Woman who had injury award reduced due to lack of helmet was using DublinBikes

— Judge went against scientific consensus on helmets being ineffective against concussion.
— While there’s other debate over helmets, there’s no evidence helmets can stop concussions.

A woman who had a Court-awarded injury payment reduced by 20% because she wasn’t wearing a helmet when a truck driver knocked her off a bicycle was cycling a DublinBikes, according to a report in the Sunday Independent yesterday.

The award was lowered from €20,525 to €16,000 because of the judgment. Under the law, a negligent or careless failure to mitigate damage is seen as contributory negligence, but it is unclear why this was applied when the main injury suffered in the case was a concussion which cannot be avoided by using a helmet.

A very low percentage of users of DublinBikes, an on-street bicycle share service, use helmets. Mandatory helmet laws are seen as incompatible with obtaining the higher health and environmental effects of high-usage bicycle share.

According to The Guardian, Mexico City and Tel Aviv both removed their helmet laws before launching what would become successful bicycle share systems. Helmet laws were blamed at least in part for killing off Seattle’s bicycle share system in 2017 and is blamed for poor usage of bicycle share systems in Melbourne and Brisbane.

The detail of the woman using DublinBikes was confirmed by the Sunday Independent regarding the incident which happened at Portland Row and North Amiens Street on July 26, 2018.

It was reported last week that the woman in the case in Dublin, 22-year-old Raissa Lopes who was cycling home from work when the collision happened, had her injury award reduced by 20% by Circuit Civil Court Judge Colin Daly because she wasn’t wearing a helmet.

The main injury suffered was a concussion which, according to medical experts, cannot be stopped by helmets. Secondary injuries were soft tissue injuries to her face, shoulder and arm.

The International Concussion Society’s website outlines how it is a misconception that helmets can protect against concussion and that helmets can’t stop the movement of the brain inside the skull that causes a concussion.

Dr John Leddy, Director of the Concussion Management Clinic at the University at Buffalo and president of the US-based International Concussion Society, said: “Helmets are very good at doing what they were designed for, and that’s preventing skull fractures. However, a helmet isn’t going to prevent the brain from getting shaken up.”

The Sunday Independent reported how Lopes and legal are looking at the option of appealing the decision.

As the truck could not be traced, Lopes took the case against the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (MIBI).

This is not the first time that the MIBI has managed to convince a judge against scientific evidence. In a similar case which was before the Courts in 2017, another Judge also ruled the cyclist in the case was 20% at fault for not wearing a helmet.

In that case, the legal team defending against the injured person argued that while a helmet was not legally required it had to be taken into account in the assessment of damages. The Judge was told the lack of helmet-wearing would account for about 20% of contributory negligence.

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4 comments

  1. Thanks for highlighting this case Cian.
    Some members of our judiciary seem to be making things up as they go along in relation to cycling issues before them.
    How do we upskill the judiciary (and garda, in relation to ‘the rider came out of nowhere’ impacts) about cycling and the law when the insurers are clearly trying to ensure that the damages are mitigated in the decision about a particular award?
    Judges need to read this article by the one of the designers of Giro helmets:
    https://tinyurl.com/46ud74dx
    Helmets will not protect the rider from impact with vehicles travelling with significant momentum or one that crushes the victim.
    The Minister for Transport should convene a meeting with his colleague the Minister for Justice and explore this issue. It must be addressed with urgency.

    Reply
  2. This is appalling. A helmet provides minimal protection in a collision of a truck on a cyclist. It sounds like the earlier case from 2017 has set a precedent: no helmet equals 20% reduction. If this is a precedent, it seems pretty arbitrary. As Mike says above, I hope the minister for Transport raises this matter with the minister for Justice. Some guidance is needed for assessing contributory negligence.

    Reply
  3. Research conducted in relation to the debate over use of helmets in Boxing has found that they really only help prevent superficial cuts etc. However, the bang (punch) on the head, has the same damaging effect on the brain with or without the helmet. Upon receiving a punch (or in this case, a fall or knock) he brain moves inside the skull. And that is very, very serious of course and potentially damaging to the brain. However, the key thing is, the key finding was that the helmet does nothing to minimize that occurring.

    Reply
  4. I answer with a question when people who comment on me cycling without a helmet (mostly by people who don’t cycle themselves);
    “Do pedestrians get knocked down by cars?” (The answer is obviously “yes”)
    “Would it not be better than to make helmets compulsory for pedestrians?”
    Strangely enough, they all disagree with this idea .

    Reply

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