Crash, bang, wallop!

Crash, bang, wallop!

Riding bikes isn’t without risk, so is it right to point blame if you cause yourself to crash?

My girlfriend decided to pass her CBT and hopefully go on to get a full licence. She went to the same rider training school that I attended. She did her machine control on a school bike, but unfortunately she got her machine control a bit wrong and, according to the CBT trainer, allegedly accelerated into a low wall of about two feet tall. She crashed off her bike and broke her wrist and collarbone. I have told her that she should bring a claim.

I am trained in health and safety, and it is obvious by the accident that she was not ready to ride the bike and I think the school should have been run in an area with safe run-offs because novice motorcyclists might get into difficulty. I also think that the instructor should have had a remote engine cut-off so that if a rider was getting into difficulty, he could kill the engine.

My girlfriend has told me to stop making such a fuss. It is just one of those things, and she will stick with mountain bikes, horses and sitting on the back with me, because she does not want to take her motorcycle test. Should she sue for her injuries and having her future as a motorcyclist taken away from her?

Answer

I really would leave her alone. Her decision is correct. I much prefer her attitude to yours. In order for there to be a case in English law, she would have to show that the standards of teaching and safety fell below the acceptable standards of a riding school. This does not mean that every risk has to be excluded. It sounds as though your girlfriend may have got target fixated and just gripped the throttle in panic. It happens.

Whilst it is a foreseeable risk, it is not one which can reasonably be excluded by sensible measures. Your girlfriend was on a small, low-powered bike. Had she been put on to a fire-breathing super moto with a quarter turn throttle and not been trained, different story, but she was not. She went through the same rider training syllabus as every other novice motorcyclist. The instructor cannot intervene when a rider has a death grip on the throttle.

Your second point about the wall is not a good one. Wherever you run a training school there will be things to hit, including other students or the instructor. By your reckoning, every motorcycle school should have an individual rider in a smooth tarmac area, surrounded by gravel run-off pits, and even then, if a novice rider hits a gravel pit at speed, chances are she would fall off. The occurrence of an injury does not prove negligence. The only thing the accident shows is that falling off a bike can hurt.

In so far as a ‘remote engine cut-off’ is concerned, I am sure that such a thing is possible, but a training school only has to take reasonable precautions and unless you can lead convincing evidence that such a cut-off is regularly used in training schools (and it isn’t), the school does not have to guard against every potential risk. There are self evident risks of riding a motorcycle. Your girlfriend took those risks. She was in control of the motorcycle, it was her error and I think her attitude is correct in law and fortitude. Not every accident can have a claim, especially when no one is at fault and I think your suggestions are well beyond ‘a counsel of perfection’, and are completely unrealistic.

I do not want to sound rude, but it seems to me that you have got ‘health and safetitus’, a condition where the impossible aim of seeking to achieve the complete elimination of all risk in any human activity is your impossible aim. I suspect you are feeling a little guilty about recommending this school, but put that out of your head, with your rather braver girlfriend, who is still content to ride pillion, mountain bikes and horses, chances are she is going to break a few bones anyway.

Her attitude to life of taking a bit of risk and not moaning if it goes a bit wrong is a lot more appealing than yours. There is absolutely no prospect at all of any sort of claim for her ‘future as a motorcyclist’ coming to an end. Leave it alone. She took the risks inherent in riding a motorcycle and accepted them. She is right to have done so.

Andrew Dalton

Fast Bikes Mag June 2019

Disclaimer: The legal advice and statements contained within this/these articles is correct at the time of printing. If you are seeking legal advice after a motorbike accident please contact us to speak directly with one of our lawyers.

Comments

  1. Well said Andrew Dalton!
    The school did nothing wrong, and the concept that everything is someone elses fault and can lead to a claim is making everyone so risk adverse that soon some idiot will be asking for mandatory stabilisers.
    Its probably better not go out when its wet, cold, too sunny, too gloomy or there`s an R in the month, but I think I`ll be really, really brave and try it…

  2. Wonderful advice, especially in this era of blame claim. Id suggest the girlfriend trades him in for a new one.

  3. Andrew DaltonNovember 25, 2019

    I don’t want to identify the person who called me but it is fair to say he was in a very Health and Safety environment. He did sound a bit crestfallen and I hope he stopped with the pressure on his girlfriend. The problem is some chancer claims company could press the claim, and the school gets its premium loaded on the basis of a claim and bike schools don’t make a lot of money. And whilst the case has little merit, and the injured person had exactly the right level of fortitude, just having an outstanding claim on a small school’s insurance can make the business non viable.

  4. Jennifer BrayNovember 25, 2019

    I cracked a collarbone years ago with the aid of a CBR600 and a ditch. The bones are still a bit crooked, but it healed fast and I managed to get back on the bike a couple of weeks later. Hopefully your girlfriends collarbone will heal straighter than mine as the slight crookedness on my left shoulder means that bra straps tend to slide off, so I have to wear halter back bras now or be constantly pulling the strap back into line! Still could have been a lot worse, so I can libe with that!
    My partner did an unplanned high speed handstand over the bars of a GT550 and broke both wrists, it took him a bit longer, but he got back on again.
    I don’t know how bad your girlfriend’s injuries were, but given that my partner and I managed to survive as riders, she may be lucky enough to still be able to ride a motorbike. If she’s brave enough to give it another go she could start out on a twist and go moped where she doesn’t have to think about gears and there’s less speed to worry about.

  5. I agree with the above, A change of hobbies should be accompanied by a change of boyfriend!

  6. Andrew DaltonNovember 29, 2019

    I feel a bit sorry for this lad now! He was a bit “well of course she can sue” on the phone but I am pretty sure he accepted what I said to him but also it is his girlfriend’s decision. as to jumping back on a bike. We have had this chat at work where we all ride. We call it “the fear” – someone has “the fear” – either a close shave, a crash or (and this happened to me) a case that really hits home. For me it was a man, my age, a family man like me, just riding home from work and lost his bike on loose gravel. The road workers were making outrageous allegations as to his riding. Bear in mind it was this chap’s journey home. He had life changing injuries. It was one of those cases where the poor guy could really have done nothing but it was a hard fought case but nothing really out of the ordinary for us but that case really hit home and I had “the fear” for about a year. This equestrian mountain biking young woman is clearly a pretty robust woman but if getting on a motorcycle gives her the heebie jeebies and it isn’t fun, don’t do it. I can safely say I have got over “the fear” – despite a couple of fractures caused by dirt bike offs since then. Actual broken bones did not give me the fear and I have a fair collection of fractures. What gave me the fear was watching the impact of a life changing injury on a man of similar age, temperament and family to me. I think you either love bikes and it is in your blood or it isn’t. Let’s be honest, they are silly things. Expensive, cold and wet in the winter, you have to wear weird clothes and most other road users at best tolerate you. So we do it because we love it, whatever our taste in bikes is. One nation, different tribes. I will tease and torment power rangers on crotch rockets or tassel jacketed riders on cruisers but they are still family. I wholly accept I will be mocked for my big MX boots, peaky helmet, nobby tyres and single cylinder bike that struggles getting past 100mph by other bikers from different tribes. But the power ranger girl on her Ducati or the patched brother on his big ol’ hog will stop for me if I am sat by the side of the road – because we are family. A big, dysfunctional, mickey taking and tribal family. But still family.

  7. Nice, Andrew. As Henry Cole says, “we are kindred spirits”.

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Posted by Andrew Dalton. Last modified: November 18, 2019 at 5:14 pm

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.

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