A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to cover the legal costs of a cyclist involved in a crash with a pedestrian who was looking at her mobile phone as she stepped into road. The judge found both parties equally liable for the collision, but by not putting forward a counterclaim, Robert Hazeldean has been unable to protect himself against a destructive costs award in the same way that the claimant has.
Pedestrian Gemma Brushett and cyclist Robert Hazeldean were both knocked unconscious following the collision at a junction near Cannon Street railway station in the City of London in July 2015.
Brushett, who sustained a minor head injury and what her lawyer described as “post-traumatic amnesia,” sued Hazeldean, and Judge Shanti Mauger found them both jointly liable for the crash.
The judge called Hazeldean 'a calm and reasonable road user' but the ruling means that he must pay Brushett compensation and legal fees. She is seeking almost £100,000 in costs.
The personal injury team at Levi Solicitors which is now acting on his behalf said that this amounted to “a total abuse of process.” The amount indicated by the judge was £10,000.
While he was living in London at the time of the incident, Hazeldean has since moved to France.
“The case has cast a shadow over our new life in France and left our future uncertain,” he said. “Covering the costs and the compensation is going to exceed £20,000 and will leave me bankrupt.
“I can only hope that the focus on this case highlights the vulnerability of cyclists, both physically and against the courts, and that it might help reform a legal system that appears to leave certain road users disproportionately exposed.”
Emma Farrell, head of Levi Solicitors’ personal injury team, explained: “If Mr Hazeldean had been insured, the claimant’s legal costs would have been limited to a mere £6,690. If he had come to us sooner, we would have advised him to enter a counterclaim given that he has been left with permanent scarring, both physically and mentally. He would then have had protection under the law against a large costs order.”
Hazeldean said he delayed seeking legal assistance due to a lack of knowledge and concern about the costs.
“I feel that most cyclists would not have appreciated the consequences of not taking the opportunity to put forward a counterclaim which meant that I was unable to rely on the legislation in the same way that the claimant has to protect myself against a destructive costs award.
“This was not because I was not injured, but because I do not advocate the claim culture. Had I had legal representation at the time of preparing my defence, I would have taken those steps to protect myself.”
The court has ordered Brushett to pay Hazeldean’s costs for a scheduled third hearing.
You can find the GoFundMe page raising funds for Hazeldean here.