Smith v Finch

A cyclist (pursuer) was severely injured in an accident when hit by a motorcyclist (defender).

The cyclist was not wearing a cycle helmet, and the injuries were to his head. He was slowing down to turn right, and was hit a heavy glancing blow by the motorcyclist.

It was argued that the motorcyclist had been riding in excess of the speed limit. 

The cyclist had made a good physical recovery from his injuries but the major impact of the head injuries was with regard to cognition, behaviour and speech function; he experienced significant problems with memory, concentration and expressive dysphasia; he needed help with every day tasks but most importantly, he developed post traumatic epilepsy.

The Judge's view was as follows:-
Given the guidance to cyclists in the Highway Code that they should wear cycle helmets, the logic of Froom v Butcher as to motorists not wearing seatbelts should be applied also to cyclists not wearing helmets.

It doesn't matter that there's no legal compulsion for cyclists to wear helmets because there can be no doubt that the failure to wear a helmet may expose the cyclist to the risk of greater injury; such a failure would not be ‘a sensible thing to do’ and so, subject to issues of causation, any injury sustained may be the cyclist’s own fault and therefore he has only himself to thank for the consequences.

I am satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the cyclist who does not wear a helmet runs the risk of contributing to his/her injuries. As it is accepted that the wearing of helmets may afford protection in some circumstances, it must follow that a cyclist of ordinary prudence would wear one, no matter whether on a long or a short trip or whether on quiet suburban roads or a busy main road.

However it still remained for the motorcyclist to show that the particular injuries suffered would not have occurred if the cyclist had been wearing a helmet. In this case, he had not achieved that standard. The injuries responsible for the cyclist's residual disabilities were caused by a contre-coup injury – an injury from which a helmet would not have protected the cyclist.


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