United Kingdom

Cyclist who crashed into 'phone zombie' must pay £60k legal bill

A cyclist who knocked over a 'phone zombie' yoga teacher after she stepped into the road while staring at her mobile has been left with a £60,000 court bill - despite a judge ruling they were equally to blame. 

Garden designer Robert Hazeldean was going home from work in central London when he collided with pedestrian Gemma Brushett, 28, as she crossed a road near London Bridge, leaving them both unconscious. 

A judge later found the pair 'equally to blame' for the accident because Ms Brushett was looking at her phone, but awarded her £4,161.79 in damages because she was the only one to launch a court claim. 

Garden designer Robert Hazeldean was going home from work in central London when he collided with pedestrian Gemma Brushett (pictured) as she crossed a road near London Bridge

A judge later found Mr Hazledean (left) and Ms Brushett (right) 'equally to blame' for the accident because Ms Brushett was looking at her phone, but awarded her £4,161.79 in damages because she was the only one to launch a court claim 

Why did cyclist pay whole legal bill despite pedestrian being equally responsible?

Judge Shanti Mauger said Robert Hazeldean and Gemma Brushett were 'equally responsible' for the crash because the yoga teacher was on her phone. 

But because Ms Brushett was the only one to launch a legal claim, and Mr Hazledean refused to counter-sue, he was forced to pay all the costs. 

Furthermore, because he was not insured he was landed with the entire bill. 

If Mr Hazledean had been insured and launched a counter claim, Ms Brushett would have been only allowed to claim £7,000 in costs.

Judge Shanti Mauger told Central London County Court that Mr Hazeldean, who moved to France for a 'new life', could have sued Ms Brushett in return, but chose not to. 

Due to this decision he had to pay all the court costs, which he had to cover all himself because he was uninsured. 

If Mr Hazledean had been insured and launched a counter claim, Ms Brushett would have been only allowed to claim £7,000 in costs.     

Judge Mauger this week added another £30,000 to the cyclist's bill after ordering him to pay towards Ms Brushett's lawyers' bills to finally settle the case.

'The defendant should pay the sum of £30,000 to the claimant in full and final settlement of all outstanding costs matters between the parties,' an order stated. 

Mr Hazledean's own lawyers' bills were about £25,000, taking his total bill for the case to about £60,000.

Ms Brushett, 28, (pictured doing yoga) was left unconscious and suffered damage to her front teeth and facial scars, while Mr Hazeldean was also knocked out and hurt in the crash

Do cyclists need insurance? Why bikers are increasingly getting cover in case of crashes 

There has been a large rise in cyclists taking out insurance since Mr Hazeldean's case hit the headlines, according to British Cycling, which gives its members free cover. 

While motorists are required to have third party insurance at the very least to be on the road, the same does not apply for cyclists.

Usually, few cyclists opt to take out an insurance police in case they are involved in a crash, but this can prove costly if they do end up running into someone. 

Kim Briggs was hit and killed by a cyclist who was riding an illegal 'fixie' bike 

When a cyclist hits a pedestrian who was not looking where they were going, courts often rule that both parties are equally to blame. 

That means that both parties are liable to pay their own legal costs, which often spirals into five-figure sums.

The cyclist may also have to pay the pedestrian compensation, which can add thousands more pounds.

If the cyclist does have cover, they are protected from huge legal bills by the insurance company from someone claiming they are at fault for a crash. 

British Cycling offers cover against legal bills of up to £15million for commuter cyclists. 

Charlie Alliston had no front brakes and would later try to pin the blame on his victim before his conviction using 156-year-old horse and cart legislation

He was knocked unconscious by the crash and injured, while Ms Brushett suffered damage to her front teeth and facial scars. 

The controversial compensation ruling came in court last June and led to a massive increase in insurance applications by cyclists worried about facing the same sort of case. 

A fundraising campaign was launched by one of his friends, eventually raising over £60,000 to cover his bills - with the surplus going to international women's charity, Action Aid UK.

However, in a statement after the costs settlement, Mr Hazledean said nothing would be left of the donations after his bills are paid.

During the trial, the court heard he collided with Ms Brushett at the junction of King William Street and Cannon Street in July 2015 as he rode through a green light. 

The yoga teacher, who also worked for a City finance firm, was one of a 'throng' of people trying to cross the road at the start of rush hour when the accident occurred.

She was looking at her mobile phone when crossing the road from east to west and only noticed Mr Hazeldean approaching at the last moment.

She 'panicked' and tried to dodge back to a traffic island, but the cyclist, who had been travelling at between 10-15mph, swerved in the same direction and hit her.

Mr Hazeldean had sounded a loud airhorn attached to his Specialized roadbike, as well as shouting, swerving and braking in a bid to avoid the pedestrian.

In a ruling following the trial, Judge Mauger said: 'Ms Brushett and Mr Hazeldean were equally culpable in this accident and Mr Hazeldean, for whatever reason, hasn't made a claim and so only Ms Brushett is getting a payout.'

She awarded Ms Brushett £4,161.79 in damages after saying that the 8mm scar she suffered to her lip did not wreck her 'very attractive' appearance.

Afterwards, her lawyers said they were claiming close to £100,000 to cover the costs of the two-day trial, which the judge said 'appeared to be disproportionate'.

Mr Hazeldean wrote on Twitter after the latest ruling: 'It's not the result I was hoping for, but I do at least feel free of it now.

'I had no faith in the court system and the risks were simply too high so I decided to settle costs at £30k.

'If you're in an accident, think very hard before you sue someone. 

'The process is long and unpleasant and there is another person on the other end, someone you likely know nothing about.' 

A close friend of Robert Hazeldean started a crowdfunding campaign to cover his legal costs 

The junction near London Bridge where Mr Hazeldean hit Ms Brushett as she was crossing the road on her phone 

What is the law for cyclists who run into pedestrians?

The Government is looking at a range of options to make the roads safer for pedestrians after a record number of pedestrians are being killed or seriously injured in crashes with cyclists.

In total, some 130 people were seriously injured in accidents involving cyclists last year, and four were killed.

More than ten pedestrians suffered life threatening injuries every month when they are hit by people on bicycles.

The issue of pedestrian and pedal cycle safety was highlighted when cyclist Charlie Alliston, 20, was jailed for 18 months in 2017 for knocking over and killing a woman as he sped through east London.

His victim Kim Briggs, 44, was crossing the street when she was struck by Alliston's bike, which it later emerged had no front brakes.

Mrs Briggs' widower, Matthew, from Lewisham, south London, has called for a 'radical change' in cycling culture and the introduction of new laws, including the offence of causing death by dangerous cycling.

In August last year Sakine Cihan, 56, was killed after being struck by an electrically-assisted bike in Dalston, London. A 30-year-old man was later arrested by police in connection with the crash.

Following the jailing last year of Alliston for the death of Mrs Briggs, the Department for Transport announced an urgent review examining whether new laws should be brought in to cover dangerous cycling.

The Victorian legislation, originally drafted to deal with reckless handling of horses, was used because there was no cycling equivalent to the offence of causing death by dangerous driving.

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