Cycle Law – A Test for Jackson

As a keen cyclist ( or ‘mamil’ – ‘middle –aged man in lycra’) , currently in training for a ride from Tunbridge Wells to Amsterdam in aid of the Spinal Injuries Association, and as a Personal Injury Lawyer, I have two sound reasons for interest in ‘Road share; Campaign for Strict Liability’ launched in 2014 with the aim of radically amending Scottish Civil Law for cyclists.

The campaign is for a system, under Scottish Law, of presumed liability on the part of vehicle drivers involved in collisions with cyclists and other vulnerable road users in order that the latter may be compensated fairly and quickly.

The campaign is focused on ‘presumed liability’ to simplify the establishment of responsibility for road traffic accidents, bringing certainty to the legal process.  The principle is that the driver of a motor vehicle in collision with a cyclist or other vulnerable raid user is deemed liable “not for their failure to display the diligence of a reasonable person, but because they are in control of a source of danger to other people’s lives, health or property”.

At present the UK is out of step with Europe as only 1 of 5 EU countries (the others being Cyprus, Malta, Rumania and Ireland) which do not operate a system of strict liability for motorists who are involved in accidents where vulnerable road users are injured.  In continental Europe, forms of strict liability are seen as an integral factor of cycle safety.

The ultimate aim of the campaign is to introduce a Members Bill into the Scottish Parliament, designed to protect the most vulnerable road users.  So what are the prospects of changes in the law being introduced in this jurisdiction?

With the campaign up and running in Scotland, does this not present a sound opportunity for the Government to counteract the accusations from many quarters, including this one, that the huge raft of legislation introduced by LASPO and the Jackson Reforms, and since, is simply an attack on access to Justice, influenced largely by a powerful insurance lobby, but rather, as the Government and others would have us believe, a much needed scheme to improve the running efficiencies of the Court and Tribunal System?

We have had the significant expansion of fixed fees for personal injury claims to the value of up to £25,000.00, the removal of strict liability in workplace accidents, introduced by the ‘Enterprise Act’, the unforgiveable contempt shown for the hitherto longstanding principle of restitutionary damages (eg by placing the burden of payment of success fees and insurance premiums upon the Claimant), and a huge increase from 9th March 2015 (with 1 week’s and very misleading notice) in Court fees ( circa 600% in many cases).

Come on Government, disprove us cynical Claimant PI Lawyers and believers in the importance of fairness and the access to justice, put us into line with the vast majority of other countries in Europe, prove your interest in efficiencies in the judicial system and introduce a presumed liability scheme to protect cyclists and other vulnerable road users!

I have a feeling the response would be ‘on your bike’!

Gary Boyd, Partner at Hilary Meredith Solicitors Ltd