As Jersey personal injury lawyers, we like cut-and-dried cases where it is easy to determine who is at fault. But all too often, we are faced with the following conundrum: a collision between a bicycle and a vehicle. Who bears the liability? One party is insured, the other is not. One party is moving at speed, the other may not be. One party is protected – the other only by a thin layer of lycra and a plastic hat (sorry, helmet).
The Netherlands appears to have solved this conundrum with what we like to call “strict liability” when dealing with collisions arising between motorised and non-motorised vehicles. Under Dutch law, in the majority of circumstances, the burden of proof falls upon the driver of the motorised vehicle. In other words, it is assumed that the incident was the fault of the driver, unless the driver is able to prove otherwise.
Under Dutch law, in a scenario involving a bicycle and a car, the driver would be required to prove that there were circumstances beyond the control of the driver, or that a mistake was made by the cyclist. Even if the cyclist is deemed to be at fault, under Dutch law, the driver is still liable for 50% of the damage caused, the reason being that the cyclist (or other non-motorised road user) usually suffers the most severe damage, which justifies extra legal protection. This extra-legal protection is only lost if the behaviour causing the damage was so careless that it verges on “recklessness verging on intent”.
Why is this relevant to Jersey? In the wake of green initiatives, surely encouragement of green transport is key. Our island is congested with motorised vehicles, and the number of road-related collisions is increasing year by year. Cycling takes cars off the roads, boosts our wellbeing and aids the environment – what’s not to like?
Why should we adopt the Dutch approach? On an island nine miles by five, most of which is accessible without needing to take the car, it stands to reason that we should be able to leave the house on a bicycle or on foot without having to first consider whether we can afford to shoulder the blame in the event of a collision with a motorised vehicle.
As Jersey personal injury lawyers, we are accustomed to working with clients who require surgery for life-changing injuries, as well as clients who are required to take extensive time off work due to their injuries, none of which comes without expense. In the case of a road traffic accident, we can often recover these expenses from an insurer, where the third party is insured. If you have been involved in an accident and require our assistance, please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our Jersey personal injury lawyers.
Rebecca Gueno | Personal Injury team
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