I was riding with my now very ex-girlfriend on the back of my motorcycle. I don’t want to go into too much detail as there are solicitors involved, but here is what happened.

I went for an ordinary overtake but realised that at the head of the queue of traffic I was overtaking was a four-wheel drive with a big horse trailer turning right.

I am a very experienced and skilled rider, and I have done five track days and a BikeSafe course, and the police officer who took me on the course said I was one of the best riders he had ever encountered.

I braked, under control – but the brakes must have seized up because I went into a skid and crashed. I maintain my own bike so I know the brakes were all put together correctly. I had changed the pads and replaced the fluids some time ago and there were no problems.

However, on this occasion the brakes locked on and I have since discovered on various internet forums that other riders have said the brakes are very grabby and some report the pistons seizing up.

I have told my insurers this and they want to pay out to my ex for her broken shin bone and scarring. I know she was not a vain woman but she is milking the scarring for all it is worth.

How can I get some backbone into my insurers to get them to defend the claim? I have a friend who is doing a law degree and he tells me that unless my ex can prove negligence, then she does not have a case – and I am sure that the collision was caused by my brakes suddenly binding on.


Oh Lord, where do I begin with you? Let’s start with your embryonic lawyer mate. He is right: in order for you to be liable, your ex needs to be able to prove negligence. However, as the student works his way through his degree and gets into practice, he will learn two more fundamentals.

The first is the burden of proof – what is the most likely thing to have happened?

The second is the evidential doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, or if you have control of something which causes harm, then you must prove the harm was not caused by negligence on your part. You did stack your own bike.

Therefore, your ex need prove nothing. She was the pillion. You were responsible for her. You rode in a way which led to an off. You will need to prove it was more likely than not that your brakes in a one-off incident which cannot be repeated and never happened before are causative.

Printing off some comments on a forum for what is now quite an old bike where some riders have said older ones get sticky callipers is not evidence of anything, apart from your misunderstanding of the situation.

Old brakes get sticky if you do not maintain them. Your own evidence is that you do maintain them, and there has never been a problem, I am not surprised your insurers refuse to get a consulting engineer to examine your brakes. On your own evidence, it was a one-off.

Having such a high opinion of your own riding will do you no favours at all. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe the comment made by the unattributed police officer about your exceptional skills. I am calling bullshit on that, I have done a few BikeSafes and every rider was given areas for improvement, myself included. Even if it were true, so what? One police rider speaks very highly of your riding once.

Well, zipping past a queue of stationary traffic without working out that there is a large vehicle turning right at the head of it hardly makes you Captain RoSPA, does it?

Your insurers are absolutely right to pay out for your ex. She trusted you to ride safely and you owe her a duty of care to ride with reasonable skill and prudence. The reality is you went into a situation too hot, grabbed too much brake and fell off, and now you are casting around for excuses.

I am usually sympathetic to people who stack bikes, I have stacked a few myself. Accept your riding has left your ex with what is a pretty nasty spiral fracture and scarring on her lower leg and let your insurers payout without you moaning. Your no claims is gone anyway.

Why are you trying to stop your ex, who you hurt, getting her proper compensation?

You need to check your motives.

Andrew Dalton

Fast Bikes Summer 2021