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Legal ruling on cycle helmets

RodmcRodmc Posts: 42
edited March 2009 in Commuting chat
See below link to today's Indepedent newspaper


http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ho ... 45736.html

Is M'lud serious :?:

It may not be a legal requirement to wear a helmet, but after this ruling would you really still not wear one?
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  • "A cyclist is free to choose whether or not to wear one," he said in the legal ruling. But not doing so means "any injury sustained may be the cyclist's own fault and 'He has only himself to thank for the consequences'."

    This is simply beyond logic.

    The gravity of the outcome may or may not be affected by a helmet. But how on earth is an innocent victim *responsible* for their injuries?
  • CiBCiB Posts: 6,098
    The judge did state that each case must be taken on its own merits, so this does not create a legal precedent acc to the piece on Today this morning. It'll be on Listen Again I expect, it was on at about 8:51, Evan Davies interviewing someone from a cycling org who had a neutral stance but didn't believe that compulsion is the best answer.

    The victim was knocked off by a speeding motorcyclist and seriously injured, The judge said in essence that cyclists must bear some responsibility for their injures if they choose not to wear a helmet, but in this case the failure to wear a helmet did not affect the severity of the injuries. Sounds to me like a case of the judge having his cake and eating it.
  • Rich158Rich158 Posts: 2,348
    I don't understand this logic at all. The wearing of safety equipment is irrelevant imho If you are injured due to someone else's actions then they are the sole cause of your injuries, not your decision over whether to put a helmet on.
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  • DonDaddyDDonDaddyD Posts: 12,689
    Its utter nonsense, and not consistent with other laws about injury and responsibility.
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  • il_principeil_principe Posts: 9,152
    Total censored .

    Let's apply this logic to a car crash. A man in a G-Whizz is hit by a man in a range rover. Should the man in the G-Whizz be considered culpable in some way? After all his car doesn't comply with Euro NCAP, yet is perfectly road legal.
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  • chuckcorkchuckcork Posts: 1,471
    I always thought the legal principle was that "you take your victims as you find them", so if you stab a haemophiliac JW and they bleed to death while refusing transfusions, it is still murder.

    By the same principle, if you hit someone with a car and they are injured, then regardless of whether they were wearing a helmet or not the driver should be responsible for the injuries caused, the cause of injury not being disconnected from the vehicle impact as the judge woudl suggest.

    Or is he also expecting everyone to go around wearing all kinds of body armour, helmets, stab vests etc so as to minimise injury in the case of some illegal event being perpetrated upon their person, whatever their mode of transport?

    I can see Grizzly Fighting suits making a comeback right now!
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  • prawnyprawny Posts: 5,426
    There's talk of this for motorcyclists too, now they're sharp testing motorbike lids. It's total cack, are teenagers at fault for getting stabbed in london because they go out at night?

    Like Jash said there's no mention of people being responsible for driving a 3 star Ncap car instead of a 5 star one
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  • wantawaywantaway Posts: 96
    From my hazy memories of early legal training I thought that you took your victim as you found them. Once you proved liability, then defendant became responsible for everything that followed from the unlawul act. (R v Blaue / egg-shell skull theory / blah blah blah).

    Just not sure how the old duffer who was sitting on this case came to such an odd conclusion. Shamelss insurance firms will be having a field day defending idiot drivers using idiot caselaw.
  • il_principeil_principe Posts: 9,152
    prawny wrote:
    There's talk of this for motorcyclists too, now they're sharp testing motorbike lids. It's total cack, are teenagers at fault for getting stabbed in london because they go out at night?

    Or raped women responsible for wearing "provocative" clothing.

    Complete farce.
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  • Christophe3967Christophe3967 Posts: 1,200
    Total censored .

    Let's apply this logic to a car crash. A man in a G-Whizz is hit by a man in a range rover. Should the man in the G-Whizz be considered culpable in some way? After all his car doesn't comply with Euro NCAP, yet is perfectly road legal.

