A female cyclist (Sinclair) was cycling along a country lane which was approximately 5 meters wide. She was standing up on the pedals and had taken up a central position on the road. As she proceeded, she was confronted with a large 4x4 vehicle driven by Joyner. The vehicle was 2.1 metres wide and upon seeing the cyclist, the driver slowed her vehicle. As they passed each other, the cyclist’s front wheel struck the rear offside (driver’s side) wheel of the 4x4 causing her to lose control of her bike and fall.
The cyclist struck her head and sustained serious injuries to the extent that she could not give evidence at the trial. The car driver claimed that the cyclist was off-balance and looked to be unsteady saying, “she (the cyclist) was going to fall off her bike whether I was there or not." The Judge found this evidence unreliable in the circumstances and instead relied upon expert evidence which identified the point of impact between the cyclist’s front tyre and the rear offside tyre of the 4x4. It was held that this “glancing blow” between the two tyres caused the cyclist to fall. Primary liability was therefore established on the part of the car driver because she failed to stop to allow the cyclist to pass on the narrow country road.
However, the Judge also found the cyclist to be partly at fault because of her central positioning on the road. Had she been to the nearside of the road, the collision would not have occurred. The Judge assessed the cyclist's own contribution to the collision at 25%. This is known as contributory negligence which has the result of reducing any award of compensation by the percentage determined.
It is also worth noting the Judge's comments on the cyclist’s lack of helmet. This was a case where the cyclist sustained a severe head injury. However, the legal team representing the driver did not produce medical evidence in support of the contention that had the cyclist been wearing a helmet, the injury would have been avoided or would have been less severe.
“71.The Defendant also pleads, at paragraph 11 (d) of the Defence, that the Claimant was negligent in failing to wear a cycle helmet. This was not explored in the evidence and Mr Freeman made no submissions upon it in his closing arguments. As Mr Martin observed, no court has yet decided that failing to wear a helmet actually amounts to contributory negligence, although they have come close (see Smith v Finch  EWHC 53 (QB). In the present case, the Claimant was an adult enjoying a bicycle ride in the countryside on a sunny day. There was no medical evidence adduced to show that failing to wear a helmet made the Claimant's injuries worse, and the subject was not addressed in submissions. I therefore reject that allegation of contributory negligence in this case.”
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