Stinging media coverage has forced Provident Insurance into a partial climbdown over its decision to sue the parents of a schoolboy left brain damaged by a road accident.

But although Provident has withdrawn its law suit, it continues to deny that its insured driver was responsible for the boy's injuries.

The insurer had alleged that Trevor and Eve Coombs were partially liable for their son Darren's head injuries because they allowed him to ride his bicycle without a protective helmet.

Darren was only eight when he was struck by a car, driven by a Provident policyholder, as he cycled to a friend's house on the Isle of Wight in May 1997. He was given only a 25% chance of recovery by doctors and today needs special education. Darren's parents sued Provident on his behalf, alleging negligence by its insured driver.

However, the insurer decided its driver was not at fault and therefore decided to reject the Coombs' damages claim.

Provident subsequently wrote to the Coombs family saying it intended to recover from them any damages should it be forced to pay them compensation.

This decision sparked a barrage of adverse media coverage as Provident was bombarded with angry letters, particularly from outraged cyclists.

The strength of this feeling eventually led to a partial u-turn by the insurer.

In a statement released this week, Provident acknowledged the “emotional distress” that had been caused to Darren and his parents.

It stated: “In the light of the tragic circumstances of this particular accident, Provident has no wish to cause additional upset and distress to Darren's parents and so has agreed to withdraw its action to join them in court proceedings.”

But the company still refuses to accept negligence on behalf of its insured and continues to reject the Coombs' claim.

The case is set to be heard within the next few months.