    This may be why people driving these silly cars invariably look terrified. Or maybe they've just spotted me. :evil:
  • DomProDomPro Posts: 321
    chuckcork wrote:
    I always thought the legal principle was that "you take your victims as you find them", so if you stab a haemophiliac JW and they bleed to death while refusing transfusions, it is still murder.

    Thats the way I understood it to be as well. This decision completely goes against a long standing legal precedent and would probably be overruled in a higher court if the claimant appeals. I would expect the defendant's insurer will fight this to the end, considering the size of payout for brain injuries (i.e. lifetime of professional care and lost earnings, etc)
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  • always_tyredalways_tyred Posts: 4,965
    DomPro wrote:
    chuckcork wrote:
    I always thought the legal principle was that "you take your victims as you find them", so if you stab a haemophiliac JW and they bleed to death while refusing transfusions, it is still murder.

    Thats the way I understood it to be as well. This decision completely goes against a long standing legal precedent and would probably be overruled in a higher court if the claimant appeals. I would expect the defendant's insurer will fight this to the end, considering the size of payout for brain injuries (i.e. lifetime of professional care and lost earnings, etc)
    I though there were other precedents for reducing the awards of damages for contributory negligence in a road traffic context. Isn't that what the judge was saying - the determination of negligence was made first, but the award of damages might, in principle, be partially contingent upon the hypothetical benefit of a helmet (in the case of an injured, unhelmeted rider)?
  • roger_merrimanroger_merriman Posts: 6,165
    as far as i understand it yes
  • always_tyredalways_tyred Posts: 4,965
    as far as i understand it yes
    In which case its not entirely lacking in logic. Unfortunately, defence lawyers will get a hold of it and any actual common sense will be absence in application. I understand that the CTC are doing their best to appeal that part of the judgement.
  • Christophe3967Christophe3967 Posts: 1,200
    DomPro wrote:
    chuckcork wrote:
    I always thought the legal principle was that "you take your victims as you find them", so if you stab a haemophiliac JW and they bleed to death while refusing transfusions, it is still murder.

    Thats the way I understood it to be as well. This decision completely goes against a long standing legal precedent and would probably be overruled in a higher court if the claimant appeals. I would expect the defendant's insurer will fight this to the end, considering the size of payout for brain injuries (i.e. lifetime of professional care and lost earnings, etc)
    I though there were other precedents for reducing the awards of damages for contributory negligence in a road traffic context. Isn't that what the judge was saying - the determination of negligence was made first, but the award of damages might, in principle, be partially contingent upon the hypothetical benefit of a helmet (in the case of an injured, unhelmeted rider)?

    I'm aware that the police/CPS don't always prosecute for careless driving if a cyclist was listening to music for example. I also know that as I rarely wear a helmet and normally listen to music on my bike, I will inevitably have to contend with contributory negligence issues in the event of an accident. Because of this I do have a video camera on my bike, which I hope will act as a black box, and provide enough evidence to render such considerations irrelevant.
  • bigmatbigmat Posts: 5,132
    I think a distinction needs to be drawn between civil and criminal law. In criminal law then yes, you take the victim as you find them, egg shell skull etc. So, if it was a dangerous driving case then whether a cyclist was wearing a helmet or not would be irrelevant.

    For a civil claim (e.g. for damages), issues of contributory negligence will always arise. I don't think its that unreasonable to say that if wearing a helmet (which are readily available, cheap and I belive recommended in the Highway Code?) would have limited the injuries suffered in a RTA, by failing to wear one the victim contributed to his own injuries and his damages should be reduced accordingly. I actually think its common sense - its why I wear a helmet; if I was in an accident and suffered injuries as a result of not wearing a helmet I would be kicking myself and would feel partly responsible, regardless of any third party involvement. The Court will look at it the same way.

