The case for and against helmets in cycle accident compensation cases

July 16, 2012

The debate about road traffic accidents has shifted to cycle and motorcycle accidents yet again as the numbers of accidents that involve two wheeled vehicles continue to climb in Britain, while accidents for all other vehicles appear to be in slight and welcoming decline.

There has been a lot of debate in cycling circles about the usefulness or otherwise of cycle helmets and it has been noted that many cyclists who have been involved in collisions with motorised vehicles have been reluctant to put in an accident claim for compensation if they were not wearing a cycle helmet as they think they may somehow be to blame for their own injuries.

Here in Britain there is no legal requirement for cyclists to wear cycle helmets as is the case for motorcyclists and it seems to be a controversial subject whether the helmets actually have any real value.

Very few countries in fact make it a requirement for cyclists to wear helmets and yet the fact remains that those cyclists who do not wear them think that if they sustain any sort of injury that they should have been wearing a helmet

There has been quite a bit of research into the safety value of cycle helmets and the findings have shown that the value depends very much on the speed at which the cyclist is travelling at the time of an accident or perhaps more importantly the speed at which they are hit by another vehicle and the direction in which they fall after being hit.

Most of the evidence appears to point to the helmets only being useful if the cyclist accidentally trips over at low speeds and falls slowly to the ground, while more violent collisions or collisions at higher speeds do not show any value in wearing a helmet. In some cases, hitting the ground helmet first may even cause brain injury by the helmet turning the head in a rotational direction.

One interesting piece of evidence obtained by total coincidence by a University Researcher indicated that wearing purpose designed cycle clothes and safety gear might even lead car drivers to think that they can drive closer as they think that the cyclist is better protected. The evidence is anecdotal and hard to prove, although the researcher discovered that wearing a large, blonde wig seemed to create the largest distance between himself and other car drivers – maybe because he was thought not to be trusted!

Whatever the true value of the helmet, it should not stop any cyclist from making a claim for compensation against another driver in the event of an accident as long as they are not to blame for the accident. If the cyclist is hit by another vehicle then in most cases the other driver is responsible for the accident and the claim will involve their insurance company.

The claim issue has become a little more complicated because of a 2011 decision made in the High Court after a collision between a cyclist who was not wearing a helmet and a car driver.

In this case the judge decided to deduct an amount from the compensation award because he was deemed to be contributing to his own negligence. In fact the decision was made because the cyclist’s behaviour was judged to be in part responsible for the accident.

This decision notwithstanding, if you have been involved in any type of road accident for which you were not to blame then you should contact one of our solicitors at Lamb & Co, who will be able to give you an impartial assessment of your chances of making a claim for compensation for any injuries you have received.