Ms Brushett succeeded in bringing a personal injury claim after she stepped into the path of an oncoming cyclist, Mr Hazeldean, while looking at her phone. Mr Hazeldean was passing through a green light at the time. However, the trial judge found Mr Hazeldean equally responsible for the collision as he had failed to cycle with reasonable care and skill which meant he had to pay damages.
The accident in Brushett v Hazeldean happened during evening rush hour in central London. Ms Brushett was part of a “throng” of pedestrians who were attempting to cross a pedestrian crossing at a busy junction. Ms Brushett accepted that she was looking at her phone while attempting to cross.
Mr Hazeldean had cycled through a green light and saw the group of pedestrians crossing the road in front of him. He blew a large air horn on his bike as he was approaching the group. When he was close to the crossing he shouted, braked and swerved in an attempt to avoid Ms Brushett. Unfortunately, as Mr Hazeldean swerved, Ms Brushett stepped back in an attempt to avoid Mr Hazeldean and a collision occurred. Both Ms Brushett and Mr Hazeldean were knocked unconscious.
Ms Brushett bought a personal injury claim in the London County Court in respect of a head injury involving concussion, dental injuries and facial scarring.
In her decision, District Judge Mauger found that while Mr Hazeldean “gave every impression of being a calm and reasonable road user”, he fell below the duty of care to be expected of a reasonably competent cyclist in that “he did proceed when the road was not completely clear.” She explained that “Even where a motorist or cyclist had the right of way, pedestrians who are established on the road have right of way.”
District Judge Mauger said that Ms Brushett must have contributed to the crash due to “crossing the road without looking – and if she is looking at her phone, even more so”. As a result the damages awarded to Ms Brushett were reduced by 50% from £8,323.57 to £4,161.79 to reflect that the parties were equally to blame for the accident.
As a cyclist myself, this case immediately grabbed my attention and it provides a number of important learning points (for both cyclist and pedestrian alike):
- Mr Hazeldean’s own evidence was that he accelerated after blowing his air horn at the group of pedestrians crossing in front of him and was travelling at around 10-15 mph at the time of the accident. This no doubt influenced the judge’s decision and is a reminder for cyclists to cycle conservatively even when they have right of way if there is a potential for a collision with pedestrians.
- Ms Brushett played an equal part in the accident as she was looking at her phone instead of the road. It can be hard at times, but it’s in all of our best interests to put the smartphone away while walking if it avoids an accident.
- Mr Hazeldean also suffered injuries and could have filed a counterclaim. A counterclaim would almost certainly have been successful given the judge found both parties equally liable for the accident and would have apportioned the legal costs of the case between Mr Hazeldean and Ms Brushett.
- However, Mr Hazeldean initially defended the case as a litigant in person and decided not to bring a counterclaim as he quite admirably did not approve of “claim culture”. Unfortunately, he is now responsible for the entirety of Ms Brushett’s legal costs and estimates the case could cost him nearly £100,000 and lead to his bankruptcy.
- There will be a further hearing to decide the exact costs Mr Hazeldean will pay. The estimates alone are a timely reminder for both claimants and defendants to seek professional legal advice at the earliest opportunity and to always be aware of the proportionality of their legal costs compared to the amounts being claimed.
If you have been affected by a cycling or other personal injury accident, we would be happy to hear from you.
About the author
Christopher is a Trainee Solicitor. He is currently in his second seat in the Medical Negligence & Personal Injury team. Chris joined Kingsley Napley in January 2017 as a Legal Assistant in the Regulatory team, conducting Fitness to Practise investigations on behalf of regulatory bodies.