able to ride his bike to work) and his claim is in the process of settling for over £20,000.
Osbornes supports the campaigning work of British Cycling, the national charity CTC and the London Cycling Campaign. We want to see London’s worst junctions (e.g. Elephant & Castle, Vauxhall Cross) redesigned, 20 mph speed limits introduced and greater use of cycling lanes and cycle boxes at junctions
We have created a national road accident map which collates government figures and shows the details of all road accidents recorded in 2011, in each case identifying the location, the severity of the injury, the type of vehicle involved, the weather conditions and other variables.
It shows that within a mile of our office in Camden there were a total of 98 road accident casualties, including 12 serious injury cases and two fatalities in 2011. The map is interactive, so that if you have been unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident you can enter the details straight on to the map and we will use the figures for 2012 and 2013 as evidence in the campaign for safer roads for cyclists in London.