Council threatens to sue cyclist left in coma for eight days over £240 road closure bill

"This is not a case of uncaring, unyielding bureaucracy," says St Helens Council. Of course it isn't.

by Simon_MacMichael   February 12, 2011  

St Helens Town Hall (picture Michael Heavey, Wikimedia Commons).jpg

St Helens Council is threatening to sue a cyclist who spent eight days in a coma following a collision with a car over a bill sent to him for £240 relating to the cost of closing the road on which the accident took place.

Martin Lloyd, aged 20, broke 20 bones in the crash which took place as he rode his BMX bike on the East Lancs Road last September and it is believed that only the swift arrival of an air ambulance saved his life.

Receipt of the bill has left Mr Lloyd in a state of disgust, reports the St Helens Star. "If I had died what would they have done sent a bill to my mum, my dad, or my auntie?”

"They wouldn't, they would have left it. Now, they think, 'oh he's had a bit of a rough time, but he's OK now,'” he said.

"I've had three letters and they have said if I can't afford to pay they will take me to court.

"I'm disgusted to be honest, I didn't ask for any of this. When I was in hospital they didn't expect me to recover. Now I'm being hit with this.

The unemployed father of one accepts that he was to blame for the collision, saying: "I've viewed the CCTV and obviously it was my fault. But it was an accident. I didn't mean for it to happen."

Medical staff at the hospital the helicopter took him to told Mr Lloyd after he awoke from his coma: “ You shouldn't even be here. You’re very lucky.”

Mr Lloyd continues to receive treatment for his injuries, which included a fractured skull and a broken collarbone and ribs. His right leg was also shattered in the accident, and he spent five weeks in hospital.

He added: “ I don't remember the crash itself. I feel sorry for the driver, if I had died it could have ruined his life.”

The St Helens Star added that Police have investigated the collision but will not take any action against the cyclist.

In the third letter from St Helens Council seeking recovery of the cost of closing the road, Mr Lloyd was offered the opportunity to repay the £240 at the rate of £2 per week, which would take just over two years.

While this would appear to be a one-off case with extenuating circumstances – the type of situation in which one might expect the council to hold its hands up and admit it had made an error – instead the local authority has issued a statement in which it seeks to justify its actions.

Councillor Joe De’Asha, Cabinet Member for Environmental Protection, maintained that St Helens Council had made the correct decision, saying: “Obviously we’re delighted that Mr Lloyd has now recovered from his injuries.

“However we feel it would be unfair to let council tax payers pick up the tab for an operation that resulted entirely from Mr Lloyd’s actions.”

By our calculations, the £240 bill equates to around 1/13th of a penny for each of the borough’s estimated 177,500 inhabitants, but Mr De’Asha insists: “CCTV footage clearly indicates the sequence of events in this matter and we are satisfied that it’s appropriate to invoice Mr Lloyd for the relevant costs.

“Damage to council property and the costs we incur in the aftermath of an accident are usually recovered via vehicle insurance. In this case that is clearly not an option.

“This is not a case of uncaring, unyielding bureaucracy – we’re more than happy to look at cases where there is the slightest suggestion of unfairness - however in this case the facts are clear.

“We are pleased to see that Mr Lloyd has accepted responsibility for his role in this incident,” he concluded.
 

15 user comments

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Joe de Asha's full contact details are on the Council's website. I'm sure my fellow cyclists would like to send him their views on how he has treated this poor guy.

http://moderngov.sthelens.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=135

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
12th February 2011 - 14:18

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So, do they bill drivers and peds for road closures in cases like this? if not bit of discrimination going on there

posted by jimc101 [55 posts]
12th February 2011 - 15:38

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Please improve the proof reading of stories, this ain't the first one with errors Nerd Nerd Nerd Nerd Nerd Nerd

posted by 37monkey [143 posts]
12th February 2011 - 15:57

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Actually, yes, they do, if they can. With drivers it is fairly straightforward as they are insured, and tehy are probably barely aware of it apart from teh impact in their no-claims.

If this guy was a member of CTC or similar he woudl have third party cover for this. I am not sure I see wht he should be viewed any differently from a motorist just because he was on a bike and was - perhaps - not insured.

We want proper protection from and proper redress against drivers who hurt us (and that is far more likely than vice versa), but it cuts both ways.

posted by Paul M [294 posts]
12th February 2011 - 16:37

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I am wondering where the cost of closing the road comes from. The police usually close a road at an accident site, where does the council come into it. Possibly the police billed the council? I note they took no action against the cyclist.

