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Cyclist wins £6.1m in damages after driver hit him causing life-changing injuries – driver got £146 fine

Insurers unsuccessfully argued that victim was partly to blame since he had not been wearing a cycle helmet

A cyclist who was left with life-changing injuries when a motorist turned across his path as he rode home from work has been awarded more than £6 million in damages following an out-of-court settlement in a complicated case that included experts acting for the victim successfully arguing that he was not to blame in any way for his injuries despite not wearing a helmet or hi-viz clothing.

The victim, referred to by the law firm by his initials LM, is a South Korean national who worked as an architect and had been living in the UK for more than 20 years when the crash happened, and Stewarts, the law firm specialising in litigation that acted on his behalf, says that due to the injuries he sustained, he will never work again and requires round-the-clock care.

LM had been riding through a green light at a junction on the evening in question when a motorist travelling in the opposite direction turned across his path, knocking him from his bike.

Despite the horrific injuries sustained by the victim, including severe brain injuries and facial fractures, the driver was only charged with careless driving and after pleading guilty was handed a fine of just £146 and had his licence endorsed with five penalty points.

The driver’s insurers claimed, despite his conviction for careless driving, that he was not primarily liable for LM’s injuries and argued that the cyclist himself was wholly or partly responsible for them, since he was not wearing a cycle helmet, hi-viz or light-coloured clothing, and there was no front light on his bike.

However, expert evidence furnished to Stewarts by accident reconstruction expert David Hague, who  examined the scene of the crash and analysed CCTV and other evidence, concluded that the junction was well-lit and that if the motorist had been driving within the 20mph speed limit and looking properly, he could have avoided the collision.

Further evidence from Chris Uff, a consultant neurosurgeon at the Royal London Hospital, asserted that had LM been wearing a cycle helmet, there would have been no difference to the injuries he sustained, because the main impact was to his face, with Stewarts saying that his testimony “convincingly defused the contrary arguments of the defendants’ helmet expert.”

Some 10 weeks before the case was due to go to trial, the parties met with mediator Frank Burton KC, which resulted in them agreeing a lump sum of damages of £6.1 million.

Throughout the process, LM has been cared for by his family in South Korea, moving back there four months after the crash, and Stewarts says that while he “regained much of his linguistic capability he lacked the mental capacity to litigate the claim due to the severe brain injuries sustained in the accident.”

That resulted in his father acting as LM’s litigation friend to represent his interests in the lawsuit, although the fact that he could not speak English meant that interpreters were needed throughout each stage.

Referring to the outcome reached with the driver’s insurers, Stewarts said: “The settlement has provided LM and his family with the reassurance and comfort that his lifelong care and rehabilitation needs can be comfortably provided in South Korea.

“Having spent a large part of his adolescence and early working life in the UK, LM’s goal remains to return one day, and the compensation would go a long way to help achieve that goal.”

The damages awarded to LM are at the very top of the range of what we have seen awarded over the past 15 years in cases in England & Wales in which the victim is a cyclist who has sustained life-changing injuries, with compensation exceeding £5 million in just a handful of cases.

One of those, in 2013, related to a crash eight years earlier in which Toby Phethean-Hubble, aged 16 at the time of the collision, was awarded £5.3 million in damages  against the driver who ran into him.

The compensation awarded reflected the fact that the Court of Appeal held the cyclist 50 per cent liable for his injuries since he had not been wearing a helmet, and his bike had no lights.

> £5.3 million compensation for Bristol cyclist who suffered life-changing injuries as a teenager
 

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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28 comments

Avatar
mattw | 6 months ago
1 like

One thing to note is that the perp would now be charged with Causing Serious Injury by Careless Driving, which is between a Community Order and 2 years in prison, with a mandatory at least one year driving ban.

I don't understand why turning across an oncoming vehicle is not Dangerous Driving; it is certainly "far below the expected standard". Careless and Dangerous Driving definitions are a dog's breakfast.

On the lawyers, in these circs they have a professional obligation to be unethical shits.

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 6 months ago
0 likes
mattw wrote:

I don't understand why turning across an oncoming vehicle is not Dangerous Driving; it is certainly "far below the expected standard". Careless and Dangerous Driving definitions are a dog's breakfast.

