Ben was riding a Derbi GPR50 motorcycle on the A143 in the Great Barton area. In his direction traffic was queuing because of road works ahead. He decided to overtake the queue, but ran into the front of a coach emerging from a side road to his left. He did not see the coach as his view was blocked by a tractor and trailer which had stopped so it would not block a side road. The coach driver had the same problem.
The coach was crawling to get a view of the road, at about 4 mph. Ben was riding at about 20 mph. Ben knew the road so knew there was a side road.
Most important was that Ben was riding with a friend. The friend hung back behind the tractor and trailer because he knew the side road was there.
The coach came out at an angle, which means nearside first into the road. Of course the turn had to be made but driving in this way put more of the coach into the road before the driver could see right and left.
The coach driver did not see the motorcyclist until they collided.
The primary responsibility was the coach drivers as the coach was being driven into a major road. The Judge decided that the motorcyclist was riding too fast for the situation, and he knew there was a junction.
The Highway Code has some wise words:
The Highway Code, Rules for Motorcyclists (83-88) states (at Rule 88):
“Manoeuvring …. When in traffic queues look out for pedestrians crossing between vehicles and vehicles emerging from junctions or changing lanes. Position yourself so that divers in front can see you in their mirrors. Additionally, when filtering in slow-moving traffic, take care and keep your speed low.”
The Highway Code on Overtaking (162-169) states (at Rule 167):
“DO NOT overtake where you might come into conflict with other road users. For example
- Approaching or at a road junction on either side of the road
- Where traffic is queuing at junctions or road works.”
The High Court Judge said 30 per cent of the blame lay with the motorcyclist.
The case is called Ben Woodham v J M Turner trading as Turners of Great Barton and was heard in June 2011. The judgment is available by clicking here. This is the High Court judgment which was changed on appeal.
The case then went to the Court of Appeal, the insurers of the coach arguing the partial blame of the motorcyclist was too low.
The Court of Appeal decision was tougher on the motorcyclist.
It was clear the accident would not have happened if the coach driver had only waited until she had a clear view to her right; instead she had elected to proceed when there was no effective view.
Equally the accident would not have occurred if Ben had not, contrary to the Highway Code, chosen to filter up on the offside of the queue of traffic when the gap left by the tractor meant a vehicle might come out of the junction. Added to this his speed was too high for evasive action.
In respect of relative blameworthiness, it seemed that the motorcyclist was as much to blame for the accident as the coach driver. Both parties were fifty per cent liable for the accident
The injuries were serious in the case, so an appeal by the insurers made financial sense. They save 50 per cent of the compensation which would have been due to Ben had he been found blameless.
Remember each of these cases depends on its own facts. This case does not say that every motorcyclist who filters alongside traffic will be partly to blame. It says this motorcyclist was partly to blame. If you are involved in a motorcycle accident get in touch for the advice of an experienced motorcycle accident solicitor.