Road Accident Partly Your Own Fault? You Can Still Win Damages

Those injured in road accidents often assume they are disqualified from seeking compensation if they were partly to blame for their own misfortune. However, a case in which a speeding motorcyclist won the right to substantial damages shows that this assumption is false.

The man, aged in his 30s, was riding to work on his powerful bike when a panel van changed lanes in front of him on a motorway slip road. He slammed into the back of the van, suffering life-changing injuries. Lawyers launched proceedings on his behalf but the van driver's insurers denied that he bore any responsibility for the accident.

In ruling on the matter, the High Court found that the motorcyclist was travelling at just over 100mph when he entered the slip road and was still going at more than twice what would have been a safe and reasonable speed at the moment of impact. He had thus deprived himself of the time required to deal with the hazard.

However, the Court ruled that the primary cause of the accident was the van driver's careless and hurried performance of the manoeuvre. Although he had signalled his intention to change lanes, he had only checked his wing mirror fleetingly and had failed to notice the bike, even though it was there to be seen. The Court noted that he was tired, had had little or nothing to eat and was not in the best of moods, having recently had a row with his boss.

The Court found that the van driver was 75 per cent to blame for the collision and the motorcyclist 25 per cent. The amount of the latter's compensation has yet to be assessed but, given the severity of his injuries, it is bound to be a very substantial sum, even after a 25 per cent reduction.

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