Fairness in Liability Correspondence

Below is a letter I have drafted and sent to certain members of City Council of San Diego:

You have expressed interest in the government encouraging cycling. Studies show that the number one reason that people do not take alternative transportation is because of fear of automobiles.

This fear is in part because the law doesn’t motivate motorists to pay attention to the vulnerable. On the contrary, it seems that due to the current combination of laws and societal conditions, we are in a “vehicle arms race” where people feel the need to purchase larger vehicles just to protect themselves from other motorists who themselves are driving bigger vehicles so they feel safe.

This cycle of escalation benefits no one, and it creates an extra cost on every household which can exceed that of federal, state, and local taxes combined.

Perhaps we can break this vicious cycle?

When a car driver injures a pedestrian, the burden of proof is on the pedestrian for claiming compensation. It appears, our legal system does not favor the more vulnerable.

Car colliding with pedestrian or cyclist:

Hundreds of pedestrians and scores of cyclists get injured or killed by car drivers every year. The 2008 road casualty figures show that 332 pedestrians were killed in car/pedestrian collisions, and in car/cyclist collisions 52 cyclists were killed. In all 390 cases not one car driver was killed. Amongst pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers, it is clear that the car driver is the most likely party to inflict injury or death upon the others.

Cyclist colliding with pedestrian:

The 2008 road accident statistics by the Department for Transport show that one pedestrian was killed in a cyclist/pedestrian collision. It is clear when comparing pedestrians and cyclists, that the cyclist would be seen as the stronger party.

I find it very hard to understand that the burden of proof would be on the more vulnerable road user and not the one who is actually more likely to cause harm: inflicting pain and suffering through causing injury, or devastating families by causing death. All this does not seem fair to me.

If you think so too, could I please ask you to get in touch with the US Department of Transportation. It would be much appreciated if you could highlight to them, that we should subscribe to a more civilized system that is favoring the vulnerable.

Liability should therefore be considered on a fair and proportionate basis to provide legal protection to the vulnerable road user. This could be achieved by establishing a hierarchy of care where the burden of proof would always be on the user of the heavier vehicle (the party more likely to cause injury or death). This would show commitment of this Government to its agenda of societal and social fairness.

This principle of proportionality described above is in place in all but five European countries. The UK being one of them; the other four are Ireland, Romania, Cyprus and Malta.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

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