Your support secures more campaign wins

Your support secures more campaign wins

Plans to cheat cyclists and other vulnerable road users of compensation have been defeated in full, thanks to public support for Cycling UK’s Road Victims are Real Victims campaign. Head of campaigns and advocacy, Duncan Dollimore explains

If you’re knocked off your bike, injured, and someone else is to blame, it’s reassuring to know that you should be able to claim compensation. For Cycling UK members, the incident line operated by Cycle SOS also provides access to expert lawyers specialising in cycling injury claims, but in England and Wales, access to justice for cyclists and other vulnerable road users was put in peril back in 2016.

That’s because the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) came up with a plan to limit people’s ability to recover their own legal costs if their injuries weren’t considered serious enough to merit more than £5000 in damages. Just to put that in perspective, an analysis of cycling compensation claims by both Slater and Gordon and Leigh Day solicitors, who deal with personal injury cases for British Cycling’s members, revealed that 70% of cyclist’s claims are for less than £5,000, largely because typical injuries such as broken wrists or collarbones usually fall below that threshold.   

Recover less than your costs

This would have severely affected Cycling UK members despite free initial advice being available to them through the incident line. Currently, if a member phones the incident line after being hit by a driver, Cycle SOS will assess whether there’s a viable claim and if there is, offer to represent the member on preferential terms. If the member recovers £3,000 compensation for their injuries and Cycle SOS's costs are £3,500, the legal costs should be paid by the driver’s insurance company, so the member still gets £3,000. The MoJs proposals would have prevented costs recovery from the insurers, who’d have saved £3,500, but the injured cyclist would have recovered £3,000 to then pay out £3,500 for their legal costs, leaving them £500 out of pocket.

This proposal to increase what’s known as the small claims limit (SCL) from £1,000 to £5,000 would therefore have created huge hurdles for cyclists seeking damages in the 70% of compensation claims where injuries are likely to be valued at less than £5,000, and driven a coach and horses through both our and British Cycling’s membership offers. Lawyers would have been less willing to take on such cases on a conditional fee basis, where their costs are only paid if the case is successful, because they’d be taking their fees out of their client’s compensation with claimants facing the very real prospect that they could pursue a successful claim and end up worse off after paying legal fees.

The practical effect would have been that most injured cyclists simply wouldn’t have been able to pursue most compensation claims, unless they were confident enough to do so themselves without legal advice or representation.  

Road victims are real victims

In partnership with RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, and Living Streets, the national charity for everyday walking, Cycling UK launched our Road victims are real victims campaign to stop changes to civil justice rules which would have left 70% of injured cyclists short changed. Over 6,000 people supported our submission to the MoJ and our campaign, saying don’t cut cyclists’ compensation to feed fat-cat insurers and don’t make innocent victims pay

Following pressure in parliament to exclude vulnerable roads user road traffic claims from the proposed SCL increase, the MoJ eventually agreed in September 2018 to limit the increase for vulnerable road users to £2000, rather than the £5000 initially proposed, but this was still above the  £1,500 limit recommended by the Justice Select Committee when supporting Cycling UK’s submissions.

Noisy defeats and quiet victories

Since then, we’ve continued to push for all vulnerable road users to be excluded from any increase in the SCL, and we’ve finally succeeded, with new regulations which came into effect on 25 February this year, confirming the increase in the SCL to £5,000, but with all vulnerable road user injury claims arising from road traffic collisions exempted. What’s more, there’s no increase to £2,000, or even £1,500 - the limit stays at £1,000.

Campaigning can sometimes feel like a journey involving numerous noisy defeats interspersed by quiet victories, so it’s always fantastic to achieve an unequivocal and absolute campaign win. But the crucial thing to remember is that we only managed to do this because of your support. There were many organisations and groups who opposed proposed changes to civil justice reforms and the increase in the SCL, but the only group who got exactly what they wanted were vulnerable road users, and that was largely because thousands of people who cycle supported our campaign.

Huge thanks to all of you. We couldn’t do this without you, and we're going to need your support again soon as we head towards our 2021 election campaign. Remember, with your support we can make a difference.

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