Overtake v Right Turn

Insurers argue the motorcyclist was at fault for overtaking at a junction when their driver turned right without looking. Highway Code Rule 167 v Rule 179

On 4th October 2015 a motorcyclist (Mr W) was riding his Honda CBR600 motorcycle within the speed limit on a straight section of the A76 road near West Kilbride.

(Entrance into Unclassified Road on Right-hand side)

He soon caught up with three slower moving cars. As there was no oncoming traffic on the long straight section of road, he went for the overtake of all three. The rider passed the first two vehicles safely but just as he was about to pass the third vehicle, the driver suddenly executed a right hand turn across his path. The driver didn’t indicate prior to executing the turn. Although not sign posted, there was an entrance into an unclassified road on the right-hand side of the road. The motorcyclist had no opportunity to take evasive action and the car collided with his motorcycle. He sustained serious and life altering injuries.

Not long after the incident, Mr W was contacted by a claims company who, in turn, referred the case on to a firm of solicitors who intimated a claim against the driver’s insurance company. Liability for the collision was disputed as the insurers argued that Mr W had attempted an overtake manoeuvre when it was not safe to do so. 

We became involved in the case almost 2 years later at the request of Mr W’s solicitors. As specialist motorcycling lawyers, we have the expertise to fully understand and investigate such cases. The causal factor (major contributor to the incident) was not the overtake but the driver deviating from his path and turning right.

The Highway Code states:

Rule 179 - Turning right

Well before you turn right you should:

  • use your mirrors to make sure you know the position and movement of traffic behind you.
  • give a right-turn signal.
  • take up a position just left of the middle of the road or in the space marked for traffic turning right.
  • leave room for other vehicles to pass on the left, if possible.

The Highway code states:

Rule 167 - DO NOT overtake where you might come into conflict with other road users.

For example:

  • approaching or at a road junction on either side of the road.
  • where the road narrows.
  • when approaching a school crossing patrol.
  • between the kerb and a bus or tram when it is at a stop.
  • where traffic is queuing at junctions or road works.
  • when you would force another road user to swerve or slow down.
  • at a level crossing.
  • when a road user is indicating right, even if you believe the signal should have been cancelled. Do not take a risk; wait for the signal to be cancelled.
  • stay behind if you are following a cyclist approaching a roundabout or junction, and you intend to turn left.
  • when a tram is standing at a kerbside tram stop and there is no clearly marked passing lane for other traffic.

As part of our investigation, we tracked down the driver of the vehicle travelling directly behind the lead car that turned right. We attended the accident scene and prepared a full locus examination with measurements and images. The insurers continued to deny liability and so we provided funding to Mr W to raise a Court Action

During this entire process, Mr W concentrated on his recovery while we instructed numerous medical experts to provide reports on the extent of his injuries. At the pre-trial meeting (PTM), held just 3 months before the final Court date, the defenders for the first time altered their position.

There was an acceptance that the driver may have been partly at fault, but that the motorcyclist had to accept equal blame for overtaking at a junction. Once again, we held firm. We had been to the accident scene. We knew the junction was not marked. We had independent testimony that the driver hadn’t indicated. If the driver had looked, the motorcyclist was there to be seen and he was not exceeding the speed limit.

Knowing we were well prepared for battle, the defenders started the process of offering increasingly large sums of money to settle the case and during the course of the pre-trial meeting an offer was made that was almost double the offer made just weeks prior. We accepted a six-figure sum in settlement.

When a collision occurs following an overtake manoeuvre at a junction, liability is very rarely clear cut. Insurers will always argue part-fault but why should that be accepted. Our starting point is always the causal factor and we will not make concessions with reference to previously reported decisions as we know each case is fact sensitive. You cannot win a case unless you are prepared.

To review some decisions made in the Courts around junctions, go here.