Can I claim if I was injured cycling at night without lights?

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It is illegal to cycle on a public road at night without lights and reflectors. If you are injured when cycling without lights, you may still be able to make a claim - but it could reduce the compensation you will receive.

What does the law say about cycling at night without lights?

The Highway Code

Most cyclists learn about road safety laws from the Highway Code. The Highway Code is a set of rules, some of which are legal requirements and others that are included for guidance.

Where the Code refers to a specific law, it will clearly state (in bold and caps) that cyclists MUST or MUST NOT adhere to the rule.

If the rule is published for guidance purposes (i.e. not legally enforceable), the rule will instead be phrased in terms like “you should”.

The Section 60 of the Highway Code Rule 60 states:

'At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.'

The specifications of lights and reflectors, where to fit them, and when to use them, are defined by the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations (RVLR). The regulations basically require your bike lights must be clean and in working order.

The finer details of the RVLR are seldom enforced and using a white front light red rear light is usually sufficient. However, any slight illegality with respect to lights and reflectors may impact negatively on any injury compensation you might be awarded.

Is there a legal definition of 'night'?

Cyclists are required to use bike lights and reflectors between sunset and sunrise. Car drivers must also switch on their sidelights during this period. The period between 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise is defined as 'The Hours of Darkness', during which drivers must use headlights.

Although it would be wise to display lights at times of reduced visibility (and possibly in the day), such as fog, there is no legal requirement for cyclists to do so.

Are there any exceptions to the regulations?

There are a few exceptions allowing bikes:

  • manufactured before October 1990 to have any type of white front lamp fitted - as long as it is visible from a reasonable distance, and the lights do not need to conform to BS6102/3 or equivalent EC standard.
  • made before 1st October 1985 an exemption from the need to have pedal reflectors.
  • to be stationary or be pushed along the roadside without lights.

Contributory negligence

If you were injured when cycling at night without lights, the courts may take the view that you partly contributed to your injury by not making yourself visible. A doctrine of common law, 'contributory negligence' describes the failure of an injured person to take appropriate actions to reduce their risk of injury.

A common example of contributory negligence is when a driver is injured when not wearing a seatbelt. Similarly, if you were injured riding at night without lights it could be decided that you contributed to your injuries.

The court may decide that if you had been using bike lights you would have been more visible and the accident may have been avoided or your injuries less severe.

If the defendant successfully puts up a contributory negligence defence, your compensation award would be subject to a split liability agreement.

How does a split liability agreement work?

If it can be established that your accident was partly your fault, your damages may be reduced according to how much the court thinks you contributed to your accident or injury.

If it is established that riding at night without lights contributed to your accident, your compensation may be reduced in proportionately.

For example:

if liability is agreed on a 75:25 basis in your favour, it means that the defendant accepts 75% liability for the accident and you accept 25% liability. In this example, you would receive 75% of the overall claim value.

If liability is agreed on a 75:25 basis in favour of the defendant, it means you accept 75% liability for the accident and the defendant accepts 25% responsibility. In this example, the claimant would receive 25% of the overall value of the claim.

Read more:

How do split liability agreements work?

Conclusion

Most cyclists would avoid taking the risk of cycling at night without lights. It may be that your lights have run out of batteries or failed, tempting you to run the gauntlet to get to work or home. Considering the risk, it would be ill-advised. Even if you are not injured yourself, your lack of visibility could lead to a pedestrian or other road user being injured.

Ignorance of the law cannot be offered as a defence. Even if you did not know about the cycle lighting regulations, you are still obliged to comply with them.

Riding at night without lights may not prevent you from making an injury claim but it could make it more difficult to get the full amount of compensation you need when recovering from an injury.

See also:

How do I make a cycling injury claim?

I was injured when cycling on the pavement - can I claim?

Can I claim if I was injured cycling without a bike helmet?

Is it illegal to ride a bicycle when drunk?

Should I take out cycle insurance?

How can Quittance help?

Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, and the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning cycling accident claims.

If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee claim, we are open 8am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm on Saturday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday.

Call us FREE 0800 376 1001 or arrange a callback:

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Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

Author:
Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor