Motorcycle Blog

Who’s to blame when you lob it down the track?

I went to a track day on my bike. I am quite a quick rider and I put myself into the intermediate group. The track day had four groups, novice, experienced but slow, intermediate and a fast group. My bike was fully prepared but the track day organisers did not check my bike for me. We had a few warm ups with one of the organisers taking the intermediate group, faster and faster around the track and showing us the lines.

I had no problem keeping up. The organiser’s rider peeled off into the pit lane and we were all riding at our own pace. I binned my bike at the third corner. A following rider has me on GoPro. I suffered a number of broken bones, and my insurance policy will not pay out for my bike. I am self-employed and I am going to be off work for a minimum of 12 weeks.

I am hoping to get compensation but I do not want to ask for it if I am not entitled to it. I do not want to worry the track day school with a solicitor’s letter if I do not have a real chance of getting some money. So do I suck it up or do I sue? I did sign a damage waiver which seems to say short of one of the organisers shooting me in the head with a harpoon they are not liable for anything.

Name withheld

I am glad you did not run into a chancer accident management company. The track day organisers very sensibiy filmed the track day briefing, and panned the camera round to show every single rider listening to the track day briefing, and the guy running the track day must have said at least eight times “do not ride faster than your talents allow you to”.

In order for you to succeed against the track day organisers you will have to show that their organisation fell below a “reasonable level of care and skill”. They gave you a safety briefing. They took you around the track, showed you the lines but when you were in control of your own bike you binned it. Put bluntly, what else could they do?

You had complete autonomy at that point. The video from a following rider shows you going into a corner too hot and even though you look like a pretty handy lad, it was too fast for you, your bike or your tyres – but probably you. The lowside was nasty but predictable. I note you are pulling away from the camera bike that makes it through the comer, despite the fibreglass explosion that your bike became. He got round it by travelling a touch slower and dealt with bits of your bike all over the track.

The ‘damage waiver” document that you signed has clearly been ripped off an American website, and the damage waiver part of it is meaningless in law across the United Kingdom. No contract can exclude liability for inadequate care and skill, which is what this damage waiver purports to do.

It is my opinion that the track day organisers did organise and run the day with reasonable care and skill and you just got it wrong, which is a sad fact of life.

There is a principle in Scots, Northern Irish, English and Welsh law called ‘volenti non fit injuria’ and while this takes a couple of hours of undergraduate lecturing the simple test is if you immediately think ‘he has got no-one to blame but himself’ then volenti is likely to apply. The test is a bit more complex but in all three jurisdictions the test is ‘did the injured party knowingly consent to the risk?’ and in your case you did.

The video of the safety briefing, along with the waiver form clearly sets out that riding a motorcycle at high speed on a race track carries a high risk of serious injury or death and you accept the risk, it also says clearly “ride at your own pace, this is not a race” so while the “exclusion from liability” part of the form does not help the organiser, the fact that you knowingly accepted the risk does, in much the same way as a boxer cannot sue for assault for a punch in the face, you cannot sue for crashing your own bike.

I am glad you do not want to cause torment to this track day organiser for what was, unfortunately, entirely your own error. Getting hurt is not enough. You need to prove that you got hurt through somebody else’s fault, and if you want to take the enjoyment of a track day, you have to take the risk. So in answer to question “suck it up or sue?” the answer is suck it up.

Andrew Dalton

Fast Bikes June 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.

2 Comments
  • john andrew faulkner

    June 11, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Hi Andrew, you provided an excellent review and judgement of the track day risks. There cannot be any liability for rider error in partaking in such an event . Regards John Faulkner

  • Andrew

    June 19, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    Hi John and thanks for the kind words. A track day organiser can be liable but only if they do something negligent. A classic example would be to put a timid rider in the fast group but the real thing track day organisers have to look out for is the aggressive and pumped up rider who is a danger to all other users. If the organisers do not pull that type of rider off the track then they have a real problem. There is quite a lot of law developing on whether such incidents are insured under European law but when you bin your own bike, on your own, well, sorry but you have to live with that.

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