The insurers of a motorist in Scotland who tried to use staged photographs to avoid liability after knocking a cyclist from his bike have paid the rider £17,000 in an out-of-court settlement.
Walter Hamilton sustained a serious knee injury as well as facial cuts when the driver of a white van, who had been waiting to turn right, turned across his path.
Mr Hamilton, from Edinburgh, discovered three months after the incident in July 2015 that the motorist involved had sent staged photographs of the scene to his insurers, in what is believed to have been an attempt to avoid losing his no claims bonus.
The driver also gave his insurers a different version of events to those supplied by Mr Hamilton, who had taken his own pictures of the scene which conflicted with the van driver’s account.
However, three months later he discovered that the driver had given his insurance company, who denied liability, a different account of what had happened, even submitting staged photos.
Represented by solicitor Jodi Gordon of Cycle Law Scotland, he therefore lodged took the driver’s insurers, Aviva, to court in to seek redress.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Mr Hamilton. “The driver was very apologetic at the time and instantly admitted that the collision was his fault.
“But I found myself with the weight of a major insurance company bearing down on me and telling me that, in fact, it was all my fault. It seems that as a cyclist, even though we are the ones injured, we are more likely than not to find ourselves fighting against big corporate machines for what’s right and fair.”
Cycle Law Scotland has been at the forefront of the campaign for the introduction of presumed liability, with the UK one of just five EU member states – the others are Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and Romania – not to have such a system.
Applying to civil cases, it places a presumption of liability in favour of the more vulnerable road user involved in a road traffic collision, unless the other party can establish they were at fault.
Ms Gordon maintained that the present system discriminates against cyclists involved in collisions, saying: “Walter’s case highlights the experience of many cyclists and shows the weakness of our current fault-based system.
“Instead of this being a straightforward case on liability with recompense going to the injured party, we have a situation made worse with drawn-out litigation.
“Introducing a system of presumed liability in Scots civil law would simply mean that a driver’s insurance company would have to prove fault on the part of the cyclist to avoid paying compensation.
“Presumed liability would enable vulnerable road users to be compensated quickly and fairly and without resort to litigation.
“Walter’s case also shows the importance of taking photos, she added. “If possible, photos should be taken immediately following a collision, as these are the best evidence in supporting a particular version of events.
“Insurance companies often try and under-settle cases by putting forward low offers as they did initially in Walter’s case, but with specialist solicitors on side, a fair level of compensation was fought for and won.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.