Hear hear!
Sadly, I think these "how long is a piece of string" definitions - without reference to the actual standard eg. would it cause a fail in a driving test - are not going to change. Unless some administration comes in and changes thar whole system from a "joining a club" style. That's the current model - test once per lifetime, then you're in for life.
U nless you do something extreme like assault the committee (and even then we don’t bar
you permanently). Or voluntarily resign...

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Bobonabike | 6 months ago
15 likes

I'm not sure "wins" is the right word in this situation. I don't think the cyclist has won anything here, given that he can't work and needs round the clock care. "Awarded" or "receives" probably more appropriate.

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Bungle_52 replied to Bobonabike | 6 months ago
5 likes

The only winners here are the lawyers and the driver. The lawyers have made money they wouldn't have made had the insurance company behaved responsibly and the driver has got away with a derisory punishment for ruining someones life with their lack of concentration when in charge of a potentially lethal weapon, sorry that's wrong, apparently, I should have said just being careless!!!!!!

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Secret_squirrel replied to Bungle_52 | 6 months ago
2 likes

Not sure having premiums so high that they'll struggle to get insured again is "winning" but I take your point they've probably got off lightly.

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Rendel Harris replied to Secret_squirrel | 6 months ago
3 likes

Secret_squirrel wrote:

Not sure having premiums so high that they'll struggle to get insured again is "winning" but I take your point they've probably got off lightly.

Will they struggle though, with five points? As far as I can recall from the faroff days of filling in insurance forms for a motorcycle they only ever asked how many points one had, not they were incurred for or any other details of the offence. The online consensus seems to be that 5-6 points will hike your premiums by about 25% compared to a driver with a clean licence, so hardly an insufferable burden.

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mattw replied to Rendel Harris | 6 months ago
1 like

I asked this question 25 years ago, and they were only interested in particular types of offences.

IIRC in red light fixed penalties, but not speeding fixed penatlies.

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Barraob1 | 6 months ago
9 likes

Contributory negligence, the claimant was bottled over the head by my client, but he wasn't wearing a helmet to protect himself, so that's his fault... legal weasels are absolute bottom feeders

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Benthic replied to Barraob1 | 6 months ago
2 likes

The arguments are distasteful, for sure, but they are doing their job by acting in the best interests of their client.

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Steve Robinson | 6 months ago
6 likes

“Further evidence from Chris Uff, a consultant neurosurgeon at the Royal London Hospital, asserted that had LM been wearing a cycle helmet, there would have been difference to the injuries he sustained, because the main impact was to his face”

Did you intend to say “there would have been no difference to the injuries he sustained”?

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Flintshire Boy | 6 months ago
10 likes

.

For ka me, no amount of money could ever compensate for that.

.

 

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Christopher TR1 | 6 months ago
16 likes

At least the victim will be able to receive the care he now needs. But very disappointing that the driver got away with a slap on the wrist.

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eburtthebike replied to Christopher TR1 | 6 months ago
2 likes

I imagine his insurance will be a little higher, if anyone will insure him.

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hawkinspeter | 6 months ago
26 likes

I don't understand how they ever get away with contibutory negligence for not wearing a helmet if the collision is entirely the fault of the driver. Do stab victims get reduced payouts for not wearing a stab vest?

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Tom_77 replied to hawkinspeter | 6 months ago
5 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

I don't understand how they ever get away with contibutory negligence for not wearing a helmet if the collision is entirely the fault of the driver. Do stab victims get reduced payouts for not wearing a stab vest?

I don't think that they do get away with claiming contibutory negligence (ref):

Quote:

Griffith Williams J in Smith v Finch found that the impact speed exceeded 12.3 mph and so he could not be satisfied that a helmet would have made any difference. This is a common theme in that no Court (save for in the unusual case of Reynolds) has yet found that a helmet would have made a difference in any particular case. This is not surprising since the high value claims worth litigating are likely to involve serious injury following high impact. The type of accident most likely to give a Defendant an argument on causative  contributory negligence might be the car door opening into the path of a slow moving cyclist who suffers a scalp laceration –hardly worth litigating.

