ACT News

Canberra cyclist ordered to pay $1.7 million over collision with fellow rider

A cyclist has been ordered to pay his friend nearly $1.7 million in damages after the man was knocked off his bike and hit by a car when the pair collided on their way home from work.

Court documents said David Blick was riding slightly ahead of Michael Anthony Franklin on the off-ramp from Capital Circle onto Canberra Avenue during the evening peak hour on June 17, 2009.

Mr Blick hit a large wooden tree stake that was lying in the bike lane and veered into his friend, causing him to fall off his bike and into the path of an oncoming car.

Mr Franklin, who was 43 at the time of the incident, remembered his friend's body slammed into him before he was thrown on to the road, court documents said.

"I don't have a strong memory of what happened next, other than the fact that a car ran over my back and seemed to spin me around to face the oncoming traffic," he said.

He tried to crawl off the road, but he could not move his legs.

Mr Franklin remembered Mr Blick tried to stop oncoming traffic as another cyclist rushed to help, holding his head in place and telling him not to move.

He recalled he began to experience "incredible, intense pain" as paramedics tried to move him.

The victim suffered serious fractures to his pelvis and spine, internal bleeding, grazes and bruising. 

He required pins and screws to be inserted into his pelvis and the base of his spine. 

Mr Franklin spent 28 days in hospital and continued to suffer chronic pain, as well as burst of acute pain, which required ongoing treatment in the months after his release. 

Court documents showed Mr Blick, who went to the same school as Mr Franklin, often visited him in hospital. 

He told him the wooden stake, which he described as 1.5 to 2 metres long had "turned his wheel" towards his friend's bike.

Mr Franklin later returned to work part-time as an IT consultant but continued to experience serious flare-ups of back pain and disrupted sleep, which required medication and meditation courses.

He also underwent physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, massage therapy, and saw a psychologist.

The pain worsened every time Mr Franklin, a contractor, tried to increase his workload over the next couple of years, and he was forced to work fewer hours. 

Mr Franklin said he had been fit, healthy and took part in running groups, triathlons and decathlons before the collision.

The accident caused him to "feel down" a lot of the time due to his chronic pain and the medication he was on. 

Mr Franklin assumed he would be covered for personal injury because the accident involved a car, court documents said. 

But a solicitor advised him the the driver's third party insurance would only cover him if it could be proven the driver was negligent. 

He instead sued Mr Blick for negligence, claiming he failed to keep a proper lookout for dangers on the road and was not riding safely.

But Mr Blick denied he was liable and said his only duty was to take "reasonable care" in the circumstances.

He said the fact he lost control of the bike because he hit the wooden stake did not mean he breached that duty.

During legal proceedings, Mr Franklin's occupational physician said his client's physical condition had "plateaued" two years after the incident and his ability to return to full-time work in the future had been affected.

Another physician noted Mr Franklin's ongoing disabilities were "quite significant" and "interfered with all aspects of domestic, social and recreational activities".

But a neurologist who was called as a defence witness was "quite hopeful" Mr Franklin should be able to return to full-time work if he was able to use a standing work station.

In a judgement published on Friday, Justice John Burns found Mr Blick had acted negligently and not exercised reasonable care to observe the piece of wood before the collision. 

"The defendant was aware that the plaintiff was riding his bicycle adjacent to the defendant, so that any loss of control of the defendant's bicycle presented a risk of injury to the plaintiff.

"The need to exercise reasonable care to avoid colliding with objects likely to cause the defendant to lose control of his bicycle was even more apparent because the cycleway on which the plaintiff and defendant were riding was immediately adjacent to a busy road."

Mr Burns was satisfied the defendant breached his duty of care to Mr Franklin and that the man's injuries were a result of Mr Blick's negligence.

"Bearing in mind the size of the piece of wood and the lighting in the area, I am satisfied that if the defendant had exercised reasonable care he would have seen and avoided the piece of wood."

He ordered Mr Blick pay Mr Franklin $1,659,392.75 in damages, plus legal costs. 

Mr Burns said that amount factored in Mr Franklin's loss of future earning capacity and superannuation.