Cyclist Veronika Pete, a 31 year old marketing professional from central London, was left with life changing injuries after she was run over by a lorry crossing lanes to turn left on the Marble Arch gyratory on 7th December 2010. Acting on behalf of the defendant, insurance company RSA alleged that Veronika was partially responsible for the accident despite the driver being found guilty of careless driving as well as the vehicle not being fitted with adequate mirrors or safety equipment. Having initially suggested 20% liability to be accepted by Veronika, RSA gave in and acknowledged full liability just weeks before trial.
Veronika was cycling along her regular route to work, travelling around the Marble Arch gyratory and heading towards Oxford Street past the exit to Edgware Road. The driver of the heavy bullion vehicle, Mr John Taylor, stated that he had seen the cyclist but then lost sight of her. He assumed she had turned left, taking the exit to Edgware Road. In fact Veronika was at the front of the bullion vehicle below the cab’s line of sight. The vehicle was not fitted with mirrors designed to increase visibility that are now recommended for all new HGVs. The driver turned left across the lane, dragging Veronika under the lorry's wheels.
She was rushed to St Mary's Hospital in Paddington where she received emergency life saving treatment. Her leg had to be amputated above the knee and her other leg was severely damaged. This was amongst many other soft tissue and orthopaedic injuries. She was transferred to Charing Cross Hospital where she spent several months undergoing multiple operations and recovering from the impact of the accident. Veronika now uses a wheelchair and is learning to walk using a prosthetic limb. She is receiving intensive rehabilitation and requires help from her partner, James, carers, family and friends. The road to recovery will be long and difficult.
Veronika has been pursuing a claim for personal injury damages against RSA, the insurers of the vehicle.
RSA alleged that Veronika was partially responsible for the accident, claiming initially that she had failed to take proper care for her own safety. A criminal trial was held in the summer of 2012, in which the Defendant driver was found guilty of careless driving, fined £1,300 and given 5 penalty points on his licence. Surprisingly the argument continued with the Defence maintaining that Veronika should accept to being partially at fault. RSA suggested that she should accept a 20% reduction in her damages claim to reflect this. Following lengthy civil litigation a trial date was set for May 2013. But just weeks before the trial the Defence finally agreed to judgement being entered which means that Veronika will recover her damages on a 100% basis.
Commenting on the development, Veronika Pete said:
"I hope all that I have been through will help other victims in similar situations stay strong in the face of legal pressure. But I hope especially that the insurance industry will see this as a wake up call and realise the importance of being fully accountable for insuring fleets of ill equipped vehicles. Those injured as a result face lifelong difficulties both physical and emotional what insurers can do is help take the financial worry out of the equation and make the long and exhausting process of litigation less stressful, especially when the driver was found to be clearly in the wrong. Pursuing allegations such as these, in the face of evidence to the contrary, really just adds to the anxiety and general emotional impact of the accident for the claimant."
Jill Greenfield, partner and personal injury lawyer at Fieldfisher said:
"All too often the assumption from insurers seems to be that the cyclist was some way at fault and had not taken sufficient care. It is wholly unfair on someone like Veronika, who has suffered life changing injuries, to try to allege that she was in some way at fault. I was always very clear with Veronika that we wanted 100% for her and there would be no negotiation with the Defence. I am pleased that the Defence finally saw sense and gave in however there was no need for this to take so long. It also shouldn't have taken the threat of a trial to focus their minds on the issue."
For further information, please contact:
Jill Greenfield, Partner at Fieldfisher on 020 7861 4557 or 07917 769 474