PI Practitioner – each issue a particular topic is highlighted, citing some of the useful cases and other materials in that area.

Apportionment of liability in cases of motorcycles overtaking stationary traffic at junctions

The cases highlight common features used to determine the relative blameworthiness of the parties:

• Was the motorcyclist travelling at an unsafe speed?
• Did the speed of the motorcyclist make it impossible or more difficult for him to take evasive action?
• Was there a foreseeable risk that a vehicle might emerge from the junction? (In part judged subjectively – i.e. was the motorcyclist familiar with the junction?)
• Did D have the opportunity to get a clearer view of oncoming traffic before beginning his manoeuvre?

Pell v Moseley [2003] EWCA Civ 1533; [2003] All ER (D) 338 (Oct), CA

C was riding his motorcycle along a single carriageway road with a speed limit of 60mph. D was driving a people carrier travelling in the same direction as C and was at the front of a line of three cars. D approached a right hand turn into a field where a motocross event was taking place, slowed down and indicated right a split second before making her move. C had started to overtake the line of vehicles and as he overtook D’s car, she turned right into the field and struck his motorcycle.

The trial judge concluded that D had failed to keep a proper look out by failing to have seen C coming from behind her and that C’s overtaking manoeuvre was a safe one. The Court of Appeal held that C must have been aware of the motocross event and he had to be alert to the possibility of traffic turning into the field. If he had looked properly at D’s manoeuvre he would have seen that there was a significant chance that she was about to turn. Looking at the respective faults, it was impossible to distinguish between the two and the drivers were equally to blame.

Burton v Evitt [2011] EWCA Civ 1378; [2011] All ER (D) 147, CA

C was overtaking a stationary line of traffic on his motorcycle by passing vehicles on their offside. D was stationary at the front of a line of traffic and indicating to turn right. Due to the presence of a large vehicle behind D he did not have a clear view behind him. He began to turn right and collided with C.

C had been driving at an unsafe speed and in such a way that he could not deal with an emergency situation. Had D edged closer to the centre of the line in the road he would have been able to see C approaching from behind in his wing mirror (around the larger vehicle). There was a differentiation in causative potency and degree of blameworthiness. Because D could not see behind him, he should have taken the elementary step to ensure that he could. C’s negligence, however, was of a very high order. Contributory negligence was assessed at 80%.

Ringe v Eden Springs [2012] EWHC 14, QB

C, a motorcyclist, had overtaken a lorry and saw D emerging from a junction to his left, but was travelling at such an unsafe speed that he was unable to take evasive action. Although D bore responsibility for failing to wait until he had a clear view to his right before moving out into the road, C bore considerable responsibility for his unsafe speed and contributory negligence was assessed at 80%.

Woodham v Turner, unreported, Court of Appeal 20.02.12

D, a coach driver, had stopped at a T-junction, intending to turn right into a single carriageway A-road. To her left there was a queue of stationary traffic. To her right there was a tractor which had left a gap enabling D to pull out and turn right. C, a motorcyclist, was overtaking the queue to D’s right (including the tractor at the front of the queue). D pulled out slowly at an angle, rather than straight on, but did not have a clear view of traffic to her right. C collided with the front offside of the coach.

By moving out at an angle D’s view to the right was obscured longer than it would have been had she been pulling out in a straight line. C was familiar with the road and the junction, and there was a real possibility that traffic could emerge from the junction to his left. He was overtaking the traffic at a speed that did not allow him to take evasive action in the event that a vehicle did pull out. The trial judge found D 70% liable, whilst C was 30% liable.

The Court of Appeal substituted a finding of 50% negligence to both parties. The accident would not have happened if D had only waited until there was a clear view before turning. Equally, the accident would not have happened if C, contrary to the Highway Code, had not been filtering up the offside of a line of traffic when the gap gave rise to a foreseeable risk that a vehicle would emerge from the junction. There was no reason to differentiate between the two parties blameworthiness.

September 4, 2012 · Editorial Team · Comments Closed
Posted in: Cases