Scottish campaign group Cycle Law Scotland are arguing for a legal shake-up that will favour cyclists injured or killed in road accidents and reduce the time it takes courts to award compensation.
The lobby group have today launched a campaign to bring strict liability into Scots civil law, saying the country – and the UK as a whole – is out of step with most other EU nations by not operating a hierarchical legal system that protects more vulnerable road users from cars and lorries. Currently, cases are decided under a fault-based system where the burden falls on the injured cyclist to prove the driver was at fault.
Strict liability would give the sway of law to cyclists and mean that the onus fell on vehicle drivers – the more powerful road users – to prove that the cyclist or pedestrian was negligent.
This would reduce the time it takes for cyclists or pedestrians to receive fair compensation, said Brenda Mitchell, the personal injury lawyer leading the Cycle Law Scotland campaign.
She said: “The UK is out of step with Europe as only one of a small number of EU countries, alongside Portugal, Malta and Ireland, that does not operate a system of strict liability for vulnerable road users.
“As a consequence, our current system expects those injured or the families of those killed to go through an often harsh and protracted process to gain much needed treatment, care or compensation.”
The campaign has the backing of CTC Scotland, as well as Richard Lyle, a member of the Scottish parliament, and Spokes, a Scottish cycling campaign group.
Cycle Law Scotland hope strict liability will also bring about a cultural shift from motorists who would be forced to be more aware of cyclists, and also more accommodating.
The group will launch a petition shortly. They also aim to introduce a private member’s bill to the Scottish parliament, which could be the first step to having the law enacted.
According to Ceri Woolsgrove, road safety policy officer at the European Cyclists’ Federation, the UK and other countries without a strict liability law are almost 30 years behind early adopters such as Denmark, the Netherlands and France, who introduced similar clauses in the mid-1980s. “All the big cycling countries have some form of strict liability,” he told BikeRadar.
He agreed it was a positive development but added, “It must be seen within the context of better infrastructure, more funding and better conditions on the road as well.”
For more information see the Cycle Law Scotland website.