Can I claim for a cycle accident if I was wearing headphones?
Cyclists are vulnerable road users and therefore need to maintain awareness of their surroundings in order to avoid accidents.
Many external factors can impact on their safety - for instance other road users, road conditions and unexpected obstacles.
If you have brought a claim for injuries sustained in a cycling accident the Court will assess how the accident happened - the circumstances behind the collision, who was involved and whether it could have been avoided. This is to determine the liability - i.e. who was to blame?
How does the Court decide who is liable?
The Court will ask many questions around the accident and there may be many complexities to consider. For example:
- How quickly were the other vehicles travelling?
- Were they obeying traffic signals?
- What was the road surface like?
- What were the weather conditions?
- What time of day was it?
The Court will also want to learn more about the cyclist, such as:
- Was he wearing a helmet?
- Was he obeying traffic signals?
- Was he visible to other road users?
- And importantly - was he paying attention?
Paying attention to other road users and road conditions
Being observant of other road users and the state of the road is key for any road user. Although cyclists cause fewer and less serious accidents to others, they must still follow the Highway Code which under Rule 67 states:
- Look all around before moving away from the kerb, turning or manoeuvring, to make sure it is safe to do so. Give a clear signal to show other road users what you intend to do.
- Look well ahead for obstructions in the road, such as drains, pot-holes and parked vehicles so that you do not have to swerve suddenly to avoid them. Leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles and watch out for doors being opened or pedestrians stepping into your path.
- Be aware of traffic coming up behind you.
- Take extra care near road humps, narrowings and other traffic calming features.
- Take care when overtaking.
If a cyclist has failed to observe these (non-statutory) rules he may be found partly liable for his accident and injuries.
The distractions caused by wearing headphones
Many cyclists listen to music through headphones whilst cycling; however this popular practice may interfere with the cyclist's concentration.
For example, he may be unable to hear traffic noise around him, or be unaware of the sirens of emergency vehicles. His reaction time to hazards may be slower.
He may be momentarily distracted by changing the playlist or programme on his device, whilst still cycling - and not looking ahead may collide with another object or vehicle, or fail to see a pothole in the road.
Would this be contributory negligence?
When the Court is assessing the damages payable for injury, the Defendant may claim that the cyclist's distraction was partly to blame for the injuries sustained in order to reduce the amount paid.
To apply a reduction to the damages awarded the Court must establish that the cyclist must have been at fault and that the fault must have contributed to his injury. It must also determine whether the injuries might have been less severe or avoided altogether.
For example: if a cyclist had not avoided a pothole in the road because he was adjusting the volume on his MP3 player, although accident may have been caused by the failure of the local highways authority to repair the pothole, the cyclist may be found to have contributed to his accident through his own negligent behaviour.
This could lead to a percentage reduction (for contributory negligence) in the compensation awarded.
Using an experienced cycling injury solicitor
The National Cycling Charity (NCC) has campaigned to have the policy of the law changed so that findings of contributory negligence are exceptional and not found against cyclists who commit technical breaches of the Highway Code's non-statutory rules (e.g Rule 67).
However the Courts still seem willing to make reductions in damages to cyclists; therefore instructing an experienced cycling injury solicitor who can guide the Court through the complexities of your accident will ensure the best outcome for your claim.