 

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hawkinspeter replied to Tom_77 | 6 months ago
1 like

Tom_77 wrote:

I don't think that they do get away with claiming contibutory negligence (ref):

Quote:

Griffith Williams J in Smith v Finch found that the impact speed exceeded 12.3 mph and so he could not be satisfied that a helmet would have made any difference. This is a common theme in that no Court (save for in the unusual case of Reynolds) has yet found that a helmet would have made a difference in any particular case. This is not surprising since the high value claims worth litigating are likely to involve serious injury following high impact. The type of accident most likely to give a Defendant an argument on causative  contributory negligence might be the car door opening into the path of a slow moving cyclist who suffers a scalp laceration –hardly worth litigating.

 

From: https://www.braininjurygroup.co.uk/news/cycle-helmets-law-contributory-negligence/ (the first reference is likely the "unusual case of Reynolds")

Quote:

In Reynolds v Strutt & Parker LLP [2011] the court followed the approach in Smith and held that a cyclist who did not wear a helmet was not taking care for his own safety. The court reduced the award of damages by two thirds. It is important to note that in that case, the reduction was also representative of the Claimant’s reckless cycling when involved in a cycling race, so in a case involving a typical collision on the road, such a dramatic reduction is perhaps unlikely. That said, this does nonetheless serve as an example of what a court may find if a Claimant does not wear a helmet.

In Capps v Miller [1989], the Claimant was wearing a helmet but it was unfastened. He sustained a very severe head injury when involved in a collision. The court held that even though the medical evidence could not show that his injuries had been made worse by the failure to fasten the helmet, a 10% reduction would be appropriate to take the failure into account.

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Tom_77 replied to hawkinspeter | 6 months ago
2 likes

In Capps v Miller the Claimant was a motorcyclist, I think that's of limited relevance.

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hawkinspeter replied to Tom_77 | 6 months ago
2 likes

Tom_77 wrote:

In Capps v Miller the Claimant was a motorcyclist, I think that's of limited relevance.

Thanks - I didn't realise that.

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BalladOfStruth replied to Tom_77 | 6 months ago
2 likes

Tom_77 wrote:

I don't think that they do get away with claiming contibutory negligence (ref):

Quote:

Griffith Williams J in Smith v Finch found that the impact speed exceeded 12.3 mph and so he could not be satisfied that a helmet would have made any difference. This is a common theme in that no Court (save for in the unusual case of Reynolds) has yet found that a helmet would have made a difference in any particular case. This is not surprising since the high value claims worth litigating are likely to involve serious injury following high impact. The type of accident most likely to give a Defendant an argument on causative  contributory negligence might be the car door opening into the path of a slow moving cyclist who suffers a scalp laceration –hardly worth litigating.

 

Wasn't there one reported a here a few months back where a woman was knocked off her bike by a HGV, sustained head injuries and recieved a reduced payout because she wasn't wearing a helmet? I only remember it because of how insufferably smug Martin was about it.

Edit: The case I was thinking of occured in Ireland, which explains it.

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ChrisB200SX replied to hawkinspeter | 6 months ago
13 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

I don't understand how they ever get away with contibutory negligence for not wearing a helmet if the collision is entirely the fault of the driver. Do stab victims get reduced payouts for not wearing a stab vest?

Exactly, headgear, hiviz or lights have no part in the causation of the collision. Wearing of these things is not a legal requirement and is irrelevant to the case. I find it very sad that this contributory negligence is not immediately dismissed by the judge on the grounds of logic and we have to rely on neurosurgeons and such to refute that it would have made different to the injuries when the injuries were solely caused by the drivers actions.

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C3a replied to hawkinspeter | 6 months ago
4 likes

When I first came across the concept of "contributory negligence" I was quite surprised - it came across a lot like "victim blaming".

I can understand taking some responsibility and liability for behaving illegally or wholly unreasonably prior to an incident, but not if the behaviour was reasonable and legal.  The key word in that is "reasonable" and I sometimes wonder if moves to make high visibility and helmet use a legal requirement is motivated by a desire to remove ambiguity and so make it easier to allocate blame to the cyclist.

Maybe it can cut both ways though.  Many cars can be fitted with an anti-collision system.  Can failing to equip a car with such a feature, or failing to activate it or heed it, count against the driver and make a penalty harsher?

