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High Court judge says rider should have been looking where he was going

Keep your eyes on the road. That’s the message from the High Court in Northern Ireland, which has reduced the damages awarded to a cyclist involved in a collision with a car because the judge found that looking at his heart rate monitor amounted to contributory negligence.

The court awarded Conor McAllister over £50,000 in damages after finding that driver John Campbell was responsible for the injuries Mr McAllister sustained when he hit Mr Campbell’s car in November 2009.

But the damages would have been £70,000 if Mr McAllister had been looking where he was going.

According to a report in the News Letter, the car and rider were on the dual carriageway outside Ballymena when the incident happened. Mr McAllister was heading out toward Broughshane at the beginning of a ride.

Mr Campbell said he had pulled over to give his sister-in-law a lift. He said he had been stationary for 30 seconds when Mr McAllister rode straight into the back of his car.

But Mr Justice Stephens found more credible Mr McAllister’s claim that Mr Campbell had just pulled in in front of him.

He held that the length of scrape marks on the car was inconsistent with it having been stopped and the handbrake applied.

There were inconsistencies in Mr Campbell’s story, the judge said, but he did not believe the driver had acted with malicious intent.

“Without any ulterior motive he has rationalised after the event how it occurred,” Mr Justice Stephens said.

“The defendant was flustered by seeing his sister-in-law and there was a period of indecision.”

In his confusion the driver had either forgotten about the rider he had passed, or else disregarded his presence.

“This failure was negligent,” the judge said.

But Mr McAllister had contributed to the crash by looking down at his heart rate monitor, the judge found, reducing the damages by 25 percent from £70,000 to £52,500.

Mr Justice Stephens said: “He was looking down at a heart rate monitor. He should have been looking at where he was going.

“If he had been he could have braked or taken evasive action.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

46 comments

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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Fairs fair, we expect drivers to concentrate on the road 100% so they do not cause us any harm.

The same should be expected from cyclists.

There are only two reasons you need to check your HRM.

1, You are a Team Sky member and you are getting ready to attack
2, You are an old dude with a heart problem...

Leave it to Strava to show all your details  24

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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So the driver of the car has lied through his teeth, in court, and the judge still sets out to defend his actions and place blame on the cyclist.

Nice.

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dee4life2005 [22 posts] 2 years ago
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Drivers don't exactly look where they are going all the time either, so using this as an excuse to reduce payout to cyclist is a bit lame if you ask me.
If all drivers concentrated on where they were going 100% of the time no-one would pass their driving test ... as you have to look in your mirrors, which by definition means you're looking other than the direction of travel. Same when you look at your speedo, or your satnav etc.

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noizebox [22 posts] 2 years ago
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Does this raise an issue for the use of any sort of cycle computer?

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pmr [197 posts] 2 years ago
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I went into the back of car after the driver thought it neccessary to slam his brakes on and pull over after seeing an approaching ambulance on the other side of the road, this was shortly after over taking me.
I stood no chance of taking the guy to court even though he left me no chance of stopping. Was left with broken hand and a bill for new rear light cluster of the driver.

“If he had been he could have braked or taken evasive action.”

Clearly the judge doesn't ride or he'd know how much more time/space you need and how much worse bike brakes are than a cars from around 20mph to 0mph.

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anarchy [100 posts] 2 years ago
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"Mr Justice Stephens found more credible Mr McAllister’s claim that Mr Campbell had just pulled in in front of him"
So the driver was lying. He'll be getting done for perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice then will he?

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md6 [181 posts] 2 years ago
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I suppose this would depend on how long he was looking at the HRM for but i can't disagree that you should look where you're going, particularly if a car has just passed you. Regardless of what car or other drivers get away with (sun in my eyes, didn't expect a cycle etc)

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twinklydave [27 posts] 2 years ago
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Sensible outcome - always ride within your stopping distance (which, if you're not looking where you're going, is about 0mph!) and expect those around you to be idiots!

It should be noted, however, that this is anouther case of a driver lying to the Judge...and this being (seemingly) acceptable  7

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Scoob_84 [380 posts] 2 years ago
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Out of interest, what level of personal injury did the rider sustain from this incident to warrant the rather large payout?

A similar incident happened to me yesterday on my morning commute through London. A driver pulled into the cycle/bus lane which I was occupying without indicating or checking the mirrors to see if I was there and took me out. My front wheel and fork now need replacing and I've sustained some soft tissue injury to my wrist and shoulder (backed up by a letter from a doctor).

I've reported the incident to the police on 101, but have yet to fill out the more comprehensive Road Traffic collision form.

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Goldfever4 [220 posts] 2 years ago
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What about if the cyclist was checking over his shoulder to pull out of a car that had abruptly stopped in front of him, does that constitute 'not looking where he is going' or more importantly contributory negligence?

How about if he was a car driver looking at his speedometer, does that constitute contributory negligence?

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Goldfever4 [220 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

Fairs fair, we expect drivers to concentrate on the road 100% so they do not cause us any harm.

The same should be expected from cyclists.

There are only two reasons you need to check your HRM.

