Barristers beware: lay off helmet use for cyclists

A third motor insurer has dropped its negligence claim against a non-helmet wearing cyclist after a crash attributed entirely to driver error.
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Royal Sun Alliance has abandoned its claim for contributory negligence against cyclist Richard Harrison who suffered severe brain damage in a collision on the A695 in Hexham, Northumberland, in May 1999.

The case was settled before coming to court and compensation is expected to be several million pounds. Harrison, from Hexham, now 35, is paralysed in all four limbs. He is entirely dependent on others and will not work again.

His solicitor, John Davis of Irwin Mitchell's Newcastle office, said:

"The admission of liability is a great relief to Richard's family who have fought very determinedly to prove that the accident and Richard's terrible injuries were not at all his fault.

"Insurers are trying to use helmets as an excuse to reduce damages to cyclists and will continue to do so. That means that cyclists' representatives must be vigilant and ensure that they do not succeed."

Multi-nationals Provident Insurance and NIG have both previously tried to force courts to reduce compensation to cyclists after car driving clients hit them in road crashes. In both cases, vociferous protests from CTC and cyclists forced them to drop their claims.

After the Coombs' case in 2001, CTC set up the Cyclists Defence Fund to resist threats to cycling and enhance the position of cyclists, including support for legal cases. CTC has also established the Cyclists' Defence Network to which solicitors and expert witnesses are contributing.

Roger Geffen, Campaigns and Policy Manager at CTC said: "We are determined to stop insurers blaming victims and ducking their obligations. No amount of money can compensate Richard Harrison for his suffering. The message is clear: drivers must be made to take

responsibility for the safety of other road users."

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