I crashed – but was it my fault?

I crashed – but was it my fault?

I was riding with a group of friends, all of whom are better at taking corners than I am. I was in the middle of a group of five. the lead rider is very quick, but waits for me and the one other slower rider in our group.

The tail-end rider is also very good, and he is qualified both with the Institute of Advanced Motorcyclists and RoSPA. He makes sure that he sweeps up any riders who fall off the pace. We have a strict ‘no overtaking” rule.

Anyway, I was riding In Northamptonshire when I completely overcooked a bend. It was in a series of bends, some of which had warning signs and chevrons, others did not. In one of these right-hand bends I had realised that I had overcooked it, pulled on the brakes and hit the low kerb edging of the road.

My bike bounced off the kerb and ended up in the path of a following rider in my group, who is the other slower guy. He was knocked off his bike and sustained a nasty break to his lower leg. I understand that he has made a good recovery but funnily enough we are not really in contact any more.

My insurers want to settle his case, but I think the council is to blame. I went back to the scene and there are no warning signs. The road is in a 60mph zone and I think I was traveling at more like 50-55mph. If there had been warnings I would had slowed down. Can I blame the council?

I have also heard that a judge found that a person leading a ride could be responsible if somebody else in the ride crashed, as it was the lead rider’s duty to keep to a pace that all the other members of the group could deal with. Is the lead rider to blame?

Answer

In short no. The law is crystal clear. The Highways Authority has no duty at all to tell you how to read the road. The bend in the road was there. You could see it. If you could not see it then you should have eased off the pace.

You mentioned that you were riding at the same speed as everyone else In your convoy, so the bend itself was not Intrinsically dangerous. What was dangerous was you grabbing a handful of front brake, tucking the front end away and bouncing into, and then off, the kerb.

The law says that highways authorities can, if they wish, erect signs warning about the nature of the road, but It has been established law for about 600 years that the people responsible for the carriageway are not responsible for the topography or the layout of the road. If they design a road from scratch then other rules apply, but the highways authorities take the roads as they find them and how they have developed since time immemorial.

There are exceptions to this rule – for example if the highways authority puts up traffic calming measures. But this was not a traffic calming measure. This was a bend in the road where your ego, regrettably, outstripped your talent.

On a more fundamental point, do you not think you should be looking after your mate? You might not be on good terms any more but why are you worried about your insurance company paying out to him? His leg is broken as a result of your riding. You should be positively encouraging your insurer to pay out, not looking for excuses.

In so far as blaming the lead rider is concerned, you really do need to start facing up to your own responsibilities. There was a first-Instance case where a judge took an extremely odd view as to the duties of leading and following riders. It was actually a criminal case, rather than a civil case, and is of absolutely no help to you in this decision. In any event the judgement you are thinking about was overturned on appeal.

I think you need to stop wriggling and start facing up to fact that you made an error. It was entirely your error, yet you walked away and your mate did not. I am not surprised he is not talking to you.

Andrew Dalton

RiDE Magazine October 2016

Posted by Andrew Dalton. Posted on: October 13, 2016 at 12:00 am

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 focused on getting the best possible outcomes for his clients.