Motorbikes Overtaking Stationary Traffic

This is a regular source of trouble.  One of the main benefits of a motorcycle is its manoeuverability, particularly the ability to filter past queues of traffic.  There is nothing illegal in this, provided the rider does not encroach upon hatchings or cross a double solid centre line, but it is axiomatic that overtaking should be done with care and at the sort of speed which will enable the rider to take safe evasive action if a hazard arises.

My client in this case had been overtaking a very long line of holiday traffic snaking its way into a well-known south Devon seaside town.  The predictable happened; a car ahead of him in the queue decided enough was enough and pulled out of the line to do a U-turn.  Unfortunately, the lady driver, distracted by two vocally fretful children in the car, did not think to check her mirror or look behind and simply swung into the rider’s path.  He braked hard, locked up, but could not avoid hitting the car, totalling his brand new Kawasaki and suffering a broken left leg.

The car driver’s insurers admitted primary responsibility, but argued that the rider was also to blame, because witness evidence from other drivers in the queue was that he was doing well over 40mph past the line.  That speed was plainly too high for him to react safely to the sort of hazard that he ought to have foreseen might arise.  The insurers also tried to argue that by not having his headlight on, he was even more to blame, since although it was daylight and the use of lights not compulsory, the headlight might have meant him being seen before the impact.

The first argument was soundly based; any judge would reduce compensation in light of that speed under those circumstances.  But the second argument was a red-herring- the police witness statement from the driver made it clear that she never looked in her mirror at all before turning- headlight or no headlight was irrelevant.  She wouldn’t have seen it anyway, because she didn’t look.

The claim was settled on the basis of equal blame by both parties, so our client recovered 50% of his claim for his injuries and the damage to his bike.