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 Cycling accident - duties of care owed to cyclist by car driver and importance of wearing a helmet
Road traffic accidents

Cycling accident - duties of care owed to cyclist by car driver and importance of wearing a helmet



The increased popularity of cycling can be seen throughout the roads of Scotland. Figures released in 2016 stated that 21% of people in the UK cycled recently, making cycling as a form of exercise as popular as football.

Unfortunately with the increase in cycling comes an increased risk of road traffic accidents and injury. Since 2004 the number of serious injuries caused to adults as a result of cycling accidents has increased by 28%.

85% of all accidents involving pedal cycles involve cars. Given the vulnerability of cyclists, it is important that car drivers take all reasonable precautions to avoid accidents. Motorists should adhere to the duties of care they owe to other road users, including cyclists, to ensure that the level of serious injuries caused to cyclists does not continue to increase.

Motorists owe cyclists a duty of care – the legal position

Car drivers owe a duty of care to cyclists who are travelling on public roads. This duty of care owed is to keep a proper lookout for other road users, including cyclists, and to take reasonable care to avoid causing accidents on roads.

In order to ensure that Scottish roads are as safe as possible, it is important that motorists recognise the duties of care they owe to cyclists.

Wearing a cycle helmet- the current law

Currently, there is no legal duty to wear a cycle helmet in Scotland despite Rule 59 of the Highway Code which states that cyclists should use helmets. When an accident happens, if it is shown that the failure to wear a cycling helmet has contributed partly or wholly to the injuries suffered, any financial damages can be reduced by the percentage that the non-wearing of a helmet contributed to the injury. If it is shown that not wearing a cycling helmet contributed fully to the injuries then no award of compensation will be made to the cyclist.

The Highway Code- guidance to cyclists

Rule 59 of the Highway Code gives some guidance on what is appropriate to improve the personal safety of a cyclist. It recommends:

  • A cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations, which is the correct size and is securely fastened;
  • Light-coloured or fluorescent clothing which helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light;  and
  • Reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) in the dark.

Despite the fact that cyclists adhere to these safety guidelines serious injuries can still occur due to the actions of negligent drivers.

Case study – serious injury suffered by our cyclist client due to negligent motorist

Our Serious Injury team in our Personal Injury department represented a cyclist who was seriously injured on a Scottish road.

How did the cycling accident occur?

Our client, who was an experienced cyclist, was travelling along the main carriageway of a Scottish road. A car overtook him and then turned left immediately in front of the cyclist, giving our client no opportunity to avoid a collision despite our client applying his brakes. His bike collided with the car and the impact of the collision threw him over the bike handlebars.

What duties of care were breached by the car driver?

The car driver failed to drive in a reasonable manner and breached the following duties of care she owed to the cyclist:

  • To take reasonable care for the safety of other road users;
  • Take reasonable care to drive carefully, keep a proper lookout and keep the vehicle under proper control; and
  • Take reasonable care to avoid causing danger to other road users.

An overtaking car owes a duty of care to a cyclist to do so in a safe and reasonable manner. The driver, in this case, failed to exercise reasonable care towards our client. As a result of the car driver’s negligence, our client was seriously injured.

What injuries did the cyclist suffer?

Our client was taken by ambulance to Accident and Emergency and suffered multiple injuries including:

  • Facial fractures
  • Fractured right elbow
  • Dislocated right shoulder and injury to the chest
  • Fractures to both hands
  • Dental injuries including lost tooth
  • Neck and back injury
  • Multiple abrasions and lacerations.

Our clients’ midface fractures required surgery and the insertion of permanent titanium plates. Both his hands were put into plaster casts and the client was admitted to the general surgical ward for head injury observation. Our client required to have reconstructive surgery to his face and was left with permanent scarring to his face and reduction of facial sensation.

As a result of the injury, our client had decreased airflow through the left-hand side of his nose and required to have an operation to correct this. He also had temporary impairment of his vision.

Care following the cycling accident

Following the accident, our client required a significant amount of assistance from his wife for basic personal care. Due to the extent of his injuries, his movement and ability to carry out basic tasks was greatly impaired. For example, our client initially required to be fed liquid food and thereafter required to be spoon-fed. This care was required for a six month period.

Our client was left with permanent injuries that have impaired his quality of life.

Our client required to pay for dental treatment at a cost of over £4000. In addition, he had miscellaneous costs of in excess of £2800 which included replacement clothing, specialist cycling equipment and damaged personal effects.

Cycling helmet- the importance of wearing one for our client

Fortunately, our client was wearing a cycling helmet which was badly damaged by the impact of the collision. Our client was advised that should he not have been wearing the cycling helmet he would have suffered serious head injury or been fatally injured.

In addition to wearing a cycling helmet, our client was also wearing high visibility clothing thereby meeting all recommendations for taking all precautions as set out by the Highway Code. Despite taking all these common senses and sensible precautions the car driver was negligent in the overtaking and left-hand turn manoeuvre. Her driving did not give our client a chance to avoid the injuries he sustained.

Damages recovered for our cyclist client

In this accident, the car driver failed in a number of duties of care owed to our client. As a result of this failure, our client suffered serious injury and significant loss. The law states that all loss and injury that is reasonably foreseeable can be recovered from a negligent party – in this case, the car driver.

We were able to prove that the car driver failed in these duties and that all injuries were caused by the driver’s negligence. We were able to prove negligence on the part of the car driver and we successfully recovered damages for our client.

What did our Serious Injury Personal Injury specialist team do for this client?

Our Personal Injury team are experienced in representing cyclists due to their expert cycling legal knowledge.

We were able to recover damages for our client for all his losses including Personal Injury, treatment costs, services provided to our client and services he was unable to supply as a result of the accident and damage to his specialist cycling equipment including bicycle, helmet and cycling clothing.

Contact our personal injury solicitors

When considering the choice of solicitor, it is important to ensure that injured parties instruct specialised solicitors with knowledge in cycling and experience in serious injury litigation, in order to protect their best interests.

If you’ve suffered a similar injury our solicitors can help you secure the justice and compensation you deserve. Get in touch now for a free chat about your claim.

We will be able to give you an indication of the potential value of your claim. Remember with us you keep 100% of the compensation you receive.

The small print: This blog is for information purposes only and should not be construed in any way as providing legal advice.

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