    Now, the really controversial bit will be trying to prove that the wearing of a helmet WOULD have prevented the injuries / limited the extent of the injuries. If and when that case happens it will be interesting to see which of the pro / anti camps and the various expert reports that always get dragged into these kinds of debate are favoured.

    Oh, and cycling through traffic with headphones in and no helmet? Candidate for a Darwin award...
  • Eau RougeEau Rouge Posts: 1,118
    Isn't that what the judge was saying - the determination of negligence was made first, but the award of damages might, in principle, be partially contingent upon the hypothetical benefit of a helmet (in the case of an injured, unhelmeted rider)?

    Is this the same ruling that was talked about a few months ago? I presume some sort of legal tecnicality had been keeping the mainstream media from talking about it until today.
    If I have the right case, and I remember correctly, then the motorbike's side did actually argue that the cyclist was partly to blame due to not wearing a helmet, but they were unable to prove it in court. If the case the judge makes this comment on doesn't actually rule the cyclist was at fault, it's hard to see how this could be used as a precedent.
    I would hope this would be easy enough for the CTC lawyers to dismiss.

    This country so needs a Cycling Act.
  • BoardinBobBoardinBob Posts: 697
    Interesting one.

    The cyclist didn't cause the accident or death but their choice in not wearing a helme may have contributed to their death.

    Lets take it out the realm of cycling for a second.

    If you were involved in a car crash where another car caused the accident, you weren't wearing your seatbelt (ignoring the legalities) and you went through the windscreen which you would not have done if you had been wearing the seatbelt, how would you aportion "blame"? What could have been a minor accident has been elevated to a major fatality through the poor risk control of the person not wearing a seatbelt.
  • DomProDomPro Posts: 321
    MatHammond wrote:
    I think a distinction needs to be drawn between civil and criminal law. In criminal law then yes, you take the victim as you find them, egg shell skull etc. So, if it was a dangerous driving case then whether a cyclist was wearing a helmet or not would be irrelevant.

    For a civil claim (e.g. for damages), issues of contributory negligence will always arise.

    Ah bollocks, you're completely right now I think about it. Explains my censored mark in the tort exam. Carry on...
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  • bigmatbigmat Posts: 5,132
    Yep, there's an obvious parallel with failing to wear a seatbelt althoug the difference is that is a legal requirement.

    The judge's comments will be obiter dictum - not binding authority, as he didn't actually have to decide on the issue of contrib (as a helmet would have made no difference in this case) but in subsequent cases defence lawyers will be able to refer to his comments and argue that his recommendations should be followed.

    I still reckon the difficulty any defence lawyer would have would be proving that wearing a helmet would have prevented injury - there's a lot of conflicting opinion on that one, and it obviously didn't stack up in this case.
  • Eau Rouge wrote:
    Is this the same ruling that was talked about a few months ago? I presume some sort of legal tecnicality had been keeping the mainstream media from talking about it until today.

    Or more likely a freelancer wrote the story that sat around waiting for some column space to appear, which it did in yesterday's Sunday Times.

    The Judge held that as a matter of legal principle, the failure to wear a cycling helmet was capable of amounting to contributory negligence (ie carelessness causing in part the injury). That hadn't been argued before. The J accepted this proposition relying on a Denning decision that not wearing a seatbelt (at a time when cars had to have them fitted, but passengers were not obliged to wear them) was capable of amounting to contributory negligence.

    On the facts of the case, the J found that the failure of the cyclist did not make any difference - ie he was 0% to blame for his injuries, and his award of damages would be unaffected. Note here that he was described as a large man, and was thrown 3.75m through the air by the collision. The J concluded (although there wasn't any evidence on point) that the cyclist hit the ground with a force/speed sufficiently great that a helmet would have made no difference; there was some further analysis of the part of the head that impacted the ground and whether it would have been protected.

