A judge has cut the damages awarded to a cyclist, who was injured after being struck by a hit-and-run lorry driver, by 20 percent after claiming that she contributed to her own injuries by failing to wear a helmet.
Yesterday, Judge Colin Daly awarded Raissa Lopes De Andrade Aquino damages of €20,000, but reduced her compensation by €4,000 on the basis of “contributory negligence”.
The 22-year-old was cycling in Dublin on 26 July 2018 when she lost control of her bike after the driver of a heavy sand truck veered to their left near a set of traffic lights and hit her right shoulder, the Irish Times reports.
Ms Lopes, a waitress in the Irish capital, suffered a head injury in the crash, which caused concussion, as well as soft tissue injuries to her face, shoulder, and arm.
She was taken by ambulance to the Mater Hospital, where she spent four hours awaiting treatment, and was kept under observation for a further seven hours due to her head injury.
The motorist did not stop at the scene of the crash and could not be traced.
Following the incident, Ms Lopes took a case against the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland, which provides compensation for victims of road traffic collisions involving uninsured or untraced drivers.
On Tuesday, Judge Daly told Dublin Circuit Civil Court that he found the cyclist’s details of what happened on the day of the crash to be consistent and reliable, and that she had given an honest account of how she had sustained her injuries.
However, the judge reduced Ms Lopes’ damages award by 20 percent to €16,000 because she was not wearing a helmet at the time of the collision which, he said, would have minimised her injuries.
According to Daly, by failing to wear “proper protection”, the 22-year-old had contributed to the extent of her injuries.
As evidenced by the judge’s remarks, the debate surrounding helmets – and the extent of their protection in the case of a serious road traffic collision – shows no signs of being resolved.
In 2019, around the same time WalesOnline published a headline suggesting that a helmet could have saved the life of a 71-year-old cyclist who was killed after being struck by a van driver, Cycling UK released a statement which argued that “there is no justification for making helmet-wearing compulsory”.
“There are serious doubts about the effectiveness of helmets,” the charity said. “They are, and can only be, designed to withstand minor knocks and falls, not serious traffic collisions.
“Some evidence suggests they may in fact increase the risk of cyclists having falls or collisions in the first place, or suffering neck injuries.”
Last month, the Department for Transport insisted that the government has “no intention” to make wearing a helmet while cycling a legal requirement in the UK.
Addressing a written question from fellow Conservative MP Mark Pritchard, the minister of state for the department Jesse Norman said that the matter had been considered “at length” during the government’s cycling and walking safety review in 2018.
Norman also added that while the Department for Transport “recommends that cyclists wear helmets”, the “safety benefits of mandating cycle helmets are likely to be outweighed by the fact that this would put some people off cycling”.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.