Motorcycle Blog

What happens when someone takes you out and blames a faulty traffic light?

I was involved in a nasty accident. I was riding along a busy urban dual carriageway, and I rode through a set of green lights. In the opposite direction was a right-hand turn, also controlled by lights. As I was riding through the green lights a driver coming from the opposite direction turned right across me.

The police prosecuted the other driver for failing to give way and failing to comply with the road traffic sign or direction, as well as driving without due care. The case went to court, and the other driver was found not guilty on all counts. His solicitor said that because the police could not prove that the lights were working correctly there was reasonable doubt, and the driver should not be prosecuted. I am now panicking. My solicitor has told me not to panic, and has said to me that while a conviction would have been useful, the fact that there has not been a conviction does not really make any great difference. The other driver is now trying to sue me for damage to his car. I was really very badly injured and suspect I will never be able to return to my old job. Should I be panicking? Is my solicitor just making reassuring noises?

Name Withheld

Usually I hear this the other way round. I hear of absolutely solid cases where a conviction fails and the solicitor loses his nerve and starts talking about you accepting some blame. Your solicitor’s advice is absolutely sound. A conviction is admissible under Section 9 of the Civil Evidence Act and as a matter of the law of evidence the fact that the other driver has been convicted in an English court, there will be a presumption that cannot, realistically, be overturned by the cMI court and he will be found to be at least partially to blame for the accident, whether he has been convicted or not he is allowed to make allegations against you, and if he can prove those allegations, that will go to who is to blame. Therefore what your solicitor says is right. His life would he easier with a conviction hut the prosecution falling is not going to have any serious Impact on your case, hut I can understand why you are worried.

Secondly, it sounds to me that the prosecution was a complete cluster. There are a couple of basic presumptions of law that It appears the prosecution missed completely. The first is the “presumption of regularity” – there is a presumption in law that an official act is properly carried out, and there is a presumption. In law, that traffic lights are working correctly. In civil law there is a presumption that if the court finds that the lights are showing green in one way, they will he showing red the other. It is for the defendant to “rebut” the presumption – that is show that there is credible evidence that the lights were also showing green for him as he turned. There is no such evidence.

The defendant in your case raised this argument on the day of the trial. A more switched-on prosecutor would have pointed out that If the lights had been defective, there would he some record of them having been repaired and there would have been hundreds of accidents down this busy stretch of dual carriageway.

Unfortunately, an inadequate prosecutor has been tripped up by a tricksy defence lawyer. If I had been prosecuting the case, or if anyone competent had been prosecuting the case, I suspect the outcome would have been rather different.

On the positive side. It seems that you have got a switched on solicitor, who is telling you exactly the right things, and a competent barrister Instructed by him will he representing you at trial, as opposed to an overworked prosecutor who has only seen the papers literally on the morning of the trial.

Also, the defendant in your civil case is not allowed to “ambush” you with an entirely new line of defence. The defendant in the civil case will also have to show that his filter light was on green. The defendant saying it is an assertion, not evidence and Judges find on evidence, not assertion.

I also checked your solicitor out on the Law Society website. You have picked wisely. While he is not a hike specialist, he knows what he is up to. Trust him.

Andrew Dalton

Fast Bikes April 2017

Andrew Dalton is a highly experienced trial lawyer who delights in taking on difficult and demanding motorcycle cases. He has a tough and relentless litigation style and is utterly focussed on getting the best possible outcomes for his clients.

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