Cyclist ordered to pay £105,000 for knocking over woman who crossed road looking at phone

Robert Hazeldean ‘reeling from the impact ruling will have on my life, and concerned by the precedent that it might set for other cyclists’

Chris Baynes
Saturday 22 June 2019 09:05 BST
Cyclist ordered to pay £105,000 for knocking over woman who crossed road looking at phone

A cyclist who collided with a woman as she walked out into the road while looking at her phone has been ordered to pay almost £105,000 in compensation and costs.

Robert Hazeldean said he was facing bankruptcy following the court ruling, which came despite a judge acknowledging pedestrian Emma Brushett was equally at fault for the collision.

Both were knocked unconscious by the crash at a busy junction in London Bridge in on 20 July 2015.

But the judge, Shanti Mauger, said only Ms Brushnett was entitled to a payout because she had sued and Mr Hazeldean had not.

Ms Mauger awarded Ms Brushnett, a yoga teacher, £4,161.79 in damages after ruling an 8mm scar on her lip did not detract from her “very attractive” appearance.

But Mr Hazeldean, a garden designer who now lives in France, was also ordered to foot most of the bill for the two-day court case, estimated to be about £100,000.

He said he was “deeply disappointed with the outcome, reeling from the impact it will have on my life, and concerned by the precedent that it might set for other cyclists”.

The judge acknowledged the costs “appeared to be disproportionate,” but said Ms Brushett had won her claim for damages and therefore Mr Hazeldean should pay her legal costs.

Central London County Court heard Ms Brushett was one of a “throng” of people trying to cross the road as the Mr Hazeldean cycled through a green traffic light at about 10 to 15mph.

The cyclist sounded a loud airhorn attached to his road bike, as well as shouting, swerving and braking in a bid to avoid her.

Noticing Mr Hazeldean approaching at the last moment, Ms Brushnett “panicked” and tried to dodge him, but he swerved in the same direction and hit her, the court was told.

Both Ms Brushett and Mr Hazeldean were knocked out by the impact, with Ms Brushett suffering cuts, cracked teeth and post-traumatic amnesia.

Ms Mauger ruled the cyclist was “a calm and reasonable road user” but was still liable to pay damages.

The judge said although Ms Brushett was “was looking at her phone” as she walked out into the road, Mr Hazeldean knew his path was not entirely clear when he tried to ride through.

“Cyclists must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways,” Ms Mauger added.

But she said Mr Hazeldean would have been entitled to damages as well if he had chosen to sue Ms Brushnett, who was “equally to blame for the accident”.

Mr Hazeldean said he now “can only regret” not instructing lawyers sooner, “delayed as I was by my lack of legal knowledge and concern about the costs”.

He had not wanted to counter-sue Ms Brushnett because he disliked “claim culture,” he added.

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Levi Solicitors, which has since taken up Mr Hazeldean’s case, said the claimant “took advantage” of his reluctance to claim compensation in what the company described as “a total abuse of process”.

Emma Farrell, head of the firm’s personal injury team, added: “If Mr Hazeldean had been insured, the claimant’s legal costs would have been limited to a mere £6,690. If he had come to us sooner, we would have advised him to enter a counterclaim given that he has been left with permanent scarring, both physically and mentally. He would then have had protection under the law against a large costs order.”

The company said the law in this area was in urgent need of reform.

Mr Hazeldean added: “Covering the costs and the compensation … will leave me bankrupt.

“I can only hope that the focus on this case highlights the vulnerability of cyclists, both physically and against the courts, and that it might help reform a legal system that appears to leave certain road users disproportionately exposed.”

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