As for this case, the way things are worded it seems that but for the expert witness testimony of the neurosurgeon the claim for compensation may not have been successful - despite the driver behaving illegally prior to the collision.

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hawkinspeter replied to C3a | 6 months ago
6 likes

C3a wrote:

When I first came across the concept of "contributory negligence" I was quite surprised - it came across a lot like "victim blaming".

I can understand taking some responsibility and liability for behaving illegally or wholly unreasonably prior to an incident, but not if the behaviour was reasonable and legal.  The key word in that is "reasonable" and I sometimes wonder if moves to make high visibility and helmet use a legal requirement is motivated by a desire to remove ambiguity and so make it easier to allocate blame to the cyclist.

Maybe it can cut both ways though.  Many cars can be fitted with an anti-collision system.  Can failing to equip a car with such a feature, or failing to activate it or heed it, count against the driver and make a penalty harsher?

As for this case, the way things are worded it seems that but for the expert witness testimony of the neurosurgeon the claim for compensation may not have been successful - despite the driver behaving illegally prior to the collision.

Yeah, the idea of reducing the insurance companies' liability because a cyclist (legally) wasn't wearing a helmet seems wrong to me. If someone is more vulnerable, then that indicates that people should take more care moving around them - if you walk past someone using crutches, then most people would be careful to leave them enough space as causing them to fall over would likely involve causing more injury than to someone who can walk unassisted.

The root problem is motornormativity and well funded legal teams working for insurance companies that aim to reduce the responsibility of drivers. It's well worth joining Cycling UK to at least get some level of legal assistance when trying to get compensation for a collision.

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andystow | 6 months ago
13 likes

"... Chris Uff, a consultant neurosurgeon at the Royal London Hospital, asserted that had LM been wearing a cycle helmet, there would have been difference to the injuries he sustained, because the main impact was to his face... "

I think you meant "... would have been no difference... "

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bobbinogs | 6 months ago
13 likes

On the one hand I am tempted to say that this is a great result...but the appaling injuries suffered and the weasal lawyers involved make this anything but "great".  Good to see some experts successfully countering a classic case of victim blaming though.

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jaymack replied to bobbinogs | 6 months ago
8 likes

This is unlikely to be popular but I assume that by 'weasal lawyers' you mean lawyers representing their client's interest and on their client's instructions. Perhaps you'd prefer a lawyer representing you in a tight spot to have no regard for your instructions, interests or needs. It would be an error to conflate what professional representatives say on their client's behalf with their personal views.

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Rendel Harris replied to jaymack | 6 months ago
26 likes

I agree with what you say, it is a lawyer's job to get the best outcome for their client and they can't be blamed for that. The real weasels, I would say, are the insurance companies who know there's no real argument against making the payout but launch a case anyway in the hope that the claimant will settle for a smaller sum or even get so discouraged they will give up entirely (I have been told by people who have worked for insurance companies that this is standard practice). Look at this case, untold stress for the claimant and his father, hundreds of hours and doubtless hundreds of thousands of pounds wasted on all sides, then before it can go before a judge they make a tacit admission that they haven't a leg to stand on and offer £6M. Why didn't they offer that at the start? They're experts, they must have known that the not wearing a helmet line of attack wouldn't fly and just hoped they could scare a brain-damaged man into accepting lower compensation by making him scared that he might go to court and get nothing. Bastards. Well done his family for refusing to be cowed, not everyone is so lucky to have people who can do that for them.

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jaymack replied to Rendel Harris | 6 months ago
4 likes

I would have put another pithy, anglo saxon word before the word 'Bastards' but other than that you're spot on!

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polainm replied to bobbinogs | 5 months ago
0 likes

I agree with 'weasel lawyers' because they are part of a broken system. Same with the insurance industry. I'm now four years in to a non-fault claim, that my wife sustained lifelong injuries from and our car destroyed. My daughter, over one year for a claim where a driver crossed her path and she was thrown across the road, bicycle destroyed. Uninsured losses for another; four years and counting. 

The insurance industry is quick to take one's money, hike premiums, but when it comes to claims...takes years. 

Added to this the CPS going for the weakest prosecution, so that the driving judge and jury will support it. 

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