Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Cyclist who jumped a red light has compensation reduced by 80%

This morning I read about the case of Malasi v Attmed where a cyclist who jumped a red light was claiming compensation for being hit by a taxi. The driver had proceeded through a set of traffic lights when they were green, and struck a cyclist who had jumped a red light whilst coming through the junction to the driver’s left (see my rudimentary sketch below).

 Accident Sketch

A crucial fact in this case was that the driver was travelling “gloriously in excess of the speed limit," as the Judge described it, which was between 41 and 50 miles per hour when the speed limit was 30 miles per hour. Had the driver been travelling within the speed limit (or only marginally above) the likelihood is that the cyclist would have been found wholly liable for the accident. As it was, the driver was found to be 20% liable for the accident, with the cyclist taking the lion’s share of the blame.

A worrying part of the judgment is with regard to cyclist’s clothing. The Judge found that whether or not the cyclist was wearing hi-visibility clothing was immaterial in this case, as the driver had a “good perception-response time.” However, this implies that a cyclist could be found to be partially liable for an accident if they are not wearing hi-visibility clothing, if the driver has a poor response time which contributed to the accident. As wearing hi-visibility clothing is not a legal requirement, my view is that placing any blame on the cyclist is wholly unfair as it would shift the responsibility away from drivers to watch out for cyclists.


  1. In my opinion, the visibility issue is nonsensical argument as it is not a legal requirement to wear it, as you quite rightly pointed out.

    The crooks of this case, prima facie, are this. Two road users. Both ignoring the highway code. The cyclist for jumping the red light, the taxi driver for driving in excess of the given speed limit.

    The proportionality of blame is correct in my view, in fact, I may go as far as to say it should be 90/10 (cyclist/taxi). Yes the taxi was driving in excess of the speed limit, however, the cyclist, like many I witness on a daily basis, jumped the red light and could have caused a fatality (his/her own) therefore the taxi driver would no doubt have faced a more serious charge.

    I am a cyclist and yes I admit to not always waiting at a red light. Instead I ride the pavement if it is clear to do so, otherwise wait like all the other road users. Cyclists’ often have a perception of “I’m vulnerable therefore you should take the responsibility out of my cycling and watch out for me”. That is the wrong attitude, cars hurt, so watch out for them. As a motorcyclist as well, this is the ethos, expect everyone else not to see you, but do not ride illegally as you will not receive any sympathy from your fellow road users.

    Oh, and cyclists, if you do get into an argument with a road user, don’t hit their wing mirrors. That’s criminal damage and turns yet more road users against you.

  2. Thanks for your comment - I agree that the visibility issue is flawed, but for slightly different reasons than you have given. The law has found that the absence of a legal requirement to wear protective equipment does not meant that contributory negligence cannot be found. The most notable example of this was in the judgment of Lord Denning in Froom v Butcher (1976) where not wearing a seat belt caused contributory negligence to be found, before it was enforced by statute.

    This view point was echoed in the judgment of Smith v Finch (2009) where the High Court found that not wearing a cycle helmet can lead to contributory negligence, although no contrib was found in that case. My view is that helmets and hi-visibility clothing for cyclists can be distinguished from car safety belts. I’ll be posting a blog on this subject shortly, as it has generated a lot of discussion.

  3. Look forward to the blog :) #keepmeinformed