Thorley Stephenson, Edinburgh Law Firm

Thorley Stephenson SSC is an Edinburgh based law firm providing a wide range of legal services in family, child and criminal court cases throughout Scotland. Tel: 0131 556 9599
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Does Wearing a Helmet Impact Personal Injury Claim for Cyclists?

Cycling can be a fun and enjoyable way to exercise while making your daily commute; however, cyclists across the UK are at greater risk of injury from road traffic accidents than drivers.

Official statistics show that 1,011 out of 3,397 (29.7%) cyclists were seriously injured in road accidents in 2016. Likewise, 30 of 102 (29.45) cyclist fatalities were caused by road accidents compared to 26 serious injuries and two fatalities of motorists within the same period.

Cyclists are severely less protected on roads than drivers which is why personal injury claims fought by cyclists are typically defended on the basis that the cyclist in question was not wearing the correct protective gear. The vast majority of cycling-related injury is head injuries, so it may come as a surprise that wearing a helmet is not compulsory by law.

Although it is not explicitly illegal not to wear a helmet, the general recommendation is that they should be worn. Rule 59 of the Highway Code, for example, states that a cyclist “should wear” a “helmet which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened”. The Scottish Government’s Road Safety Framework to 2020 (2009), too, emphasises the importance to “encourage the wearing of correctly fitted helmets by cyclists, especially children.”

In the UK, cycle helmets are made from polystyrene and, since 2005, are designed to conform to European General Product Safety Regulations meaning that they must be able to protect the user’s head when striking a flat surface at 12mph and a kerb at 10mph. Crucially, these regulations may not make much difference when being hit by a car travelling over 20mph. Moreover, there is no specific law banning the sale of helmets that do not meet these standards – even if the packaging claims it does correspond with current regulations.

What’s the impact?

Though wearing a helmet is not compulsory by law, it is still recommended by the Highway Code and, as the code is relevant in civil law cases (which personal injury claims are), not wearing a helmet will be taken into consideration during court.

Although the failure to wear the correct protective gear will not stop someone from making a claim, for the reason stated above, it does mean that the claimant may face contributory negligence. This means that if a victim contributes to an accident, the court can reduce the amount of compensation awarded. In relation to helmets, the general reductions are:

  • 25% when wearing a helmet would have wholly prevented an injury, and
  • 15% when a helmet would have reduced the severity of the injury.

However, it is important to note that this is not always the case. Often, the safety parameters of helmets have to be taken into account to assess whether or not wearing a helmet would have any effect on the injury; a medical professional is usually consulted for this.

These claims are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. However, though it is not illegal, the best recommendation is to wear the correct helmet when cycling.

Contact our Personal Injury Lawyers, Edinburgh

If you are a cyclist and have been in a road traffic accident, contact our specialist lawyers today to see if you can make a claim

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