Watch out for black ice

On the 20th January 2012, Mr G was up early to make his morning commute to work on his Suzuki RS600R, his only form of transport. He didn’t own a car.

The commute took him through Glasgow in the rush hour and out to Bishopbriggs. He did not experience any difficulty on the roads as they had all been gritted, that is until he reached Robroyston Road in Bishopbriggs.

Street View - Robroyston

Travelling in a North-Easterly direction, going downhill, he saw a car stationary on the grass embankment. Without any warning, Mr G lost control of his motorcycle due to extensive black ice across both carriageways. It became apparent that the driver of the car on the grass embankment had suffered the same fate with others describing road conditions as “like an ice rink.”

The Police were called and the road was immediately closed. Strathclyde Police requested emergency gritting to take place and the road was not re-opened until this had been completed as the road was a main city centre route.

Mr G sustained soft tissue injuries to his neck and shoulder. He had to take time off work to recover and as an agency worker he didn’t get paid at all during his absence. Not only that, his helmet was damaged and his motorcycle was written off. He only had third party insurance only so his insurers wouldn’t pay out.

Mr G approached Motorcycle Law Scotland for help and we advanced a claim for his injury and loss to Glasgow City Council, as they were the responsible Roads Authority. As a Roads Authority, they owed Mr G a duty of care. This was a main road and the poor weather conditions had been forecast. All routes had been gritted yet this road had extensive black ice so something had gone wrong. We obtained witness statements from all who had been at the scene and from the Police officers involved.

Astonishingly, the Council denied liability for the incident on the basis that Robroyston Road had been treated in accordance with the Council’s winter maintenance programme on the evening before and therefore they had not been negligent in failing to re-grit the route prior to Mr G losing control of his motorcycle.

After careful review of the evidence and weather reports, we noted that there was heavy rainfall during the evening before the incident occurred and that this caused a “wash-off” effect of any grit on the road surface. The Council had made reference to monitoring the changing weather to see if further gritting would be required and yet nothing was done.

Faced with a denial of liability, we raised a Court action against Glasgow City Council for an award of damages for Mr G’s wage loss, damaged motorcycle and helmet.

We obtained expert evidence from a meteorologist and lodged his helpful report with the Court along with images of the street and signed witness statements, which clearly stated the extremely hazardous nature of the road surface on that January morning.

In February 2014, the Council approached us and suggested that if we abandon the case against them, then they wouldn’t seek their expenses. (The loser always pays the other sides expenses in a Court Action.) The Council maintained that we had no case against them and abandonment without paying their expenses was Mr G’s best hope. Undeterred, we rejected such an offer. We had completed extensive investigations and knew the evidence would lead to victory.

Within 6 weeks of suggesting we abandon the case, the Council’s Legal Department did an about turn and put forward an offer in settlement, which was happily accepted by Mr G.

Such cases are not straightforward and if a road is not gritted, there is no automatic entitlement to compensation.

However, the key to success involves getting the right lawyer with the requisite experience and specialist knowledge to instigate and complete relevant investigations and ingather the evidence that will lead to a successful outcome.

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