How European countries handle bicycle & pedestrian insurance and liability issues

With the issue of insurance requirements for bicyclists being bandied about the Missouri General Assembly this year, people have been asking the question--how to other countries handle issues of cyclist and pedestrian insurance?

Europe has some interesting answers to that question.  With so many countries and many different approaches and details in different countries throughout Europe, we should be cautious of overgeneralizing.  But the excerpts below give some indication of the way different European nations handle these matters.

Car and bike
Car and bike

In 2002, the European Commission proposed making motorists liable by default, unless proven otherwise, in any collision involving a motorist and a bicycle. This was already the situation in several European countries, but not Great Britain and others.

Here is some discussion about that proposal:

A Commission spokesman said: "Motor vehicles cause most accidents. Whoever is responsible, pedestrians and cyclists usually suffer more. In some member states, the cyclist is covered by the insurance of the vehicle involved in the accident, irrespective of whether the driver is at fault."

He was referring to France, Belgium, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Germany, where the motorist is almost always liable for damages or compensation regardless of who caused the accident. Brussels now wants the rest of the EU to adopt that system within two to three years.

From discussion in The Back Room (originally from this source)

Settlement of injury claims in the Netherlands

For accidents in which injury or death is caused by a motorised vehicle and the victim is not a participant of motorised traffic ( i.e. pedestrian or cyclist) the liability is strict unless the driver of the motorised vehicle concerned can prove that he is not in any way to blame for the accident. This excuse is almost entirely restricted to proven willful misconduct of the pedestrian or cyclist and is not accepted at all when the injured party is younger than 14 years of age.

Attributable negligence or guilt of the injured party can reduce the liability. For instance when a cyclist or pedestrian ignores a traffic light liability can be reduced to up to 50 %. Passengers of drinking drivers can - under circumstances - be attributed co-responsibility of 30 - 50 % and - most common - not wearing a compulsory seat belt reduces the right for compensation with 25 - 40 % depending on the character of the injuries sustained.......

.....All legitimate claimants can exercise their rights directly against the insurance company of the liable motorist. Damage incurred because of an accident with an unidentified motor vehicle can be claimed with a Guarantee Fund. This fund is sustained by a levy on all motor insurers according to their market share.

A summary of the proposed EU directive:

Article 4(2) Pedestrians and cyclists

A new provision is inserted in Directive 84/5/EEC in order to include in the cover provided by the vehicle insurance personal injuries suffered by pedestrians and cyclists in accidents involving a motor vehicle. This cover under the compulsory insurance of the vehicle should apply, irrespective of whether the driver is at fault.

To avoid any possible confusion between insurance matters (scope of the insurance Directives) and civil law (scope of national legislation), a recital states that the civil liability of pedestrians and cyclists must be governed by the applicable Member State legislation. In other words, the victim's injuries must, in principle, be covered by the vehicle insurance. This cover under the compulsory motor insurance of the vehicle does not determine the civil liability of the pedestrian or cyclist in a specific accident or the level of any award for damages. This should be governed by the applicable national legislation and the national courts.

Situation in Sweden:

Basically if you hit a pedestrian on or near a crossing (including one pushing a cycle), then you're stuffed, well and truly. The law was changed a few years ago so that anyone actually crossing the road on a crossing, or on the pavement near a crossing has absolute priority. If you hit them its your fault, even if they fling themselves under your wheels as you should have slowed down in case they did something stupid.

So the situation today is that drivers are very wary if pedestrians are at or even near crossings, but as a pedestrian its cool. Unfortunately it has now extended in my opinion that people step out even when there is no actual crossing but just near a corner or a junction say, so its safer to stop in my opinion. Of course some of the pedestrians rely on that, but most, incl me, just use common sense and only step out when they see concrete evidence that the vehicle is going to stop.

What do you think?  Would it be possible to create a system in the U.S. where bicyclists and pedestrians are covered by insurance?  Could it be set up similar to the European system, where every motorist pays into a bike/ped injury fund that pays for all bike/ped injuries caused by motor vehicles, regardless of fault?


Or could be go even further, as Sweden does, and make motorists absolutely liable for injuring pedestrians at intersections?


Do any of those approaches make sense here in Missouri?



Photo credit: Collision by Jari Schroderus on FlickR. Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.