The Court in the matter of Chu v Russell has found a cyclist and a motorist to be equally liable for serious injuries sustained by the cyclist in a motor vehicle accident. The cyclist’s compensation was therefore halved.
The main facts were:
- The motorist was travelling at nearly 100 km per hour on a country road (the speed limit was 100 km per hour) when he first saw the cyclist.
- When the motorist was about 50 metres in front of the cyclist he reduced his speed to about 90-93 km per hour.
- As the motorist approached the cyclist, the cyclist suddenly turned right in front of him.
The Court held that the cyclist’s conduct "involved a gross departure from the standard of care required of a reasonable cyclist". The court also held that while the cyclist created a dangerous situation, this factor was more or less cancelled out by the "inequality" between the car and the bicycle in relation to size, weight, speed and manoeuvrability, and by the plaintiff’s consequent vulnerability as a cyclist. Ultimately the Court held that ordinary and reasonable drivers slow down when they are approaching cyclists on country roads, and take extra care when passing them. The motorist therefore breached the duty he owed to the cyclist.
The case stands as a reminder for all motorists to be extra vigilant when passing cyclists on roads at high speeds. Equally, cyclists need to be vigilant as invariably the cyclist will come off "second best" in a collision.
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