UK: 100% Liability For Cyclist In Bus And Bike Collision

Last Updated: 12 September 2017
Article by Kate Donachie

Roksana Gajdamowicz v First Glasgow Limited and another

When a bus collides with a cyclist there is a strong presumption that the bus driver is at fault. However in a recent All Scotland Person Injury Court decision, the Sheriff found that the bus driver wasn't to blame at all. The facts and circumstances of this case are a little unusual but it shows that it is possible for cyclists to be found fully responsible for collisions with larger vehicles.

In this case the All Scotland Personal Injury Court was asked to determine liability between a bus and a bicycle. Unusually the Sheriff found that the bus driver was not to blame at all. The cyclist claimed that she was proceeding straight ahead in a bus lane when she was struck by a bus from behind. The bus driver claimed that the cyclist pulled in front of his bus as she changed lanes. The cyclist was knocked unconscious during the incident and suffered retrograde amnesia as a result. Her evidence was therefore primarily based on edited CCTV footage of the accident and the events leading up to it. She also relied upon memories which had been recovered as a result of therapy. Her position was that she had intended to continue straight ahead in the bus, taxi and cycle lane. She said that she had turned her head to look but had not been aware of the bus before she was struck. She also claimed that she had not been wearing earphones at the time of the incident. The Sheriff found the cyclist to be an unreliable witness and voiced some doubt about the honesty of her evidence. It is significant however, that the cyclist was unable to give positive evidence about what actually happened.

The pursuer also led evidence from an accident reconstruction specialist. He said that it was impossible to tell whether or not her move towards the right was intentional. Overall the expert's evidence was unspecific and he was reluctant to commit to a definite position on any of the details.

An additional bus driver who witnessed the incident also gave evidence. Whilst he stated that it was "50/50" and that both the bus and the cyclist could have done things differently, he thought that the cyclist had collided with the bus, rather than vice versa. He stated "she hit the back of the bus because she turned out".

The defenders' evidence was at odds with the pursuer's account. He said he had been aware of the cyclist in front of the bus and in the absence of any indication to the contrary, he assumed that she was proceeding straight ahead. His account was that the cyclist pulled to the right, into his bus, without warning. He stated that he had noticed this out of the corner of his eye and had tried to move right to avoid a collision. He was adamant that the cyclist was wearing headphones.

As this case involved a collision between a cyclist and a bus, we might have expected the court to be sympathetic to the cyclist. Indeed, the Sheriff noted that "plainly, a cyclist is a lot more vulnerable than most,

if not all, other road users, particularly as compared to the size and danger presented by a large bus." However the Sheriff weighed up the evidence presented and ultimately the decision was based on which witnesses were more reliable.

The Sheriff preferred the defender's account of events. The pursuer was not considered to be a reliable or credible witness. On the contrary the Sheriff stated that the driver "struck me as a patently honest witness who was trying his best to assist the court."

This case could be helpful in future cases involving cyclists and larger vehicles. It should be noted however, that it does turn largely on its own particular circumstances; the cyclist could not remember the accident and therefore could not directly contradict the bus driver. She was also considered to be unreliable by the Sheriff.

The decision underlines the importance of thorough investigation and assessment of witnesses; strong evidence from the defender outweighed the presumption that he was to blame.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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