Law firm says contentious ruling could intensify debate and threaten cyclists both current and new

‘Contributory negligence’ helmets ruling analysis online now

The controversial ‘contributory negligence’ helmet High Court ruling, which some fear could cull the number of cyclists on the road, could not only remain unresolved for some time, but may even intensify, according to law firm Sheridans.

The case of Smith vs Finch, as reported on, saw a court ruling concerning an accident in Essex where a cyclist was accused of contributory negligence because he was not wearing a helmet.

The CTC has previously warned that the ruling could make helmets compulsory ‘by the back door’ sparking fears of a slide in the number of cyclists. Studies have shown that the number of cyclists has plummeted in countries where helmet wearing is statutory.

Law firm Sheridans said of the ruling: “This case will add fuel to the fire of the cycle helmet debate and comes at a time when the Government is trying to encourage people to be active.

“The promotion of cycling is notable in London where it is reported, on the Mayor’s website, that cycling on major London roads has increased by 83 per cent from 2000. The Mayor even announced a strategy in 2008 to increase city cycling by 400 per cent by 2025.”

But the law firm explained that the controversial ruling doesn’t mean that the court is accusing cyclists without helmets of being guilty of ‘contributory negligence’: “Smith v Finch has introduced the possibility that a cyclist may be guilty of contributory negligence by not wearing a cycle helmet and that any damages awarded may be reduced,” Sheridans spokespersons Tahir Basheer and Jo Latimer told BikeBiz.

“The Court is not saying that a cyclist could be contributory negligent by not wearing a helmet, irrespective of who is found responsible for the accident, as this is something for the Defendant to prove. To do so, the Defendant must prove the cyclist failed to take reasonable care by not wearing a cycle helmet and that any injuries would have been less severe if the cyclist had been wearing a helmet.”

You can read Sheridan’s full analysis on the debate here.

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