Civil Justice system exonerates biker charged with careless driving.

Hugh contacted Motorcycle Law Scotland in the summer of 2018 following a motorcycle collision he had been involved in on 6th of July 2018.

Motorcycling Collision near Carluke

Hugh was travelling north on his BMW1200R on the A73 Lanark Road towards Carluke, when he noticed a vehicle up ahead to his right waiting to emerge from a garden centre. Hugh Johnstone Collision Locus
On approach, the driver suddenly pulled out from the junction, turning right proceeding in the same direction as Hugh. The vehicle did not immediately pick up any speed and was travelling around 20mph.

Hugh was riding just below the 40mph speed limit, so he had to take evasive action by commencing a reasonable overtake as he considered that be the safest way of avoiding a collision. Unfortunately, the driver then immediately turned right in order to access another garden centre, which was situated off the A73, some 300 yards from the junction he had just emerged from.

The driver of the vehicle collided directly with Hugh as, by the time the driver decided to execute his right turn, Hugh was alongside. Hugh was thrown from his motorcycle. He was taken to hospital and diagnosed with an un-displaced fracture to the right ulna.

To add insult to injury, Hugh was told by Police Scotland that he would be charged with Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, careless driving. We referred Hugh’s criminal case to a well trusted criminal solicitor dealing in road traffic incidents. We explained to Hugh that his civil claim was a separate action and we would still proceed despite the fact that he was being charged with a criminal offence. We considered the cause of the collision to be driver negligence and that had the driver looked in his mirror before pulling right Hugh was there to be seen.

Often, any pending criminal proceedings should be dealt with prior to any civil claim. The reason for this is that civil lawyers can’t access police evidence until completion of the criminal trial.

Despite being unable to speak with police officers we pushed on with preparation of Hugh’s case as there is no point in doing nothing. We had taken a view on the prospects of success and so we completed a full locus report. That involved attending the scene and plotting measurements and sightlines. We instructed a medical expert to provide a full report on the extent of Hugh’s injuries and liaised with Hugh’s own insurer regarding outlays they had paid in respect of Hugh’s vehicle damage claim.

Hugh’s criminal trial was scheduled for February 2019 and our solicitor dealing with Hugh’s civil case, Thomas Mitchell, attended the criminal trial as a “watching brief” in order to hear the evidence from the witnesses. The witnesses’ evidence can prove crucial to progressing the civil claim.

The evidence that came out at the criminal trial appeared to support Hugh’s version of events and there was even CCTV footage showing him taking evasive action in order to avoid the vehicle that had initially pulled out sharply in front of him.

Despite the evidence, the Lanarkshire Justice of the Peace Court found Hugh guilty of careless driving and ordered him to pay a fine with a number of penalty points on his licence.

Ordinarily, this might have caused significant difficulty in furthering Hugh’s civil claim however, we proceeded with his claim and gathered further evidence from Police Scotland and the reporting officer who had attended with the incident.

Hugh’s claim did eventually have to be raised in the All Scotland Personal Injury Court, but after extensive negotiations with the solicitor representing the insurance company of the driver who collided with Hugh, an agreement was reached on settlement of Hugh’s claim.

Despite being convicted for careless driving in relation to the incident, Hugh was still able to recover damages for his losses and injury.

Hugh was delighted with the result saying:-

“I was very impressed with the whole team at MLS. I was kept informed of progress step by step. It was apparent from the outset that it was not just a “case” and there was a real enthusiasm to obtain a satisfactory outcome. All those with whom I had dealings were friendly but this friendliness was combined with a professionalism which produced excellent outcomes. I was delighted with the handling of my case and the [to me] undreamt of result where a civil court acknowledged fault despite prior criminal proceedings. I have no hesitation in recommending MLS without reservation.”

Key to winning the case

The criminal trial evidence gave us an insight into what the driver of the vehicle who caused the collision and his wife who was a passenger would say at any civil Proof (trial). There was a lot of helpful evidence in Hugh’s case which came out at the criminal trial. It became immediately apparent that Hugh had felt pressurised by Police Scotland and charges had been brought against him, in our opinion, unfairly.

Despite the conviction, Hugh was able to obtain justice through the civil courts with the help of Motorcycle Law Scotland.

Hugh’s case goes to show that in spite of a criminal conviction, motorcyclists are not barred from pursuing justice through the civil courts. Each case should be assessed on its own merit and with the correct preparation and due diligence, justice can be served.

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