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Calls for a change in legislation to protect cyclists

Posted: 15th June 2020

An Edinburgh lawyer is calling for the UK to adopt a similar approach to other European countries of presumed liability of drivers when cyclists are involved in a road accident.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic the government has been promoting cycling, not only for its health benefits during lockdown, but also as an alternative to public transport. Personal injury specialist at Thorntons, Michelle Adam, believes that UK roads aren’t set up to deal with an increase in cyclists, meaning there is a higher chance of an accident happening – and cyclists should be protected.

Michelle said: “If the government is serious about increasing the use of bikes, they need to invest in the correct infrastructure to keep cyclists safe – resurfacing roads and creating more designated cycle lanes. Without this, it’s inevitable there will be more accidents.

“At the moment in the UK when a cyclist is involved in an accident with a car or other vehicle, the cyclist needs to prove that the car driver is to blame for the accident. That can sometimes be difficult, particularly if a cyclist is very badly injured and there are no witnesses.

“Across most of Europe however, there is a different approach which is known as presumed liability. That means that a car driver will be liable if they collide with a cyclist. The only way to avoid responsibility is if the driver can prove that the crash was unforeseeable or out of their control. I believe this approach should be adopted in the UK.

“If a cyclist is involved in an accident with a car, they are much more likely to be seriously injured than the car driver. Motor vehicles are heavy pieces of equipment which are full of safety features to protect their passengers, which is not the case for someone on a bike.

“Cyclists should obviously obey the rules of the road and take care for their own safety but they ought not to have the burden of having to prove the other party is at fault. In our changed world, I believe now is the right time to change the law, raise awareness and make all road users safer.

“But for now, if the worst happens and you are knocked off your bike and suffer an injury, you might be entitled to compensation if you can prove the other party is at fault. If you have an accident, try to get names of any witnesses, details of the driver and the registration number of the vehicle involved. These will be useful evidence if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim.”

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