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Paying the price for failing to wear a helmet

Paying the price for failing to wear a helmet

Are you a cyclist? Do you wear a helmet when you cycle? If not and you’re involved in an accident, your award of damages may be reduced on the grounds of contributory negligence, even although in Scotland it is not illegal to cycle without a helmet.

This is on the basis that the injuries suffered would have been less severe or indeed may not have been suffered if the cyclist was wearing a helmet. 

Is it fair to reduce an injured persons damages when they have legally chosen not to wear a helmet? It is consistent with other areas of negligence, for example: a person who is injured from falling down an open manhole after leaving the pub having legally consumed alcohol is deemed to have contributed to his/her accident because there is no doubt that consuming alcohol “might expose the person to a greater risk of injury” and damages will be reduced to reflect this. 

As a cyclist, does knowing that you could lose out on compensation from an accident make you more likely to wear a helmet? And how would you feel if it was a legal requirement to wear a helmet?

There are reports from neurosurgeons that wearing a helmet doesn’t necessarily protect you against injury and some people even argue that you are more likely to be injured with a helmet on. This is based on the belief that wearing a helmet leads to complacency and drivers are less likely to take care around a cyclist with a helmet. 

In countries such as New Zealand and Australia where a helmet is a legal requirement there has been a reduction in the amount of people cycling. If less people cycle then the roads aren’t as safe and people are less healthy. So, if there is doubt over the amount of protection a helmet provides and a likelihood that forcing people to wear them discourages cycling, what advantages could there be of introducing a law requiring all cyclists to wear a helmet? 

Lets think about the positives to wearing a helmet. Safety is surely the paramount consideration when it comes to getting on your bike. It could be argued that a cyclist who wears a helmet is reminded of the dangers and in turn takes more care. In addition, drivers are likely to respect cyclists for wearing a helmet and taking responsibility for their own safety. A better relationship between drivers and cyclists makes for more cooperation, safer roads and an increase in the amount of people deciding to cycle.

In 2014 in the UK, 21,287 cyclists were injured in reported road accidents, including 3,514 who were killed or seriously injured. Whatever your opinions are on the reduction of damages for failing to wear a helmet and on the introduction of a legal requirement, it cannot be disputed that a drop in the amount of people injured and killed from cycling accidents would be a positive thing. 

Next time you think about getting on your bike, don’t be put off by the idea of wearing a helmet. The more people who wear them, the more fashionable they’ll become. Ride with pride and in the comfort of knowing you are contributing to a healthier and safer society. 

If you have been injured as the result of a cycling accident please contact Joanne Clancy on 01382 229111 or email or contact any member of the Personal Injury team. on 01382 229111 who will be pleased to assist further.

Posted by Joanne Clancy

Senior Solicitor

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