1, You are a Team Sky member and you are getting ready to attack
2, You are an old dude with a heart problem...

Leave it to Strava to show all your details  24

Or you're training and you want to stay in a set HR zone?

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mtm_01 [196 posts] 2 years ago
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Scoob_84 wrote:

Out of interest, what level of personal injury did the rider sustain from this incident to warrant the rather large payout?

A similar incident happened to me yesterday on my morning commute through London. A driver pulled into the cycle/bus lane which I was occupying without indicating or checking the mirrors to see if I was there and took me out. My front wheel and fork now need replacing and I've sustained some soft tissue injury to my wrist and shoulder (backed up by a letter from a doctor).

I've reported the incident to the police on 101, but have yet to fill out the more comprehensive Road Traffic collision form.

You should've called the police on the spot - in theory if there's a road traffic accident and someone has been hunt they are obliged to attend the scene.

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rich22222 [164 posts] 2 years ago
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So would the same be said if a motorist glanced at the rev counter?

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mrmo [2070 posts] 2 years ago
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Sorry officer I didn't know I was speeding but a judge said I must always look where I am going.....,

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't suppose anybody can find out a bit more about the process through the courts for this incident?

The accident happened in 2009 and the cyclist then sued the driver, it appears to me that the courts awarded him 70k for damages and now for some reason it has ended up back in court to get the damages reduced.

Has the driver appealed in some way or something? Or is this standard procedure?

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oldstrath [602 posts] 2 years ago
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So cyclists should always see cars, but it's fine for delivery drivers, minibus drivers, and charitable ladies not to notice bikes? Jeez, where are the vigilantes?

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oozaveared [937 posts] 2 years ago
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noizebox wrote:

Does this raise an issue for the use of any sort of cycle computer?

Well yes it does. I think the finding is about right. You do need to look where you are going. The other road user may actually be negligent and at fault (this is the finding here hence the compensation) but if you aren't paying attention then you are at least partially to blame.

Let's put that in another context. Let's say a cyclist waiting to turn right into a main road from a junction saw a car approching and pulled out in front of the because they thought the driver of the oncoming car would have enough time to slow down a bit. But the driver was playing with their radio or sat nav and not looking up at the road and didn't slow or stop.

In this case the cyclist is at fault for the collision but the driver contributed by not paying attention or looking where they were going.

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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Goldfever4 wrote:

Or you're training and you want to stay in a set HR zone?

Because it is quite sensible to go out training on a dual carriageway with 70mph traffic flying past you?  39

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Scoob_84 [380 posts] 2 years ago
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mtm_01 wrote:
Scoob_84 wrote:

Out of interest, what level of personal injury did the rider sustain from this incident to warrant the rather large payout?

A similar incident happened to me yesterday on my morning commute through London. A driver pulled into the cycle/bus lane which I was occupying without indicating or checking the mirrors to see if I was there and took me out. My front wheel and fork now need replacing and I've sustained some soft tissue injury to my wrist and shoulder (backed up by a letter from a doctor).

I've reported the incident to the police on 101, but have yet to fill out the more comprehensive Road Traffic collision form.

You should've called the police on the spot - in theory if there's a road traffic accident and someone has been hunt they are obliged to attend the scene.

Well i guess in the post crash daze i didn't think to do this. Although i went down pretty hard, it wasn't a serious incident where i was trapped under a car or had broken bones sticking out of me.

When the adrenaline kicks in, its quite hard to know what your supposed to do, especially when it hasn't happened before.

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oozaveared [937 posts] 2 years ago
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farrell wrote:

I don't suppose anybody can find out a bit more about the process through the courts for this incident?

The accident happened in 2009 and the cyclist then sued the driver, it appears to me that the courts awarded him 70k for damages and now for some reason it has ended up back in court to get the damages reduced.

Has the driver appealed in some way or something? Or is this standard procedure?

The £70k is the actual award for damages and the way that is calculated is pretty standard and to do with loss and damages. Quite simply if your loss is a bike worth £5k but you break an arm and have 5 weeks off work and earn £1000 a week then that's 10k ie calculations like that but far more complex and with all sorts of whistles and bells. That's the damages judgement. Most times both solicitors know exactly what the judgement will be.

BTW claims companies just load up the costs for all kinds of stuff and just keep adding their own costs as well and their costs become part of your costs that you claim. ie their solicitor charging £350 ph just to keep making the same old calls over and over.

I digress. In this case the loss and damages and all expenses settled out at £70k.. The claimant was awarded this by the court (ie the court agreed that the real overall loss was £70k) but they deducted 25% because of his own contributory negligence.

It's a pretty standard judgement.

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Paul_C [443 posts] 2 years ago
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mtm_01 wrote:
Scoob_84 wrote:

Out of interest, what level of personal injury did the rider sustain from this incident to warrant the rather large payout?

A similar incident happened to me yesterday on my morning commute through London. A driver pulled into the cycle/bus lane which I was occupying without indicating or checking the mirrors to see if I was there and took me out. My front wheel and fork now need replacing and I've sustained some soft tissue injury to my wrist and shoulder (backed up by a letter from a doctor).

