Riding at night without lights: Can I still make a compensation claim?
It is a criminal offence to ride a bicycle at night without the proper lights and reflectors. Cycling in the dark poses a serious visibility hazard to other road users, and significantly increases the risk of an accident occurring.
It is still possible to make a claim if you sustain injuries under these circumstances. However, it may be more difficult to establish liability and the amount of your compensation award may be affected.
Lights and the law
Rule 60 of the Highway Code sets out a cyclist's duty with regard to lights and reflectors. At night, cyclists must have their white front and red rear lights lit. Their bicycle must also be fitted with a red rear reflector and amber pedal reflectors.
White front reflectors and spoke reflectors are optional but recommended since they can increase your visibility to other road users.
The Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations (RVLR) specify which types of lights and reflectors should be used, when to light them, and how to fit them. In essence, cyclists are required to:
- Fit lights and reflectors of appropriate quality. Lights that emit a steady light must conform with BS6102/3 or BS3648. For reflectors, the relevant standard is BS6192/2.
- Display lights between sunset and sunrise.
- Keep lights and reflectors in good working order.
If you are injured in an accident that was not your fault and your lights were illegal at the time of the accident, then you can still make a compensation claim.
However, your compensation will be reduced to reflect the part you played in the accident.
Cycling without lights and contributory negligence
Contributory negligence occurs when the Claimant is partly responsible for the accident that caused his injuries.
A good example is a cyclist who is knocked off his bike by a car driving too close to the cyclist. The cyclist did not cause the accident.
But if the cyclist did not have the proper lights, then the driver could argue that he did not see the cyclist until it was too late. Had the cyclist complied with RVLR he would have been visible, and the injuries could have been avoided or made less severe.
If the Court upholds this argument, then damages will usually be reduced by an amount that represents the portion of the blame attributable to the Claimant. If the cyclist is found to have contributed to the accident by 25%, then 25%will be deducted from the compensation award.
Ignorance is no defence. Even if you did not know about the cycle lighting regulations, you are still obliged to comply with them. Failure to do so can make it more difficult to get the full amount of compensation for your injuries.