This week we will take a look at the government’s fitness push and cycling accidents, and the growing NHS legal bill for personal injury claims.
Cycling accidents and the government’s fitness push
Over the last few weeks, we have seen the UK government pushing fitness in the UK as a means of tackling the obesity problem. Indeed the issue of £50 cycle repair vouchers has been well received in some quarters although ridiculed in others. The government does not have an obligation to challenge the obesity crisis but it is having a huge impact on NHS resources, missed workdays, and the mental health of many people. So, what is the legal position if you have an accident on your cycle?
More cyclists on the road
A recent report by Cycling Weekly showed that the coronavirus pandemic has prompted an additional 1.3 million people to acquire bikes during the lockdown. We know that demand for bikes has been extremely strong with the likes of Halfords waxing lyrical about the changing scenario for UK fitness. However, with an extra 5% of UK consumers now looking to use their bikes there will certainly be more scope for injuries to cyclists.
Some of the more common cycling accidents involve:-
- Motorists overtaking
- Motorists turning left/right
- Motorists pulling out of junctions
- Motorists not using their mirrors correctly
- Greasy road surfaces
- Unrepaired potholes
A report by ROSPA found that in 2018 there were 99 pedal cyclists killed, 4106 seriously injured, and just over 13,300 slightly injured in the UK. It is no surprise to learn that car drivers were involved in the majority of cycling accidents. These accidents led to an array of injuries including:-
- Cuts and scrapes
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
Interestingly, there is a growing opinion that cyclists who do not wear helmets (even though they aren’t compulsory) could be considered negligent and potentially contributing to accidents and injuries. This is an opinion which is certainly causing some heated debates!
Who is ultimately responsible?
The vast majority of cycling accidents involved motorists effectively negligently ignoring the presence of cyclists. We know that many drivers pull out without looking correctly, fail to use their mirrors and many simply plough headfirst into the path of a cyclist. It is no defence to simply state that you “didn’t see the cyclist”, if it was evening/night time however and they were not wearing the appropriate protective/reflective wares then that may be another story. In cases where cyclists are not as visible as they perhaps should be the courts may rule there was split negligence or reject a cycle injury claim.
The situation regarding greasy roads and unrepaired potholes is slightly different. These issues are the responsibility of local authorities and Highways England or their Welsh, Scottish, and Irish counterparts. If the authorities are made aware of issues with a road then they are obliged to make repairs as quickly as possible (they should also carry out regular inspections). Failure to do so may lead to claims of negligence and personal injury compensation for those who have suffered.
NHS negligence claims continue to rise!
Using a Freedom of Information request, a recent BBC report highlighted figures from the NHS in England relating to legal fees put aside for outstanding clinical negligence claims. The amount is a staggering £4.3 billion although the NHS would not be obliged to pay the legal costs of those pursuing personal injury claims that lost their case. However, the fact that so much money has been put aside for legal fees – with compensation on top – is alarming.
We know that the NHS receives a staggering 10,000 new personal injury claims each year although in reality, the current system is unsustainable. At a time when funds are required to improve services we are seeing more and more funding used to fight legal actions. Since April 1995 the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts has been in charge of handling clinical negligence claims against NHS bodies. This scheme is funded by the various NHS trusts in England with the exact contribution calculation per trust dependent upon factors such as the type of speciality treatments offered, claims history, and the type of trust. We also know from the Freedom of information request that NHS hospitals will contribute £1.9 billion into the scheme during the financial year 2019/20. So what is the solution?
A spokesperson for NHS Resolution confirmed that more than 70% of NHS personal injury claims are now settled out of court. The fact that legal fees in these negotiated settlements will be much lower than those which make it into the court is helpful. However, this is still a bitter pill to swallow when you bear in mind provisions for NHS indemnified claims stand at £83.4 billion as of 31st of March 2019!
There are so many different subjects to consider when it comes to personal injury claims, court cases, and appeals. The fact there will be an extra 1.3 million cyclists on UK roads this year could cause significant problems for motorists, but as with most things, only time will tell.
Many people will be astounded at the £4.3 billion put aside by NHS trusts to cover legal fees on successful personal injury claims. How are we in a situation where the self-insured NHS has £83.4 billion of indemnified personal injury claims on its books as of 31st of March 2019?