3 May 2012

Cyclist Jumps a Red Light- Where Does Liability Reside?

The taxi was speeding but cyclist took enormous risk

A Claimant cyclist collided with a Defendant taxi driver in a T-junction, resulting in severe injuries for the cyclist.  The cyclist had run a red light prior to the collision and had failed to apply his brakes although there had been sufficient time to avoid a crash.  The cyclist took an enormous risk it appears.

The taxi driver claimed that the cyclist had been wearing dark and unreflective clothing and had kept his head down, not keeping a proper lookout.  The taxi driver himself had applied the brakes as soon as he spotted the cyclist, but it was agreed by both parties that the taxi had been travelling at 41 to 50 mph through the 30 mph zone, well in excess of the limit and a collision was unavoidable  

The Court held the three causative factors of the accident were the taxi driver’s speeding, the cyclist’s failure to stop at the red light, and the cyclist’s failure to apply the brakes and avoid a collision.  The High Court in Malasi v Attmed [ reported 05.12.2011] placed fault heavily with the cyclist.  The cyclist was found liable for 80% of the accident.  Was this the right call?  There are  arguments for both sides. 

Arguments for Cyclist

·         It’s difficult to travel the streets of London these days without witnessing the flocks of cyclists.  Cyclists are now major users on our urban roads, and drivers should take greater notice of them.  The running of red lights by cyclists is now a very common sight, so can  the red light argument run too heavily against the cyclist? ( The 80% finding against Mr Malasi  may  not assist in making drivers more  vigilant and aware of cyclists  when approaching junctions). 

·         The taxi’s speed was a major contributor to the accident.  The Judge described  the taxi driver’s speed as “gloriously over the speed limit”.  In a 30 mph zone, a speed of 41 to 50 mph is very hazardous and aggravated when approaching a junction at such speeed.  If the taxi had not been speeding, the collision would never have happened.  

·         There is no legal requirement to wear hi-visibility clothing while cycling although it is recommended.  In this case,  the Judge ruled that the cyclist’s clothing was immaterial, as the taxi driver had a “good perception-response time.”    

The Highway Code recognizes cyclists are very vulnerable on the road and the burden must be on drivers to take special care in a road environment when they can expect to encounter the cyclist at any time.

 Arguments for Taxi Driver

·         The cyclist’s disregard for the red light was the most significant contributor to the collision.  The fact that jumping the light is common practice might seem a poor excuse.  It was the cyclist’s responsibility to wait and check for oncoming traffic.  Cyclists should realize that cars are dangerous and take sensible precautions for their own safety. If you jump a light you are taking a risk and objectively can expect limited sympathy if an accident happens: clearly the stance of the Court in this case.

To determine liability in this case where both parties were negligent, the court took causative potency and blameworthiness into account.  A car can obviously cause more damage and injury than a bicycle; therefore, the taxi driver must take the greatest care to not endanger other road users.  However, due to the disregard of the red light and failure to break, the cyclist’s blameworthiness was nevertheless always likely to be overwhelming as was reflected in the court’s final ruling. 

Author: Eric Fingar- Dowse & Co.

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