Cyclist faced threat of ruinous legal costs despite judge ruling both parties equally to blame.
A cyclist who knocked over a woman who was looking at her mobile phone while crossing a road and was then threatened with financially ruinous legal costs has settled the case.
Both the cyclist, Robert Hazeldean, a garden designer, and the pedestrian, Gemma Brushett, who works in finance and also ran yoga retreats, were left unconscious after the rush-hour collision in July 2015.
Last year a judge ruled that both were equally to blame for the accident on a busy junction near London Bridge, but only Brushett was entitled to a payout because she had put in a claim and Hazeldean had not.
The case exposed how vulnerable uninsured cyclists are to expensive civil claims if they are involved in accidents.
Brushett’s lawyers had claimed costs of £112,000 – a sum that would have left Hazeldean facing bankruptcy since he was uninsured. The claim prompted Hazeldean’s supporters to set up a GoFundMe appeal that raised more than £59,000 from more than 4,000 people.
On Monday, Hazeldean tweeted that he had now agreed to settle the case for £30,000 on top of damages of £4,300 and his own costs of more than £25,000. The final settlement still left him £2,979 out of pocket, but avoided the financial ruin he feared last year.
In an email to the Guardian, Hazeldean said: “It’s not the result I was hoping for, but everything was spiralling and the risk of being bankrupted regardless of the outcome was too high. I felt I didn’t really have a choice.”
He wanted to settle the case for less and donate any surplus from the GoFundMe appeal to the charity ActionAid UK.
Hazeldean said he felt no bitterness towards Brushett, but was angered by the compensation system.
He said that because he decided against making a counter-claim against Brushett, he had no means of recovering his own costs. Under a system introduced in 2013 called “qualified one-way cost shifting”, if someone involved in accidents does not put in a counter-claim, they can be liable to pay damages and legal costs.
If Hazeldean had been insured, Brushett’s lawyers could have claimed a maximum of only £6,690 in costs.
Hazeldean said the support he had received had been “incredibly touching”, adding: “I was struck by how many said it could easily have been them. Not just that they could be involved in an accident, but that they could have spent four hellish years being dragged inexorably towards bankruptcy.”
He said the compensation system “desperately needs reforming” and in the meantime, he urged cyclists to insure themselves.
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