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?
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.
Fast Bikes Mag June 2019