Cycling – accidents on the rise
As more and more people take up cycling, particularly in cities like Bristol, the number of accidents is sadly increasing too.
In 2014, a staggering 21,287 cyclists were injured in reported road accidents in the UK, including 3,514 who were killed or seriously hurt, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA).
And this could be the tip of the iceberg. The real number could be two or three times higher for seriously injured cyclists and double for those slightly injured as ROSPA's figures only include cycling accidents reported to the police. Many are not - even when the cyclist concerned is badly injured enough to be taken to hospital.
ROSPA's statistics show:
• Around 75% of fatal or serious cyclist accidents occur in urban areas
• Around half of cyclist fatalities occur on rural roads
• 75% happen at, or near, a road junction
• 80% occur in daylight
• 80% of cyclist casualties are male
• Almost one quarter of the cyclists killed or injured are children
• Around three quarters of cyclists killed have major head injuries.
What to do if you have a cycling accident
At the time…
If the police are called, take down the name of the officer and ask for a police case reference number.
Make sure you get the registration number of any vehicle involved and if possible, also the name, address and insurance details of any drivers. Take photographs of the position of vehicles on the road,
Even if you only have a minor injury, it is important to go to your GP or to hospital as soon as possible. Take photos of your injuries at their worst as well as pictures of any damage to your bike, clothing and possessions.
Get the contact details of any witnesses to the accident - the more the better. If you are badly injured, ask bystanders to help you with this.
If you are wearing a cycle camera, take special care of any footage as it is admissible as evidence.
If you decide to instruct a solicitor
If you are injured following a road accident that wasn't your fault you should not feel embarrassed or reluctant about making a road accident claim. You have the right to seek compensation.
You have three years from the date of the accident (or your 21st birthday if you are under 18 at the time of the accident) to commence court proceedings or you will lose the right to claim.
Make sure the solicitor you contact specialises in cycling cases and is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). Do not use a company advertising on the TV or lawyers appointed by insurers (who are very often not legally qualified). Always insist on a face-to-face meeting with a lawyer who is legally qualified.
If your case has a greater than 50% chance of success (which is the vast majority of cycling accidents), your solicitor should enter into a "no win no fee" arrangement with you.
Timescales for claims vary; some claims take 6 months while others continue for much longer. A great deal depends upon the responsiveness and reasonableness of the defendant and their insurers or lawyers, whether they admit fault quickly and how serious your injuries are.
What will happen?
The steps involved will vary depending on the case, but in general a solicitor will:
• Notify the driver of the accident and, if necessary, write to the police to request a copy of the collision investigation report.
• Instruct an independent medical expert to meet with you and report on the extent of your injuries and how long they will last.
• Once the medical evidence has been finalised, and the driver has admitted liability, the claim should be ready to settle. It may take some time to get to this stage, depending on the complexity of the case and how serious your injuries are.
• Where the driver does not admit liability, or the insurers undervalue the case, it may be necessary to issue court proceedings to encourage settlement. However, only around 1% of cases actually go to trial.
If you need help and advice about a cycling accident, please contact our Wards Solicitors' Accident and Injury Team - all specialist solicitors and members of APIL - either by phone or by popping into one of our 11 local offices.