Presumptions of Liability
A storm was recently provoked when it emerged that the Government advisory body, Cycling England, planned to recommend that, in civil cases, an onus of proving that the accident was not their fault be placed on motorists who collide with vulnerable road users. The details of the recommendations, still less their prospects of acceptance, remain unclear. Press reports of a strict liability, regardless of fault, are probably a distortion. More likely is a proposal to adopt a system akin to that which is widespread in other European countries; that the motorist is at fault unless proved otherwise. Variants include a general assumption that the driver of the larger vehicle is to blame, thus the presumption is against cyclists in collisions with pedestrians. Few cases in practice turn upon the burden of proof. The heavier and faster the vehicle you chose to control, the more danger you present to others. A recognition that this imposes a correspondingly greater duty and, in the event of accident, comes with a burden of proof may constitute one small step towards the shift in culture required and would be a useful precursor to any trials of innovative traffic solutions which may include the wholesale removal of traffic lights and other junction controls.