Like all other road users, motorcycle riders owe the same duty of care as other users of the highway. However, save from cyclists, motorcyclists are unique in not being cocooned within a vehicle and are therefore uniquely vulnerable on the open road.
Motorcyclists tend to be very cautious drivers. Pity about those around them. There are however some unique types of accidents that can afflict even the most careful and experienced of motorcycle riders.
Let’s talk fuel. Diesel to be exact. Mud and ice cause your wheels to spin, but it is diesel more than any other substance on the highway that is likely to cause you to skid, and topple from your bike. What’s the difference if you slip on mud, ice or diesel? Well, the difference could well be whether you receive compensation for any injuries you suffer or not. Confused? It’s like this – The local Highways authority is responsible for maintaining the roads we all travel on. If they fail in that statutory duty (and damage or injury results), a claim can be made. The complicating factor with mud and ice is simply this – Highways Authorities have to make “reasonable” provision to maintain the highway. If there is widespread frost, Authorities are expected to use “reasonable” means to grit the roads. What is “reasonable” is a matter of fact in all cases and taking all circumstances into account. Clearly, if there is a widespread frost gritter lorries should be out. These lorries start with major highways before moving to more minor roads (or re-gritting the major roads). Provided the system for gritting is a “reasonable” system then the Highways authority cannot be expected to remove every snowflake or patch of ice from the road. The Authority is then likely to have a defence to any allegation of breach of statutory duty/failure to maintain the highway. Similarly, with mud on the road, the Highways Authority cannot be expected to clear every single patch of mud. More often than not therefore when an accident happens due to a slip on ice or mud it is likely that a claim cannot be made. Each case being unique however, if you do suffer injury this was, you should discuss the exact circumstances with an experienced lawyer.
Back to diesel spills. Unlike mud or ice, diesel and oil can only get onto the road through another persons negligence. Commonly this happens due to overfilling the fuel tank. When the diesel vehicle drives round a sharp bend, a deposit is left on the road. This can remain there for weeks, sometimes being made slippery after rainfall. Along then comes a hapless motorcyclist who slips on the deposit unseating the rider. The crucial difference is that since this accident was caused through someone’s negligence, a claim can be made against this untraced motorist and compensation recovered.
So what else do motorcyclists do that other road users do not? Well, one of the benefits of being on a motorbike is that you can pass through spaces that are far too narrow for cars and other road users. Often when other traffic is sat stationary queuing, the happy biker can (carefully) overtake this queue of static traffic and continue on their journey. However, occasionally vehicles in the queue don’t see the motorcyclist and turn, or a vehicle will emerge from a side road through the queue and into the path of the motorcycle. After such an accident the motorcyclist will probably feel they are to blame, whether fully or partially. The driver of the other vehicle will almost certainly say the motorcyclist was going too fast or shouldn’t have been “jumping the queue.” Whilst every case is taken very much on its own merits, most accidents like this result in both motorcycle rider & other driver being both held partly to blame. This means that the rider will get compensation, albeit reduced by a percentage to reflect culpability. Since motorcyclists tend to fare far worse in a collision, this will still mean they receive substantial compensation in most cases.
So assuming an accident was not your fault, what losses can you recover? The obvious – if your motorcycle is damaged or written off you are entitled to claim the repair or replacement cost. You can also claim for a motorcycle hire if your motorcycle was your only means of transport. Similarly, if you suffered any injuries, no matter how slight you can claim compensation. When assessing the value of injuries, it’s in effect a sliding scale of compensation with minor injuries receiving less compensation than fractures and other more severe trauma. If you need medical treatment as a result of your injuries, then the cost of private treatment can be recovered.
Many motorcyclists are however unaware that following an accident if you knocked your helmet or scuffed your protective leathers, boots and gloves these should all be replaced since even minor damage can impact on the integrity of the safety features built into these items, or in the case of your helmet diminish the protective layers. If you were to use these items after an accident and have another fall then the result could be catastrophic due to weakening of the item caused by the earlier accident. Better safe than sorry is the phrase that springs to mind.