Case Study: Liability in Motorcycle Accident Claims
“Sorry – I didn’t see you (but it’s not my fault)” – liability in motorcycle accident claims
One of the most common causes of road accidents involving a motorcycle and another vehicle is the failure of the vehicle driver to see the approaching bike. This is particularly a problem at junctions. Most bikers have experienced a nerve shattering ‘near miss’ as a car driver pulls out from a side road into the path of their bike.
Unfortunately, in many cases the motorcyclist isn’t able to avoid the emerging vehicle and an accident occurs, often resulting in injury to the biker. In these circumstances the driver’s usual explanation of ‘Sorry – I didn’t see you’ is of no comfort to the injured motorcyclist. What may give some small comfort to the biker is the knowledge that, when the initial emergency is over, they can make a motorbike accident claim for the costs of bike repairs, replacing damaged helmet and leathers, financial losses and expenses – such as loss of earnings and compensation for the injury sustained.
Unfortunately, despite the admission “Sorry – I didn’t see you” many drivers and their insurers try to blame the biker after a collision occurs. This is particularly the case if the motorcyclist was overtaking at the time of the accident.
This point was highlighted recently in the High Court case of Woodham v Turner* which involved a coach driver emerging from a side road and turning right through a gap in a queue of stationary traffic onto the main A143. As the coach was edging slowly forwards a motorcycle, overtaking the stationary traffic, collided with the front off-side corner of the coach. As a result of the collision the biker sustained serious injuries. Liability for the accident was disputed and the coach driver argued that the motorcyclist was 100% to blame for the accident because he was overtaking at the junction.
The High Court accepted that the coach driver was edging out very slowly and that her view of traffic approaching from the right was blocked by stationary traffic. The court found that the driver was at fault by moving out when she could not be sure that no motorcycle was approaching. However, the court also considered whether the motorcyclist had failed to take sufficient care for his own safety by overtaking stationary traffic on the approach to a junction.
The court decided that motorcyclist ought to have been aware of the hazard of vehicles pulling out through a gap in the traffic and, whilst it was agreed that the bike was travelling at only 20 mph, the court decided that he was not overtaking at a ‘very low speed’ which would give him the opportunity to avoid an emerging vehicle. The court found that a speed of 15mph or less would have given the motorcyclist a real chance of taking action to avoid the collision. Accordingly the court found that the coach driver was 70% to blame and the biker was 30% to blame for the accident.
The failure of the motorcyclist to take extra care in hazardous circumstances resulted in a 30% reduction of his final compensation award. However, despite the coach driver’s allegation that the biker was 100% to blame the biker actually succeeded in recovering 70% of the value of his claim from the driver’s insurers.
The importance of expert legal advice to prove motorbike accident liability
It is important to remember that the question of blame in motorcycle accident claims must be decided on the facts of each individual case. However, drivers and their insurance companies will often dispute claims or seek to blame bikers for accidents where the driver, not the motorcyclist, is legally liable. It is therefore important that injured bikers get independent, expert legal advice following a motorbike accident to prove liability correctly and ensure that full and proper compensation is obtained.
Contact Beckett & Co Solicitors for free, independent motorcycle accident claim advice
If you have been injured in a motorbike accident contact us for free, independent, expert advice about making a claim for compensation. We will act on a no win – no fee basis and make sure that you keep 100% of any compensation received.
* EWHC 1588 (QB)
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