Hilary Lee was cycling along Barnet High Street on 16 October 2012 when she was tragically killed by a HGV. She and the HGV were travelling in the same direction and the HGV was on her outside when it veered to the nearside to avoid a bus travelling in the opposite direction, causing her fatal injuries in the process.
The lorry driver was eventually charged by the police with causing death by careless driving and this matter was heard in June 2014 at Wood Green Crown Court.
Expert evidence was given on both sides and the jury acquitted the driver, Mr. Coggin.
Hilary was a retired social worker and her husband, Mr. Geoffrey Lee, is a retired fire-fighter. Geoff instructed us to begin civil proceedings. His hope was that we could proceed to a civil hearing where a civil court would find, on the balance of probabilities, that the lorry driver was negligent in causing the fatal accident.
Geoff’s quite reasonable hope was that the lowest standard of proof needed in the civil courts would make a decision in his late wife’s favour more likely.
Geoff outlined at the outset that the matter of damages was purely incidental to him, since he was only interested in achieving an outcome that vindicated his late wife.
The Defendant’s solicitors refused to admit liability, pointing to the acquittal in the Crown Court.
The Defendant made a Part 36 offer of £10,000 and a barrister advised acceptance, given that there was a substantial risk, in her view, of contributory negligence.
Although the total claim amounted to just over £15,000 – the statutory award of £12,980, plus funeral expenses – we decided to issue proceedings.
After these proceedings were issued and before they were served, the Defendant’s solicitors increased their offer by 50%, to the total sum of £15,000.
Much as Geoff wished to proceed to a civil hearing, he understood that this was an almost impossible undertaking given that the Defendant had paid almost all of the claim and we would be at serious risk of an adverse costs order if we took the matter any further.
Settlement was therefore agreed at the sum of £15,000 in early 2016.
Following settlement, Geoff gave all of the damages away, one-third to the London Cycling Campaign, one-third to Road Peace and one-third to Noah’s Ark Charity for disabled children. This has been the subject of media interest and a link to the Evening Standard article about this is attached.
In addition, we are continuing to lobby the construction company that caused the fatal accident to confirm what changes they have made to lorry design and lorry training, under the principals of CLOCS (Construction Logistics on Cycle Safety), a construction industry initiative from 2013, following the alarming number of HGV/cyclist fatalities in London.
This battle to achieve some recognition from the Defendant construction company on the issue of CLOCS goes on and we are liaising with CLOCS to see what advice they could give the Defendant construction company, so that another family does not have to go through what Geoff and his two adult sons have experienced.