The role of a bicycle courier in the modern era is challenging to say the least with the emergence of the Internet and digital transfer of documents. Many London based bicycle couriers will do an average of between 60 and 100 miles a day, five days a week as they look to make ends meet in this new environment. Aside from the fact they have to be extremely physically fit they often need to have eyes in the back of their head with many dangers on and off the roads.
Cycling accident statistics
We know from data released by the NHS and Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) that:
- 75% of fatal/serious cycling accidents happen in urban areas
- 75% of these accidents occur at road junctions
- 80% happen in daylight
- 40% of cyclists involved in an accident sustain head injuries
It may not be surprising that the majority of cycling accidents happen in daylight and in urban areas. Even though the authorities have for many years now run a number of campaigns to make motorists more aware of cyclists on the road, there are still far too many fatal/serious accidents each year.
Common injuries amongst bicycle couriers
The dangers of cycling in some of the U.K.’s larger cities, where bicycle couriers are more commonplace, are reflected by the variety and severity of injuries received. These include:
- Cuts and grazes
- Relatively minor head injuries
- Skull fractures
- Broken bones
- Crush injuries
- Serious limb injuries
- Facial injuries
- Arm injuries
- Leg injuries
- Chest injuries
- Abdomen injuries
As many of these bicycle courier accidents involve collisions, head injuries of varying severity have also become commonplace.
Causes of bicycle courier injuries
There are many different dangers for bicycle couriers (especially in London) with the main causes of accidents and injuries being:
Road traffic accidents
Road traffic accidents with motor vehicles are still the biggest danger to cyclists in the UK although thankfully improvements in cycling safety equipment have saved many lives and avoided many more serious injuries. We have seen instances of something as seemingly innocuous as opening a car door while a cyclist was passing, to cyclists being knocked off their bikes by HGV’s, leading to potentially life threatening injuries.
A staggering 60% of accidents which occurred in the vicinity of road junctions were caused by driver negligence in the shape of failing to look properly.
Hazardous road surfaces
We know from local authority reports that dangerous road surfaces have resulted in many road traffic accidents some of which have involved bicycle couriers. Broken drain covers, potholes, slippery substances, raised drain covers and generally ill maintained pathways and highways can be extremely hazardous to cyclists. The issue of maintaining main roads, local roads and pathways is split between local authorities and the Highways Agency – both of which may be held responsible in the event of an accident due to negligence.
Slips, trips and falls
While the vast majority of severe injuries received by bicycle couriers tend to be on the roads, we have also seen instances of slips, trips and falls when delivering parcels to business and domestic premises. It is worth noting that under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 an employer is legally obliged to maintain a safe and secure workplace and may be liable in the event of injuries to visitors as a consequence of negligence.
It is the legal obligation of a bicycle courier employer to ensure that company vehicles are maintained to the appropriate standard. If a bicycle courier was injured as a consequence of faulty equipment provided by their employer then they may be liable for compensation. This issue is not as commonplace as one might assume because many bicycle couriers are self-employed and it is their duty to maintain their own equipment.
Lifting and handling injuries
Many of us automatically assume that bicycle courier only carry documents and relatively small parcels when this is not always the case. In the event that a bicycle courier is injured as a consequence of lifting and handling an item which is inappropriate for transportation by cycle there may well be a case for compensation. The situation will be slightly different when involving a self-employed bicycle courier where it would be their decision whether to accept the item.
Claiming compensation for bicycle courier injuries
If a bicycle courier sustained an injury as a consequence of an accident due to negligence by one or more third parties they may well have a case for compensation. Central to any claim is the ability to prove negligence on behalf of those who caused the accident whether they are motorists, pedestrians, business owners, bicycle courier employers or local authorities to name but a few. However, prior to gathering evidence to prove negligence the claimant should obviously seek medical attention to ensure that any injuries are treated as soon as possible.
The seeking of medical attention will also mean that the bicycle courier’s medical records are updated to show details of the accident, medical examination and any treatment. This first responder/GP recorded information can be used as evidence when pursuing a bicycle courier injury claim for compensation. Other supporting evidence such as photographs, witness statements, CCTV footage and evidence that third parties have been involved in such accidents before will also prove useful. While depending upon the severity of the injuries received it would also be useful for the claimant to record a timeline of events which led to the accident and actions taken afterwards.
There seems to be a general assumption that self-employed bicycle couriers are somehow treated differently from those employed by larger organisations. The reality is that in the eyes of the law, they are offered the same protection and are able to pursue the same level of compensation in the event of an accident due to the negligence by one or more third parties. It can sometimes become a little tricky when attempting to calculate loss of earnings, which may be intermittent at best for some independent bicycle couriers, but that does not mean a reduced level of protection.
Approaching a personal injury solicitor
If you believe that one or more third parties were negligent in causing a bicycle courier accident which resulted in your injuries, you have every right to pursue compensation. You should therefore approach a personal injury solicitor with any evidence, timeline of events and medical records. In some cases a solicitor may require an additional medical examination by a specialist to ascertain the severity of any injuries received. Upon reviewing your case they will likely offer you a no-win no-fee arrangement in the event that they believe you have a decent chance of success.
While often the subject of negative press comments, no-win no-fee arrangements allow those with limited financial resources to pursue perfectly valid compensation claims. They also ensure that negligent third parties are held to account and attention is drawn to their actions and in the case of companies, their safety record and procedures. Under a no-win no-fee arrangement the personal injury solicitor would cover their own legal costs when pursuing the claimant’s case. In exchange they would agree with the claimant what is known as a “success fee” which is traditionally around 25% of any compensation awarded.
Lodging the claim
Once you have signed up with a personal injury solicitor it is time to forward details of your bicycle courier injury claim, supporting evidence and timeline of events to the courts. At this stage the defendant will receive a copy of evidence supporting your claim of negligence. We see many cases where negligence is fairly obvious which can result in the defendant seeking an out-of-court settlement. While an out-of-court settlement will see the defendant mitigate their legal costs going forward, it can also ensure the more speedy receipt of compensation for the victim.
There will be occasions where negligence has been accepted but the parties were unable to agree a rate of compensation. While this would then go to the courts, there may be an opportunity for the solicitor to request an interim payment of compensation to cover immediate expenses. The eventual compensation award would be reduced to take account of this interim payment. This arrangement can also protect the claimant from being forced to accept a below par compensation offer where they may be suffering reduced short term income as a consequence of the accident.
There will also be occasions where negligence is disputed or there may be more than one negligent party. In these situations a judge will review the available evidence, make a ruling and award compensation where applicable.
Compensation for a bicycle courier injury claim
There are two main types of compensation involved in bicycle courier injury claims which are known as general damages and special damages (more detail can be found here). In the case of general damages this is compensation awarded for injuries arising as a direct consequence of the accident. This will include compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental trauma
- Life changing injuries
The courts and insurance companies tend to revert to guidance issued by the Judicial College which is a summary of historic compensation payments grouped by injury type and severity. While this guidance has no legal standing it is well respected by the courts and insurance companies. There is also a degree of discretion with regards to general damages which allows the final award to be adjusted to reflect the specific nature of each claim. The situation regarding special damages is a little more straightforward as this is simply financial recompense for:
- Loss of earnings
- Future loss of earnings
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Additional transport expenses
- Adaptions to the home
- Purchase of replacement equipment
There is no discretion when it comes to special damages and, as we touched on above, it is worth noting again that bicycle couriers employed by companies and those working in a self-employed capacity are still afforded the same level of protection when it comes to suing negligent parties.