Marshalls blamed for motorcycle race crash

We carried out an extensive investigation into a crash during an amateur motorcycle race on a recognised circuit in the Midlands, which resulted in the death of an innocent racer, a married man with children.

There is never any dispute that racing, even at club level, is potentially dangerous.  One tiny mistake can lead to severe consequences.  Legally, everyone who voluntarily takes part in such a race is deemed to accept the inevitable risks that go with racing; but equally, they are entitled to assume that the race will be properly organised and run, that the circuit will be as reasonably safe as it can be, that marshalling and safety will be properly sorted; and so on. 

Our client was killed when, doing some 180mph and about to overhaul (quite properly) a much slower rider, that rider suddenly pulled across our client, instead of allowing him to pass on the nearside in line with race protocol.  The evidence suggested the other rider was inexperienced and had been trying to ride to a refuge area because of technical problems with his bike. 

The potential claim by the widow and family was directed against the race organisers, who were the only ones with relevant insurance (the other rider had no race-specific cover, for obvious reasons); and was based on the argument that the pre-race assessment and marshalling had been negligently carried out.  In short, had the organisers done their job properly, the less experienced rider would never have been allowed onto the track, since his abilities were simply not sufficient for a race at this level. The insurers denied liability (perhaps not surprisingly) and after exhaustive analysis of the race preparation and terms of entry, we had to advise that, sadly, there was simply no cogent evidence that the organisers had in any way been careless.  They had no reasonable way of knowing that the other rider’s abilities might not have been sufficient for this particular race; and at the end of the day, a poor decision taken at very high speed in the middle of a race is not subject to the same legal scrutiny as a decision taken in more leisurely conditions on a public road.

There was no realistic chance of the claim succeeding and we had to abandon it.