Joan, in her early 60’s, was cycling in August 2013 on her way to her voluntary work at Amnesty International when a passenger from an Addison Lee taxi cab opened the rear right side passenger door giving her no chance of avoiding the collision. She hit the door with such force that she was knocked unconscious and was lying prone in the middle of the busy Kingsland Road in Shoreditch.
She was taken as an emergency to Royal London Hospital where she was treated for a serious pelvis fracture and severe bruising to the sternum (breast bone).
We obtained very clear footage of the accident from Hackney Council, since we were instructed before the 28 day period when the local authority would wipe footage.
The circumstances of the accident were not in dispute but the insurers denied liability on the basis that they were not covering the acts of the negligent passenger. This didn’t tally with many previous cases where we have made a successful recovery for a cyclist against the driver’s insurers, when it is the passenger’s negligence in opening the door.
The police report revealed the passenger to be from New Zealand and he was back in NZ by the time we obtained the police report, we instructed an enquiry agent to find him in NZ but without success.
We requested the cab company’s insurance policy and pointed out after considering it that the policy covered acts of passengers, but the cab company’s solicitors maintained their denial with a part 36 offer of £20,000.
The first barrister from whom we sought advice agreed with the defendants, and said we should take the £20,000. We went elsewhere, and obtained a second opinion that was more positive. We then threatened proceedings under the policy and the defendants backed down, without admitting liability, to pay the claim in full in the sum of £30,000.
It was a case that illustrated the particular issues that come up in acting purely for cyclists, in that the cyclist should be, and is, equally protected by the driver’s policy whether it’s the driver or a passenger who opens a door into a cyclist’s path.