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [221 posts]
12th February 2011 - 21:01

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bikecellar,

agreed! who has decided that it cost £240 to close the road? a totally theoretical charge.

if a pedestrian was run over, and it was "their" fault, would they send the pedestrian a bill also?

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
12th February 2011 - 21:32

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Just find a pothole and launch a counter- suit.

posted by wild man [274 posts]
12th February 2011 - 22:00

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What a mean, penny pinching approach.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1944 posts]
12th February 2011 - 23:05

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I have sent an email to councillor Joe De’Asha asking for a breakdown of the councils costs.

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [221 posts]
12th February 2011 - 23:34

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While I feel for the guy and do have to question where the costs came from or how they were derived let me state an experience.

The first time I was knocked off my bike by a car (about 1988) an ambulance was called for me. About 2 weeks later I got a letter from my health authority asking for something like £45 for the cost of the ambulance. As the guy who hit me had admitted fault and simply asked for the costs of repairs to my cycle, I simply posted the bill to him and never heard anymore. I was quite shocked to find that this was how things were done but there you go.

I know it's a bit off topic but if an ambulance is called out for me cos I have a heart attack do I get a bill for that too or is it just accidents where someone can be said to be to blame. (And if I have a heart attack cos I have drank to excess, smoked and eaten crap for 30 years couldn't someone claim that I was to blame and so deserve to be charged for the ambulance?)

Not my understanding of how civilisation works but what do I know? Just wait till big society really kicks in and we can all take a hand in running our country.

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [361 posts]
13th February 2011 - 22:35

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Bikeandy - if you've been knocked off your bike by a driver then the bill should automatically go to the driver.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1944 posts]
14th February 2011 - 9:20

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I had no idea these sorts of costs (or ambulance costs for that matter) were generally recovered after an accident - always thought that was one of the many things we pay tax for. I'd be interested to know what the cost of recovery is (i.e. how much would be saved if the people whose job it is to write letters and chase up these debts were employed doing something else) - when they are chasing up sums of less than £250, you'd think they would to a point where the cost outweighs what they recover.

I do agree with the principle that the guy shouldn't be treated differently just because he was on a bike, but he is as comparable to a pedestrian as to a driver - he is not required to have insurance, and there is a limit to the amount of damage he could do (whereas the reason motor vehicle insurance is required is because of the potential damage which can be inflicted with a motor vehicle). I'd like to bet they wouldn't have tried to recover it from an 'uninsured' pedestrian who had walked out into the road without looking and caused an accident, and if that is the case they shouldn't be trying to recover it from him either.

posted by step-hent [638 posts]
14th February 2011 - 10:37

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step-hent wrote:
I do agree with the principle that the guy shouldn't be treated differently just because he was on a bike, but he is as comparable to a pedestrian as to a driver - he is not required to have insurance, and there is a limit to the amount of damage he could do (whereas the reason motor vehicle insurance is required is because of the potential damage which can be inflicted with a motor vehicle). I'd like to bet they wouldn't have tried to recover it from an 'uninsured' pedestrian who had walked out into the road without looking and caused an accident, and if that is the case they shouldn't be trying to recover it from him either.

Note, they havnt claimed for damage to the road, just for the fact they had to close the road, presumably due to the fact a helicopter needed access aswell as accident investigators.

Councils claim for everything they can and that includes from pedestrians, just cos the guy was on a bike does not make him imune.

STATO's picture

posted by STATO [400 posts]
14th February 2011 - 15:31

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They don't think the taxpayer should pay for this poor guy's genuine mistake which nearly killed him? But you can bet they think the taxpayer has to pay for their own blunders, all the time, to the tune of serious money and not small change, as this amount is to a council. Look at the article, on this site, on Brighton and Hove paying £800,00 to install cycle lanes, then over a million to have them ripped out.

£240 is the kind of sum some functionary at the council would dream up for having a bloke go out in a van, put up a red and white safety barrier, then take it away again an hour or two later.

posted by bikeylikey [155 posts]
16th February 2011 - 11:42

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Of course he should pay. Drivers can be sued for such damage so cyclists must accept a similar responsibility.
Cyclists rightly want fair and safe access to the highways; well we must then be safe and pay our fair share.

posted by maxburgoyne [22 posts]
24th April 2012 - 22:51

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