Cyclist Richard Clayphan admits it was a worrying time when police told him he must share the blame for an accident with a HGV which left him with long term injuries.
The university student, who was 21 at the time, needed five operations on his left hand and had to have the tip of his thumb removed as a result of the accident, which also left all of his fingers dislocated and damaged long-term.
In the weeks after his accident, Richard was told by police that CCTV footage showed he was as much to blame as the lorry driver – something which left him worried as to whether he’d be able to claim compensation for his injuries.
However, thanks to the support of Hudgell Solicitors, he was eventually awarded compensation of £48,500, a damages settlement with the HGV driver’s insurers which reflected the long term impact of the accident on him physically, psychologically, and financially.
“It was pretty hard to accept that I was being held partly liable given the injuries I had,” said Richard recalling his accident.
“I had significant injuries and it had been a complete accident, as nobody wants to end up under a lorry do they?”
The accident happened after Richard started heading forward when the traffic lights he had been waiting at turned to green. All of a sudden he saw a lorry to his right coming across his path.
With no time to react he ended under the HGV, and although fortunate to survive, his leg was trapped under one of the lorry’s wheels and he suffered long term injuries to his left hand, which he assumes was run over.
“It all happened in a matter of seconds,” he said.
“I had pulled up to the traffic lights and was waiting for them to change to green. I was in the left lane which was for traffic turning left or going straight on. The lorry was on my right, which was for straight on only, so I was not expecting him to turn.
“When the lights changed I started to go forward and the next thing I knew the lorry was heading straight across me, as I was no doubt in his blind spot. I can remember seeing him and knowing I had no time to do anything.
“It was terrifying and I can remember expecting to be unconscious and seeing darkness at any time, but I remained conscious throughout. When the truck came to a stop my leg was wrapped around the wheel axel and trapped.
“There was a lot of blood as I had cut my head close to my eye, and my hand was also very badly injured. The skin had been ripped completely from my thumb exposing the bone and my bones were also showing on a couple of fingers.
“I was there about 45 minutes whilst the ambulance crews freed me from under the lorry and I was fortunate to come away still alive. At that point you don’t consider who was to blame, you are just happy to escape.
“The police then said in the days after that CCTV footage showed I had been sat in traffic lights looking around and that I should have noticed that the lorry had his indicator on to turn. They were pretty abrupt in how they described it and it was a worry.”
Having dislocated all fingers on his left hand, which needed wiring and surgery, Richard also required surgery on his thumb, with the tip having to be removed as it could not be saved.
“I had five operations on my hand and because the skin wouldn’t grow back on my thumb the tip had to be removed. I had skin grafts from my leg and my arm,” he explained.
“It has had a big impact on my life. I was studying sports health, exercise and nutrition at University at the time and it obviously restricted me with regards to a lot of the physical activities. I also went to the gym and played a lot of sport and rugby before the accident, so that was affected.
“My fingers have been left much weaker also, so I have to be really careful when lifting or doing anything where they could be damaged. I have been told they could get worse as I get older and I could suffer from Arthritis as well.”
Legal case ensured damages were recovered
Following legal representation from Hudgell Solicitors, a £48,500 damages settlement was eventually agreed on the basis that Richard was 40% to blame, the lorry driver taking 60% responsibility.
Personal injury claims specialist Kirsty Hodgson, who handled the case, said that reflected the joint liability for the collision.
“These cases can involve some dispute as to liability but it is important to ensure that an injured person is suitably compensated and supported,” she said.
“In this case it was agreed that the lorry driver was mainly at fault for turning left and not seeing the client who he had a duty to look out for – particularly at traffic lights where you would expect cyclists to be waiting.
“Richard did have to accept some fault too because the police indicated that the CCTV showed him pulling up alongside the lorry which was clearly indicating left as he passed it, so he should have anticipated the lorry was going to turn and hung back, or gone on his right hand side.
“The reality of accidents though is that people make mistakes, and that should not mean they have to suffer further.
“The final settlement in this case reflected the long term impact of the accident on Richard. We also took advice from an Occupational Therapist to assess the impact on earning capability and chosen careers for Richard, which was included in the financial settlement.
“Although the settlement would have been substantially higher had Richard been proved to be at no fault at all, this case was a good example of why people should seek legal advice if they are injured in an accident but fear they were partly at fault. It may mean you receive a lower damages settlement, but substantial damages can still be recovered.”
Richard added: “I am glad that I got the support I did from Hudgell Solicitors as it has been a big help.
“As soon as I contacted them they started the process moving and that gave me confidence as I took that as reassurance that my claim would be a success if they were willing to take it on, and so it proved.
“I’m yet to get back on my bike, but as I have cycled regularly since being at school I am sure I’ll be back cycling soon.”