RSA Insurance backs down in light of CCTV footage as victim slams "cold and heartless" insurance companies...

A London cyclist whose leg had to be amputated after she was struck by a bullion van at the busy Marble Arch junction in December 2010 has won a landmark victory over an insurance company that had tried to get her to accept that she was partially responsible for the incident.

The driver involved, John Taylor, received a £500 fine plus five penalty points on his licence following his trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court last year, reports the London Evening Standard.

Veronika Pete, aged 31 and from Bayswater, plans to bring a civil action against the driver but had been told by his insurers, RSA Insurance, that they wanted her to admit 20 per cent contributory negligence.

However, CCTV evidence used at that criminal trial last year showed Taylor’s vehicle swerving into the cyclist and the insurance company has now accepted that he was 100 per cent to blame for the incident.

Saying she was “extremely pleased” with the decision, Ms Pete, who will now press ahead with her civil case, hit out against “cold and heartless” insurance companies that put undue pressure on victims.

“This has been a long and exhausting legal battle, on both a physical and emotional level,” she explained.

“I hope that this case will mean a better life for cyclists involved in accidents in London. You can’t always prevent accidents but insurance companies must accept responsibility when it is clear that they are liable. I feel that I have been treated unfairly.

“The way in which insurance companies handle these situations is cold and heartless. My life has completely changed over the past three years and now I need to know that I can become financially secure.”

Ms Pete’s lawyer, Jill Greenfield, said she hoped that other cyclists involved in incidents who felt under pressure from insurance companies as they pursued compensation would take encouragement from her client’s victory and not bow to insurers’ demands.

Saying that it had been “a long campaign battling for justice,” she advised victims “not to back down and to exhaust every possible avenue before giving in.”

Ms Greenfield added that pressuring cyclists who had been injured to accept some responsibility for injuries was “extremely common practice among insurance companies”.

She continued: “It is totally unfair to assume that the cyclist is to blame despite evidence to the contrary. Luckily we managed to source these pictures which prove without a doubt that my client is innocent. Now I hope that this outcome can give courage to other injured parties so that they won’t accept these tactics from insurance companies.”

A spokesman for RSA Insurance told the Standard that he was unable to provide specific details of the case since the claim was ongoing, but said “we are paying all her [Ms Pete’s] costs and are supporting her fully with her rehab”.

He added the cyclist “was kind enough to come and talk to our technical staff about the benefits of rehab and how insurers and those affected can work collaboratively and closer together.”

Following sentencing in the criminal case against Taylor last year, during which the court heard that the vehicle he was driving was not fitted with additional safety mirror, the judge said they would be writing to Mayor of London Boris Johnson to urge for improvements to be made to the junction. 

Deputy District Judge Bennett, quoted in The Times, said: “As part of his promise, the mayor, Boris Johnson, pledged to improve road safety for cyclists.

“I don’t know if this area is in his radar but I am going to write personally requesting an urgent consideration of this particular road layout and the tragic consequences.

“It is inevitable that further accidents of a similar kind will undoubtedly occur unless changes are made. I hope that I will get a proper response.”

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.