This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 23.
Peter Lawrence explains how his persistence led to a reasonable compensation settlement after a collision.
Last June I was knocked off my bike by the careless opening of a car door, a dangerous and much under-reported accident. I was injured and had to go to Addenbrooke’s to be checked over and released with bandages. Most of my physical injuries healed up in a couple of weeks, but I suffered for months from persistent headaches due to a neck injury. Psychological damage will not go away so easily. Cycling will never again be so enjoyable for now the feeling of constant threat and danger is with me whenever I share a road with cars.
The incident occurred right in front of a policeman who helped me and became a valuable witness. The driver was prosecuted and fined a paltry amount (£125) for the offence.
I thought I might be able to get compensation from the driver’s insurance company. (Note that I believe the insurance company may still pay compensation even if the police decide not to prosecute the driver.) Other cyclists who are injured by car drivers may not always realise that they may get compensated, so I thought it might be useful to explain how I succeeded.
I went to my solicitor who said I might get compensation but pointed out I should not use him for what was a small claim (my injuries not being too serious or permanent) as his fees would take a large bite out of any payment. I therefore wrote to the driver’s insurance company who were very helpful, seeking medical reports from the hospital and my GP, for which they paid. They did not wish to settle until my headaches had gone, so the process was extended for about 6 months. When I reported I felt OK again, they sought a final report from my GP.
At this point I noticed my house insurance gave free legal advice so I rang their helpline and spoke to a solicitor there, telling him the history and detailing my injuries. He said I should expect about £2,000, but that the sum would not be offered immediately. The insurance company would make me a lower offer, and I should begin negotiation.
The insurance company wrote offering me £1,350 including about £100 expenses (private physiotherapy and replacement trousers). I wrote back saying that I had been advised that £2,000 would be a more appropriate figure. They responded with an offer of £1,750 plus expenses. I said I would accept it, but went on to request that, as we both knew the figure was somewhat arbitrary, they make a final settlement halfway between the £2,000 I had been advised was fair and the £1,750 they had offered. They came back with an offer of £2,000 including expenses.
I hope this story will encourage other injured cyclists to claim compensation for injuries they suffer. Not only will they get some money, but they will also, through the effect on insurance companies, put pressure on car drivers to be more careful. I do not know whether car drivers who burden their insurance companies in this way lose their no claims bonus, but I hope they do.
Peter has very kindly donated part of the compensation he has received to the Cycling Campaign to put towards our work.