Current justice system for vulnerable road users doesn't work

Jennifer WallaceCyclist, Jennifer Wallace, spent her 49th birthday in Intensive Care after a 78 year-old driver caused her to fall off her bike.

Jennifer sustained ten broken bones in her neck and spine, fractured ribs, a collapsed lung and a significant head injury.

It was a life-threatening event; yet, because Jennifer’s injuries meant that she has no recollection of the accident, the Procurator Fiscal determined that a criminal prosecution could not be pursued and the driver’s insurance company persistently claimed the collision was her fault.

The accident took place on the B6461 in the Scottish Borders on 21st April 2015 and only after an 18-month emotional roller coaster has her road to recovery led to some level of justice through a civil action.

Jennifer fully expected the police to charge the driver but that didn’t happen for a number of months and only after a second police investigation. No evidence and only partial witness statements were taken at the scene of the accident and the initial police report concluded that Jennifer’s injuries were ‘slight’. No statement was taken from Jennifer until the time of the second police investigation.

But, even accepting the limitations of the police investigations, the behaviour of the insurance company was arguably even more stressful for Jennifer. For four months, the driver’s insurance company, Ageas Insurance, persistently refused to admit any liability. Initially, it refused to pay for physical and psychological treatments to help in Jennifer’s recovery and when they did, only for a limited period.

When the case was eventually transferred to the insurer’s solicitors in January 2016, Jennifer was given an ultimatum to accept a settlement. It was refused as inadequate due to the nature of her injuries and ongoing treatments.

Proceedings were raised by Cycle Law Scotland on Jennifer’s behalf in September 2016. Ageas Insurance stated Jennifer had fallen as a result of hitting a pothole, ignoring the fact that at the time their driver had been overtaking Jennifer and was clearly far too close.

Before the case reached court, the insurance company made an offer to settle. The amount was twice the original sum proposed and represented the full value of the claim.

Despite the setback, Jennifer is now pain free and, with the immense support of her family and friends, has been determined to get back on her replacement bike. She began cycling again earlier this year and since then, has cycled more than 1,700 miles, including a 140-mile Coast to Coast charity ride to raise more than £1,000.

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