Loose chippings and lack of signage

Ian was riding his motorcycle on a lovely summer’s day on 23 June 2018 on the A939 near Glenferness in the Highlands.

Loose chippings on the road

As he was negotiating a right hand bend, his motorcycle suddenly lost traction and he low-sided, fell to his right and suffered a soft tissue injury to his ankle. After picking himself up, he realised that it was loose gravel on the road from a recent repair that had caused him to lose control and it was only then that he noticed a single 'loose chippings' sign, partially concealed by greenery at the side of the road, at the location of the loose chippings.

Ian’s friend happened to come across him whilst also out on his motorbike travelling in the opposite direction and stopped to see if he was ok. They called another motorcycling friend who attended with his van and recovered both Ian and his motorcycle. All three of them saw the single sign at the side of the road located too close to the chippings to give any proper warning to road users and they took photos.

Compensation for Injury and damaged motorcycle kit.

Ian approached Motorcycle Law Scotland to ask if we could help as his motorcycle had been written off, he had been injured and all his motorcycle kit required be replaced. He was also worried that the signage in place was not helpful or safe for other motorcyclists.

We were happy to take on the case and submitted a Freedom of Information request which confirmed that Highland Council had been aware of ‘hand chip and tar’ works being carried out but they had no written records of it as it had been done informally. 'Hand chip and tar' is a rudimentary manual surface dressing technique involving the manual pouring of tar and the application of chippings on top by hand.Hand chip and tarThis technique is rarely used nowadays, but when it is, there should be sufficient signage in advance to notify road users of the hazard ahead and allow them plenty time to slow down and adapt for the changing road conditions. This would normally include a number of signs, all placed well in advance of the potential hazard.

Insufficent signage and located too close to the hazard.

Having intimated Ian’s claim to the Highland Council, they simply ignored our correspondence and we received no response whatsoever from their legal department or their insurers. Having gathered sufficient evidence and visited the site of the incident personally with Ian to investigate, we were confident we had enough evidence to prove Ian’s case at the All Scotland Personal Injury Court.

Despite liability for the incident being denied throughout the course of the Court Case, we were able to arrange to take a statement from the Highland Council’s roads foreman who was to be a witness for the Council. He told us, quite unbelievably, that when he had left the site, there had been a single road sign placed approximately 50 metres in advance of the loose chippings but that when he had been called the site after Ian’s accident, that sign had been moved. We thought it very unlikely that the Court would be persuaded that someone had picked up a road sign and moved it 50 metres in the middle of the Highlands of Scotland! Accordingly, we were happy to press on to a full Court Proof if need to be and hold the Council to account.

Only two weeks before the Proof date did we finally receive an offer in settlement for Ian which we were happy to recommend to him and he was delighted with the result.

Motorcyclists need warning of hazards on the roads

As motorcyclists ourselves, we do know the hazard that is presented by loose chippings. Adequate signage can help manage that risk and there is extensive guidance for Roads Authorities about the types of signage that should be put out and at what distance.

If you've been involved in an incident where there has been loose chippings and inadequate signage, it's very helpful if you are able to take photographs and even videos as soon as you can showing what signage is and isn’t in place.