You’ve probably seen the video, but in case you haven’t seen the drama that popped up on Singaporean social media, you can watch below. Whether you’re rooting for the lorry or the cyclist (or maybe neither!), here are some legal points that might interest you. Images and video courtesy of Roads SG.
What liabilities could the lorry driver be exposed to?
It is clear that the lorry driver hit the cyclist with the lorry. This exposes him potentially not just to civil, but criminal liabilities as well.
The law on civil liability can be summed up in the old aphorism “a man’s right to swing his fist ends where the other fellow’s nose begins”. Motorists and cyclists have to share the public roads, and they are obliged to do so in a manner that does not cause hurt or damage to each other. In hitting the cyclist with his lorry, the driver is likely to face civil liabilities should the cyclist decide to seek compensation for the hurt caused to him.
In addition to civil liabilities, the lorry driver may also face criminal liabilities as a result of possible offences under the Road Traffic Act, or even the Penal Code.
It has been reported by Channel NewsAsia that the lorry driver was arrested for rash driving, while the cyclist was arrested for rash riding and mischief.
Does the lorry driver have defences?
Although the lorry driver clearly hit the cyclist, this does not necessarily mean that he will be convicted of a crime or have to pay compensation.
This is because even if the cyclist successfully proves that the lorry driver hurt him, there may be defences that are available to the lorry driver. In the video, it appears that the swerving of the lorry onto the cyclist was triggered by the cyclist attacking the lorry by punching the side mirror or window of the lorry.
If the lorry driver was attacked, he is entitled to defend himself. This is known as the right of self defence.
A similar right is offered to individuals accused of criminal offences and is known as the right of private defence.
However it is important to remember that there are limits to private defence. A person cannot inflict more harm than is necessary for self-defence. If the attack has discontinued or you have successfully stopped it, then defence must also cease. It is arguable that using a lorry to hit a cyclist would exceed the possible harm that an unarmed cyclist could inflict a driver in a lorry.
Other possible defences such as provocation may also be available to the lorry driver.
What about the cyclist?
Just like the lorry driver isn’t supposed to hit the cyclist, the cyclist isn’t supposed to hit the lorry either. Like the lorry driver, if the cyclist damaged the lorry or somehow caused hurt to the driver, he may be liable to the lorry driver, or may have committed a criminal offence.
Since it appears from the video that the cyclist initiated the attack, it is unlikely that the defence of self defence would be available to the cyclist. The driver sounding his horn is also unlikely to be sufficient to establish provocation.
Internet vigilantes have wrongly identified an innocent cyclist, what avenues are open to him?
Whether out of a sense of curiosity or otherwise, one must be careful when trying to identify the persons in the video. In this particular case, an innocent person was wrongly identified as the cyclist in the video. This was reported to have exposed the person to verbal abuse and threats.
In attempting to identify the cyclist in the video, if words which disparage the reputation of the alleged cyclist are used, the person publishing those words may be liable for defamation.
Merely sharing a defamatory post can expose you to action in defamation as well.