Members of the public have raised more than £46,000 for a cyclist who was ordered to pay compensation to a woman who stepped out in front of him while looking at her phone.
Robert Hazeldean has to pay Gemma Brushett more than £4,000 in damages even though the traffic lights had been green and he had sounded a loud horn, shouted, swerved and braked to try to avoid her.
The cyclist said he was facing bankruptcy after being told to also pay the pedestrian’s legal fees, predicted to be at least £20,000 but that could be up to £100,000.
Both she and Mr Hazeldean were knocked unconscious in the 15mph collision, and she sued him.
Judge Shanti Mauger said the cyclist was “a calm and reasonable road user” but this week awarded the pedestrian £4,161.79 in damages.
More than 3,000 people who sympathised with Mr Hazeldean’s situation donated to his costs.
He had said the case had taken “a great toll” on his mental health, and that the damages and costs would cripple him financially.
The judge said: “Ms Brushett must clearly have equal responsibility if she is crossing the road without looking – and if she is looking at her phone, even more so.
“But cyclists must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways.
“The appropriate finding is that the parties were equally responsible and I make a finding of liability at 50-50.”
Mr Hazeldean said he was deeply disappointed by the ruling but would be “forever thankful” to the more than 3,000 people who donated to an appeal on the Gofundme website, set up by a friend.
Since the accident, he has left his job with a mental health charity and moved to France to start a new life as a garden designer.
He said any donations left over after paying the expenses – to be decided later – would be donated to ActionAid.
He also condemned the “claim culture”, warning of the precedent it might set for other cyclists, but he said he was extremely touched by messages of support from strangers.
He said: “The case has cast a shadow over our new life in France and left our future uncertain.
“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.”
He added that he regretted not having engaged lawyers sooner.
“I feel that most cyclists would not have appreciated the consequences of not taking the opportunity to put forward a counterclaim which meant that I was unable to rely on the legislation in the same way that the claimant has to protect myself against a destructive costs award," he said.
“This was not because I was not injured, but because I do not advocate the claim culture.”
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