A cyclist who had chosen not to wear a safety helmet and who was injured in a collision with a motorcycle has been awarded the full amount of compensation in the High Court. However, the judge warned other cyclists that compensation may be reduced if not wearing a helmet is considered to be a factor in the seriousness of an injury.

Robert Smith was severely injured when he was knocked off his bicycle as the motorcyclist tried to overtake him. The Court found the motorcyclist liable as he had been travelling at over the 30mph speed limit and there was insufficient room for the manoeuvre.

The motorcyclist insurers argued that Mr Smith’s compensation payment should be reduced by 25 per cent because he had contributed to his injuries through not wearing a helmet. However, there is no legal obligation for a cyclist to wear a protective helmet. The Highway Code only recommends that one is worn.

On this point, the court found that it was possible for cyclists to place themselves at a greater risk by not wearing a helmet. In this case, however, the insurers failed to provide evidence that Mr Smith would have suffered less severe injuries if he had been wearing a helmet. It was found that he had hit the ground at a speed at which a helmet would probably not have made any difference to the injuries he sustained. As a result, Mr Smith was awarded the full (undisclosed) amount in compensation.

Whether or not cyclists should be obliged to wear protective headgear remains a controversial issue. Medical opinion is still unclear on whether helmet use will always reduce or eliminate injuries.

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident or any other road traffic accident, caused by the negligence of another road user, contact us to discuss a compensation claim.