Think Bike! Who is to blame in these incidents?

Being involved in a road traffic accident is frightening for the victim, the person at fault and any witnesses.

Accidents can be caused through a number of reasons; difficult weather, poor visibility, hazardous road conditions, road works, pedestrians and poor driving. The elements of poor driving which most often contribute are speeding, drink-driving and inexperience of the driver.

Whilst the UK may be one of the safest places in the world to drive, there are accidents on the road every day of the year. In 2013, there were a total of 1,730 people killed as a result of a road traffic accident, 23,530 people killed or seriously injured and 185,540 injured in reported road accidents. In addition to this, there are an unknown number of injuries sustained through accidents which were unreported.

In order to stay safe on the road, taking responsibility of your situation is the most important thing whether you are driving a car or on a motorbike. Being fit to drive and then driving safely goes a long way to avoiding accidents but if the unfortunate occurs there are often issues of fault to decide upon.

Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable as they are more exposed to the elements and road conditions and figures show that they are 40 times more likely to be killed in a road accident than a person driving a car. Vehicle drivers need to be especially aware of those on bikes and there are a number of common accidents between car and bike which take place.

Vehicle pulls out from side turning

Any vehicle user should exercise caution when approaching a side junction and motorcycle users are particularly vulnerable.

If an accident occurs, the road position of the rider could be in question when attributing fault. It is always advisable for a motorcyclist to ride closer to the crown of the road past side junctions as this places them in a better position to avoid collision if the vehicle pulls out in front of you. If this occurs, the fault will usually lay with the driver who has pulled out of the junction as they will be deemed not to have been observing the road and is classed as dangerous driving.

The speed of the motorcyclist on the main road will always be a factor, which is questioned as if they are riding above the speed limit, this could affect the decision.

Head on collision when turning right

If riding a motorbike and suffering a head on collision with a vehicle coming from the opposing direction when turning right,  there will be the need for the cyclist to prove that they had exercised due caution in completing a manoeuvre. If a vehicle is waiting to turn right and a motorcyclist approaches and is hit by the vehicle, there could be questions regarding the speed of the motorcyclist and also whether the vehicle turning right was displaying proper caution such as correct indicating. If speed limits were being observed and correct signalling was taking place at the time, then fault will usually lay with the driver turning right.

Accident on roundabout

Apportioning fault with regards to an accident involving a motorcyclist on a roundabout will involve investigation into a number of factors. These include speed, lane discipline, correct use of signals and correct entry or exit of the roundabout. A rider or driver who cuts in front of the victim will be at fault as will anyone proved to be speeding.

Traffic lights

It is illegal to drive through a red light and the person who causes an accident under these circumstances is always at fault. If the lights were on amber and the vehicle or motorcyclist speeded up to get through them and an accident occurs they will also be at fault as the Highway Code states that amber lights mean to slow down.

Pedestrian steps into road

A pedestrian has to exercise reasonable care when crossing the road. An adult who steps into the road without regard to the traffic around them will almost certainly be deemed to be at fault if they are hit by a vehicle or motorbike.

If a child steps into the road and the driver is under the speed limit, the person in charge of the vehicle or bike may still be found to be at fault. This could be if it is obvious there are a number of children playing in the area as the driver should have slowed down.

The Highway Code states that in Rule 125 “The speed limit is the absolute maximum and does not mean that it is safe to drive at that speed irrespective of conditions.”

Opening car door

Opening a car door onto an oncoming motorcyclist can cause fatal injuries.

Motorcyclists are usually riding on the side of the road and often won’t have the opportunity to see or avoid a car door opening directly in front of them. The door is a solid obstacle and will often eject the rider into the road. Injuries from this kind of accident can be very serious and include fractures to neck, back and skull – even when wearing a helmet.

The fault in this case would be down to whether the person opening the door had checked their side and rear mirrors first and how the motorcyclist was riding – were they speeding at the time and could they have changed their course of action as the door was being opened.

For those who ride a motorbike, keeping your machine in top condition is paramount. Not only for your own safety and that of other road users but should you be involved in an accident or incident, it becomes more difficult for it to be shown that you were at fault through riding an unroadworthy bike.  Whilst enjoying the performance of a motorbike on the open road can be an exhilarating and liberating feeling, the best way to avoid an accident is to ride alert and with a degree of caution. By riding this way, you have the best chance of handling any sudden situation successfully.

The same can also be said for those driving a car. Any road user should always take responsibility for themselves and the vehicle they are in charge of and be acutely aware of their immediate surroundings and other road users who could potentially affect them. Accidents happen but many can be avoided and whilst the figures for fatality in a road accident are slowly dropping each year, there are still too many deaths which would not have occurred if the driver had exercised better road use. With 80% of motorbike accidents being the negligence of another person, the phrase to ‘think bike’ has never been more acute.

  • The Lawyer UK 200
  • Ranked in Chambers UK
  • Personal Injury
  • Access to Justice