The CTC wants cyclists to withdraw their custom from the National Insurance and Guarantee Corporation (NIG), part of the Credit Swisse Group after the company reduced an out of court damages offer despite admitting liability for the collision.
NIG is claiming contributory negligence because the cyclist in question was not wearing a helmet. There is no legal requirement for cyclists to wear helmets but the CTC fears that if NIG is successful, cyclists will be forced, in future, to bear some of the responsibility for reckless driving.
CTC Director Kevin Mayne said: "NIG is trying it on not because it believes its stance
is right but because it knows cyclists don't have the money to fight this type of case in court.
"Cases like this are crucial to the future of cycling in the UK. Insurers regularly make spurious claims of contributory negligence and, if we allow NIG to succeed, insurers will continue to duck responsibility for clients' incompetence. NIG's claim is scandalous and
must be dropped."
Alan Millet, from Walsall was struck by a car entering a roundabout on the A41 in Walsall in March 1999. He suffered serious head injuries, a broken collar bone and severe bruising in the crash.
NIG has reduced its out of court offer of £100,000 by 15 per cent claiming contributory negligence because Millett, 63, was not wearing a helmet. The company claims that failure to wear a cycle helmet is as irresponsible as ignoring seatbelt, motorbike helmet and drink driving laws.
The case is not the first in which an insurer has attempted to shift some of responsibility for injuries onto a cyclist when the cyclist has not been at fault. CTC has called on cyclists, and others concerned with road safety to write, call and email NIG to condemn the company's move.
In countries where helmets are mandatory (Australia and New Zealand, for instance), the numbers of cyclists have dropped by up to 40 per cent since compulsion was introduced. CTC says that it is driving standards, not the effect on the victim that should be addressed. In countries such as Holland where there are far more cyclists, very few cyclists wear helmets because motorists drive more safely, and there is more pro-bike infrastructure.
In a case last year, Provident Insurance lost money as outraged cycling clients cancelled policies in protest at one of its decisions. In January 2001 Provident had threatened a negligence claim against the parents of 12-year-old Darren Coombs because Darren, then nine, was not wearing a helmet and was not supervised by an adult when he was hit by a car while riding his cycle. The company was forced to back down when bombarded with furious protests from cyclists who cancelled Provident policies.
The Coombs' case prompted the formation of CTC's Cyclists' Defence Fund, a ring-fenced account set up to protect and improve cyclists' rights in law. It currently totals £17,000, a figure too small to fight Millett's case but CTC has appealed to all those concerned with road safety to dig into their pockets to help.
To make a donation send a cheque made payable to CTC Cyclists' Defence Fund to CTC, 69 Meadrow, Godalming, Surrey GU7 3HS. To set up a regular contribution or join the Cyclists' Defence Network, CTC's network of legal and expert witnesses willing to support the work of the Fund, call 0870 873 0060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
To protest to NIG write to Mr P Bunker, Managing Director, NIG, Crown House, 145 City Road, London EC1V 1LP, call 020 7656 6000 or email email@example.com