    So in principle, any cyclist claiming to have been injured may be met with the objection that the cause of his injuries, in part, was his failure to wear a helmet. Whether, on the facts of any given case, the defendant will be able to prove that claim to the civil standard (ie more likely than not, or 51%), remains to be seen.

    Cue: expert evidence about cycling helmets and head injuries.
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  • Eau RougeEau Rouge Posts: 1,118
    Greg66 wrote:
    So in principle, any cyclist claiming to have been injured may be met with the objection that the cause of his injuries, in part, was his failure to wear a helmet. Whether, on the facts of any given case, the defendant will be able to prove that claim to the civil standard (ie more likely than not, or 51%), remains to be seen.

    Cue: expert evidence about cycling helmets and head injuries.

    Is that any different to how things were before this case came to court?
  • Eau Rouge wrote:
    Greg66 wrote:
    So in principle, any cyclist claiming to have been injured may be met with the objection that the cause of his injuries, in part, was his failure to wear a helmet. Whether, on the facts of any given case, the defendant will be able to prove that claim to the civil standard (ie more likely than not, or 51%), remains to be seen.

    Cue: expert evidence about cycling helmets and head injuries.

    Is that any different to how things were before this case came to court?

    According to the judgment, no defendant had made this claim before this case. So strictly, yes. But I'd guess that were you to have asked a dozen PI lawyers last year whether not wearing a cycle helmet was *capable* of being contrib, you'd have got a lot of nodding responses.

    Journos love cases like this though. Make great headlines.
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  • condormancondorman Posts: 811
    It wasn't helped by the fact that neither party relied upon expert medical evidence. Even Lawtel misreported the decision; it was only when I read the decision in full that I realised that the world hadn't ended for cyclists.
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  • CunobelinCunobelin Posts: 11,792
    Total censored .

    Let's apply this logic to a car crash. A man in a G-Whizz is hit by a man in a range rover. Should the man in the G-Whizz be considered culpable in some way? After all his car doesn't comply with Euro NCAP, yet is perfectly road legal.

    More interestingly...... there is the opposite issue with Euro NCap

    The fact is that many 4x4s and SUVs are known to cause greater injuries due to the fact that the main frame is higher than the side protection of many family cars.

    The Jeep Grand Cherokee has the distinction of being the first vehicle that actually fails to score a single point on the pedestrian safety rating of Euro Ncap testing.

    Should there be an increased liability for someone who knowingly buys a vehiclle that will inflict greater injury?
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  • Christophe3967Christophe3967 Posts: 1,200
    MatHammond wrote:
    Oh, and cycling through traffic with headphones in and no helmet? Candidate for a Darwin award...

    Thanks, you're too kind.. 8) 8)
  • bigmatbigmat Posts: 5,132
    Sorry! Wouldn't feel safe for me, but its a free country - you probably have superior bike handling skills / spidey sense...
  • always_tyredalways_tyred Posts: 4,965
    MatHammond wrote:
    Sorry! Wouldn't feel safe for me, but its a free country - you probably have superior bike handling skills / spidey sense...
    Depends what you are listening too as well. Nine Inch Nails at a decent volume might be a tad distracting. Radio 4 so that you can hear traffic and the insults being thrown at you perfectly clearly, less so.
  • cjcpcjcp Posts: 13,345
    This could well send things off on a tangent, but...

    when I'm on the bike, I worry less about riders with iPods and what not, than I do about pedestrians with iPods (and using their mobile phones) because they don't necessarily hear the shout of "bike!" when they step out into the road.
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  • MatHammond wrote:
    Oh, and cycling through traffic with headphones in and no helmet? Candidate for a Darwin award...

    Thanks, you're too kind.. 8) 8)

    Moi aussi,
    What I can't understand is wtf wearing a helmet has to do with any civil action. One is not required to wear one any more than is a pedestrian. Why should it be of any more relevance than suggesting a pedestrian shows contributory negligence by not wearing one when hit by a car???
    Dan
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