Cycling groups question impact of High Court helmet ruling

A recent case in the High Court may be taken as a precedent so that cyclists who suffer serious injuries while not wearing a helmet may not receive full compensation from insurance companies.

Many experts believe this is a weak case to set a precedent as the actual efficacy of helmets was not in question and was not tested in evidence before the judge.

Nevertheless, all insurance companies will now try to reduce their payouts unless the injured cyclists fight each individual case in court.

Helmets have not been proven effective in court
To our knowledge, no cyclist who has contested the effectiveness of helmets in a British court has lost their case.
In his judgment (which can be downloaded on the right) Mr Justice Griffith Williams wrote: “I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that a cyclist who does not wear a helmet runs the risk of contributing to his/her injuries.”
In the actual case before him the judge found absolutely in favour of the cyclist. There was no reduction in compensation because the evidence showed that a helmet would not have prevented the most serious injuries to the cyclist.

Mr Smith was cycling to choir practice when he was hit from behind by a speeding motorcyclist. He suffered serious brain injuries, most likely resulting from the rotation and jolting to the his head as he was thrown through the air.

It was estimated that the cyclist hit the ground at a speed higher than 12mph, which is the design limit set for cycle helmets to be effective.

The judge concluded: “There was no evidence to prove that any particular injury and any residual disability was or may have been avoided had a helmet been worn.”

LCC takes action to prevent unjust future rulings
The LCC is concerned that the reporting of this case will lead to injured cyclists not receiving adequate compensation, even if their injuries would not have been diminished by wearing a helmet, as was the case with Mr Smith.

We will be supporting actions by the CTC to discover the full impact of this judgement and whether a further test case is required to set the parameters for considering what protective effect a helmet may or may not provide in the case of collision with a motor vehicle.