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Cyclists and video technology: Can helmet cams support compensation claims?

Cartoon of a driver and cyclist
15th January 2015

Despite campaigns to promote sharing the road, there seems to be no sign of a ceasefire between cyclists and drivers. The war between the two is nothing new but the fact that cyclists are much more vulnerable on the roads than motorists has led many to question whether it is a fair fight.

Each year around 3,000 cyclists are killed or seriously injured in reported road accidents. Just 16 per cent of fatal or serious cycling accidents are caused by the rider losing control of their bicycle, meaning that the majority of casualties involve a collision with another vehicle.

Taking matters into their own hands

To protect themselves, many cyclists have begun to record their journeys using small cameras attached to their helmet or bike. Not only does this video footage provide insurers and the police with evidence of who was at fault, but many cyclists hope that it will raise awareness of the dangers they face on Britain’s roads.

A recent Australian study that looked at cycle-camera footage revealed that motorists were responsible for 87 per cent of accidents and near-misses. As a result, many are hoping that the popularity of such recording devices will encourage drivers to take more care on the roads.

As sales of cycling-helmet cameras have soared, so too has the trend for posting the footage online for others to see. But this practice has received mixed reviews; many believe that the use of surveillance technology encourages more conflict between road users by inspiring a culture of online abuse.

Some of those uploading videos have been forced to conceal their identities in order to avoid harassment from others who feel that the problem often lies with reckless cyclists, rather than motorists.

However, one cyclist who regularly shares his recordings online sometimes receives apologies from drivers who accept they were in the wrong. The ‘MCR cyclist’, who rides 500 miles each month in and around the north west city, says that the videos sometimes helps to offer drivers a new perspective.  He adds that as long as a driver is willing to realise and admit their mistake, he’ll consider removing the footage.

However, it’s not only cyclists that are taking precautions. Many drivers are also installing “dash-cams” into their vehicles to protect themselves from careless cyclists and fellow motorists. 

Can camera footage support cyclist accident claims?

It’s not yet clear whether these ‘cycling vigilantes’ are helping to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries by filming their journeys, but video evidence is increasingly being used in cycling accident claims and civil courts. One cyclist in Essex, David Sherry, has recorded more than 200 incidents in the last two years and claims that his helmet camera has led to approximately 60 convictions and police cautions.

Another cyclist, who was hit by a car in Romford, tried to claim for a replacement bike but initially came into complications with the driver’s insurance company. It was only when he handed over footage of the accident that the insurers had proof of the driver’s carelessness and had to take action.

However, footage alone cannot guarantee justice. If it is not completely clear who was at fault, some police officers may even be reluctant to use footage, deeming it insufficient evidence.

How should cyclists respond to road rage or a collision with a motorist?

If cyclists encounter a problem with a motorist, they must be careful not to void any video evidence by retaliating to drivers’ bad behaviour. Wherever possible, innocent road users should try to diffuse the situation by staying calm and avoiding a confrontation. If the driver is being malicious or assaults the cyclist, any footage captured should help to achieve justice.

However, since video footage alone is not always enough, if there are any witnesses at the scene of an accident, responsible cyclists should gather their details if possible. Witnesses may be able to offer insight from another angle and can provide evidence to fall back on in cases where a camera may not have worked or has become damaged.

Cyclists looking to make a claim or take a driver to court must also be wary that by posting the video online before contacting the relevant authorities, they may jeopardise the case. Before making a decision, it can help to seek legal advice by talking the accident through with a responsible lawyer.

Your Legal Friend is a team of knowledgeable and sympathetic lawyers that can help cyclists to get back on their bikes following an accident that wasn’t their fault. For more information about cycling accident claims, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.