Motorcycle case law and what they mean to motorcycle users

 In Road Traffic Accident

Case law is a very useful tool used by law firms and solicitors when valuing claims and also assisting with decisions on liability; we can also use previous case law in our favour to clarify points in dispute and help us get better compensation for our clients.


The Highway Code does not specifically specify if overtaking is allowed by motorcyclists. However, the Highway Code is only one guide that a Judge would use to assist with their decision. Case law is a vital tool when deciding the liability decision.

A common scenario is:

hardingvhinchcliffeHere we see a bus indicating to turn left and the motorcyclist has overtaken to continue on their route. The third party vehicle saw the bus indicating to turn left, but couldn’t see anything else, so they emerged from the side road and a collision has occurred. This was the case of Harding v Hinchcliffe [1964] where the Judge ruled that the third party was 100% at fault for this accident.

After an appeal it was determined that the car driver should have waited to let the bus get completely into the minor road before pulling out because there was always a possibility of a vehicle, any vehicle but particularly a motorcycle, being masked by the bus.

Driver 100% to blame  Here is another very common scenario:mackeldonvhinton

The lorry suddenly decided to make a turn to the left with no indication. The motorcyclist in this case performed an emergency stop and was thrown from his bike and into the car in front (who had emerged from the side road).

This was the case of Mackeldon v Hinton [2005] where the Judge ruled that the motorcyclist was 70% to blame and the car was 30% responsible for the accident. This clearly demonstrates that the accident circumstances are crucial when deciding a liability stance.

The above case was very similar in circumstance however the liability in this case was very different.

It is therefore crucial for solicitors to find case law of similar or almost identical circumstances, to assist with their case.


Under the highway code, it states that is acceptable for a motorcyclist to pass a vehicle on the left if the vehicle is indicating to turn right and there is enough room to do so, which we call ‘undertaking’. It also allows a motorcyclist to pass a vehicle on the left in a separate lane, if there is a queue of traffic ahead and it is safe to do so.

We often become faced with arguments from the third party Insurer’s where they refuse to pay compensation for accidents caused as a result of undertaking.

As a law firm that deals with many motorbike claims, we use previous case law to provide evidence to Judges that will ultimately assist with their decision as to who is responsible for the accident.

brooksvburgessIn the case of Fagan v Jeffers [2005] the Motorcyclist was undertaking stationary traffic when an oncoming car turned right into a side road, resulting in a collision occurring. The Highway code states that undertaking is not allowed, however the Judge in this case allowed 50% fault to the driver of the car and 50% fault to the motorcyclist.In the case of Brooks v Burgess [1996] the motorcyclist was approaching a crossroads. He decided to undertake a bus during slow moving traffic and a collision occurred.

At the first hearing the Judge decided that the motorcyclist was 80% to blame for the accident, however, at the appeal hearing the Judge decided that the motorcyclist was actually only 50% responsible for the accident, showing again the importance of choosing a law firm that understand motorbike claims, and relevant case law.

Vision being affected by the sun

Many accidents have been caused by a motorcyclist not being able to see properly because of being blinded by sunlight. In the case of Greenwood v Cummings [2008] a motorcyclist was approaching a crossing dedicated to pedestrians. He was blinded by the sun and did not notice a pedestrian crossing his path, resulting into him colliding with the pedestrian.

The Judge held that the claimant had 33% contributory negligence as an Independent witness stated that the claimant did not stop or pause to check the road was clear before crossing.

In Conclusion

As you can see above, case law can assist greatly when deciding liability of a case. It can certainly help increase the liability of the other party involved and thus gain more compensation for you. Here at Oakwood Solicitors we carry out extensive legal research to always ensure the best possible settlement for clients.

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