Smith v Finch: QBD 22 Jan 2009

The claimant cyclist was severely injured in an accident when hit by a motorcyclist, the defendant. He was not wearing a cycle helmet, and the injuries were to his head. He was slowing down to turn right, and was hit a heavy glancing blow by the defendant approaching from the other direction.
Held: The defendant had been driving in excess of the speed limit.
The claimant had ‘made a good physical recovery from his injuries but the major impact of the head injuries has been upon cognition, behaviour and speech function; there are significant problems with memory, concentration and expressive dysphasia; he needs help with every day tasks but most importantly, he has developed post traumatic epilepsy.’
Given the guidance to cyclists in the Highway Code that they should wear cycle helmets, the logic of Froom v Butcher as to motorists not wearing seatbelts should be applied also to cyclists not wearing helmets: ‘It matters not that there is no legal compulsion for cyclists to wear helmets and so a cyclist is free to choose whether or not to wear one because there can be no doubt that the failure to wear a helmet may expose the cyclist to the risk of greater injury; such a failure would not be ‘a sensible thing to do’ and so, subject to issues of causation, any injury sustained may be the cyclist’s own fault and ‘he has only himself to thank for the consequences’.
I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities, that the cyclist who does not wear a helmet runs the risk of contributing to his/her injuries.’ and ‘As it is accepted that the wearing of helmets may afford protection in some circumstances it must follow that a cyclist of ordinary prudence would wear one, no matter whether on a long or a short trip or whether on quiet suburban roads or a busy main road.’
However it remained for the defendant to show that the particular injuries suffered would not have occurred if the claimant had been wearing a helmet. In this case he had not achieved that standard: ‘the injuries responsible for the Claimant’s residual disabilities were caused by a contre-coup injury – an injury from which a helmet would not have protected the Claimant.’
Griffith Williams J
[2009] EWCH 53 (QB)
Bailii
Citing:
CitedFroom v Butcher CA 21-Jul-1975
The court asked what reduction if any should be made to a plaintiff’s damages where injuries were caused not only by the defendant’s negligent driving but also by the failure of the plaintiff to wear a seat belt. It had been submitted that, since . .
CitedLewis v Denye CA 1939
Parcq LJ said: ‘In order to establish the defence of contributory negligence, the defendant must prove, first, that the plaintiff failed to take ‘ordinary care for himself,’ or, in other words, such care as a reasonable man would take for his own . .

Cited by:
CitedPhethean-Hubble v Coles QBD 24-Feb-2011
The claimant had been very severely injured when knocked from his cycle by the defendant’s car. He had come out onto the roadway at night but without cycle lights, and into the path of the car. The claimant was not wearing a helmet.
Held: . .
CitedReynolds v Strutt and Parker LLP ChD 15-Jul-2011
The defendant had organised a team bonding day, including a cycling event. The claimant employee was severely injured falling from his cycle. He said that the defendant had been engligent in not providing cycling helmets. The circuit hosting company . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 14 February 2021; Ref: scu.341870