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Helmetless cyclists no longer to blame for injuries, German court rules

Germany’s highest court of appeal has ruled that cyclists who sustain head trauma in an accident will not automatically be considered partially responsible for not wearing a helmet. Wearing a helmet is not compulsory.

The Federal Court of Justice ruling on Tuesday, which overturned a lower court decision, means cyclists in Germany can opt not to wear a helmet without any fear of financial disadvantage if they are involved in an accident.

Wearing a helmet whilst cycling in Germany is not compulsory and only 15 percent of cyclists wear them.

The appeals court ruling concerned a case from 2011, when a 61-year-old-woman cycling to work was knocked from her bicycle when a passenger in a parked car opened the door as she cycled by.

Suffering serious head injuries, the woman spent months in hospital. The car owner's insurance company wanted to reduce its payout by 20 percent to the woman, claiming she bore some responsibility for her injuries as she failed to wear a helmet.

Agreeing with the insurance company, a local court in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein said that “a decent and reasonable person would wear a helmet to decrease the risk of injury.” The woman appealed the decision, which was heard by the federal court.

Welcoming Tuesday's decision, the German Cyclist Association's (ADFC) national director Burkhard Stork said, “the 30 million people that cycle everyday can decide for themselves if they should wear a helmet or not.”

Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt agreed: “helmets can provide security and reduce injury in the case of accidents...but we want freedom of choice to be the main focus.”

jlw/jr (Reuters, AFPD, dpad)

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