I've reported the incident to the police on 101, but have yet to fill out the more comprehensive Road Traffic collision form.

You should've called the police on the spot - in theory if there's a road traffic accident and someone has been hunt they are obliged to attend the scene.

Correct, ALWAYS call the police when you've been hurt or your bike is damaged. When attending an RTA, the Police are required to breathalise those drivers/riders involved...

Also, getting the police involved means it will be logged as an incident in the database and will show up on the online injury maps if any injury occured:

http://map.itoworld.com/

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PhilRuss [386 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

Fairs fair, we expect drivers to concentrate on the road 100% so they do not cause us any harm.

The same should be expected from cyclists.

There are only two reasons you need to check your HRM.

1, You are a Team Sky member and you are getting ready to attack
2, You are an old dude with a heart problem...

Leave it to Strava to show all your details  24

[[[[[ Or a young dude with a heart problem....let's not be ageist here!
P.R.

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shay cycles [322 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm guessing that, as the majority of adults who ride bikes also drive, most of those reading this will be well aware that when driving you keep an eye on your speed by taking occasional glances at the speedo (and by knowing when you spped up and slow down) and that you ensure that you know what is happening all around you by using mirrors and looking around.

When cycling we don't need to glance at the speedo but still need to know what is happening all around us and we look around to do so.

If a driver were busy looking for a station on his radio, adjusting a satnav or indeed checking his heart rate then that would quite rightly be a contributory factor were a collision to occur at that time (whover was mainly at fault). The same of course applies to cyclists.

With regards the driver telling lies, or misrepresenting the facts, or misinterpreting, or rationalising what actually happened I'm afraid that is pretty normal behaviour in any court. You don't find someone who denied an assault in court being found guilty and then also being charged with perjury do you? In this instance the judge seems to have done a pretty good job.

For once the judicial system tries to treat a cyclist and a motorist in the same way and people start to complain - makes me wonder....  39

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koko56 [330 posts] 2 years ago
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What evidence for looking at hrm? Driver's words? Witnesses?

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Goldfever4 [220 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:
Goldfever4 wrote:

Or you're training and you want to stay in a set HR zone?

Because it is quite sensible to go out training on a dual carriageway with 70mph traffic flying past you?  39

Hey, I didn't say anything about what this guy was up to and nor did I condone where he was cycling, I'm saying it is generally a reasonable reason to look at an HRM...

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jova54 [651 posts] 2 years ago
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koko56 wrote:

What evidence for looking at hrm? Driver's words? Witnesses?

Probably riders own admission in their evidence. Possibly just an off-the-cuff comment that has been used against them.

Unlikely the driver's evidence, it's doubtful he even saw the cyclist and any other witness would only see a small change in head position which could be the result of anything, including swallowing a fly and choking.

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PhilRuss [386 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Goldfever4 wrote:

What about if the cyclist was checking over his shoulder to pull out of a car that had abruptly stopped in front of him, does that constitute 'not looking where he is going' or more importantly contributory negligence?

How about if he was a car driver looking at his speedometer, does that constitute contributory negligence?

[[[[[ Call me old-school, but I don't festoon me 'bars with electronic heart-rate info. Eyeballs out? On the rivet? Thumping chest? Lactic legs? I get the message! Well, I'm not racing....but when driving, we do have to glance at the speedo once in a while. Not guilty, squire.
P.R.

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ficklewhippet [72 posts] 2 years ago
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Always pays to have membership of some sort of cycling organisation (BC, Tri England, CTC) as you'll get legal support if you believe you have a case against a driver.
PMR, sorry you felt you could not take legal action.
I'd even have been tempted to represent myself.

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sfichele [141 posts] 2 years ago
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It depends on how long he was looking down and how quickly the driver pulled in. If the incident evolved over a short amount of time, which it likely did, then reducing the compensation is outrageous as it's very unlikely the cyclist could have done much to react regardless of where he was looking.

There are many reasons to not be looking forward 100% of time as, you should be routinely looking
- over your shoulder
- at side roads for drivers pulling out
- and pot holes

Just remember who the victim was in the situation.
Contributory negligence is a joke...

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FluffyKittenofT... [1191 posts] 2 years ago
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On the one hand, in theory, I wouldn't argue with the notion that cyclists need to take suitable care themselves and keep their eyes on the road ahead as much as is practical. Not least because there's a moral obligation to be watching out for pedestrians stepping into their path.

The trouble is, this is always set against the awareness of the lenient treatment drivers seem to get in similar circumstances.

Its very hard to work out what is 'fair' in a screwed-up context. Which is another reason, as far as I'm concerned, why the Dutch approach is the only answer - there's always likely to be a double-standard and hence suspicion in these situations, so the best thing is to keep the opportunity for such collisions to a minimum.

Also - as to whether the driver told the truth or not, and whether he should be prosecuted for that....this was a civil court, right? So presumably its only on the "balance-of-probabilities" that its implied he told porkies rather than something that is "beyond reasonable doubt"?

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