A CYCLIST has received £17,000 in damages after a van hit him – despite the driver allegedly trying to discredit his version of events with “staged” photos.
Walter Hamilton, 37, from Broughton was riding just outside Temple in Midlothian when the man pulled across him, catapulting him over the bonnet and into the verge.
It seems that as a cyclist, even though we are the ones injured, we are more likely than not to find ourselves fighting against big corporate machines for what’s right and fair.Walter Hamilton
He suffered whiplash, scarring to his face and legs and needed physiotherapy on his knee after the collision a year ago.
And it has taken months of legal wrangling before Aviva Insurance settled in his favour.
The seasoned cyclist, who rides for the city’s Veloclub, said had no reason to suspect the driver’s insurance company would not accept liability.
But three months after the accident he discovered that the driver had given a different account, submitting photos that Mr Hamilton’s solicitors have described as “staged”.
However, an Aviva spokesman said the van driver had made it clear the pictures were not taken on the same day as the accident and were merely intended to be a recreation of what he thought had happened.
Mr Hamilton, who took his own pictures with his iPhone immediately after the accident, described his shock when he saw the images from the driver.
He said: “It was taken from a completely different angle and showed him still on his side of the road. On my photograph it was a beautiful clear day but on his re-construction it was overcast. I couldn’t believe it.
“The driver was very apologetic at the time and instantly admitted that the collision was his fault. But I found myself with the weight of a major insurance company bearing down on me and telling me that, in fact, it was all my fault.
“It seems that as a cyclist, even though we are the ones injured, we are more likely than not to find ourselves fighting against big corporate machines for what’s right and fair.”
Mr Hamilton’s solicitor, Jodi Gordon of Cycle Law Scotland, said: “Walter’s case highlights the experience of many cyclists and shows the weakness of our current fault-based system. Instead of this being a straightforward case on liability with recompense going to the injured party, we have a situation made worse with drawn-out litigation.
“Introducing a system of presumed liability in Scots civil law would simply mean that a driver’s insurance company would have to prove fault on the part of the cyclist to avoid paying compensation. Presumed liability would enable vulnerable road users to be compensated quickly and fairly and without resort to litigation.”
She added: “Walter’s case also shows the importance of taking photos. If possible, photos should be taken immediately following the collision, as these are the best evidence in supporting a particular version of events.
“Insurance companies often try and under-settle cases by putting forward low offers as they did initially in Walter’s case, but with specialist solicitors on side, a fair level of compensation was fought for and won.”
A spokesman for Aviva insurance said that the company had settled the claim “quickly and fairly.”