Insufficient signage and loose chippings

Locus 

Accident LocusAn experienced motorcyclist was out for a ride with his brother and a friend when he lost control of his motorcycle and sustained serious injury including fractured ribs which led to a pneumothorax and an injury to his shoulder. He spent three weeks in hospital as a result of the serious nature of his injuries.

The incident took place on the A93 Glenshee to Braemar Road. Weather conditions were good and the road surface dry. The motorcyclist recalled going into a right hand bend at about 40MPH and then his motorcycle lost all grip with the road due to the presence of loose stone chips over both sides of the carriageway. He recalled seeing one sign warning of loose chippings but that was all. Aberdeenshire Council had carried out road surfacing works by spray patching at the bend shortly before the accident. The Police who attended the scene of the accident were so concerned about the state of the road and the possibility of another accident, they called for the road to be swept and further signage erected.

Motorcycle Law Scotland was approached by the motorcyclist to recover compensation for his serious injuries.

We carried out extensive investigations including calling on the Roads Authority to produce documents under FOI to include details of road surfacing repairs, the type of application material and quantity used, the method of application, details of sweeping and details of all signage. We spoke to numerous witnesses and the police officers. Based on the evidence ingathered, we were satisfied the Council had been negligent. Despite presenting the case and the evidence, liability was denied by the Council’s insurers. Faced with a denial, the only way to recover compensation for the motorcyclist was to raise a Court Action. Because of the serious nature of the injuries, we raised the case in the highest civil court in Scotland, The Court of Session, and enlisted the help of experienced Counsel who also happens to be a keen motorcyclist.

We set out our case arguing that road patching had been carried out shortly before the accidentAccident Locus and those works involved a warm bitumen spray patching technique. There were no adequate warning signs to provide sufficient notice to road users of the presence of loose stone chips on the bend in the road and no adequate warning signs to reduce speed. Such signs as were present were substantially incorrect, were too close to the works and provided inadequate warning of the works that had taken place and the road conditions ahead. No adequate steps had been taken by the Council to sweep or clear the loose stone chips from the bend on the road in the period preceding the accident. It would have been easy for the Council to put adequate warning signs in place and to sweep the loose stone chips off the road surface. Patching on A93

In response to our Court Action, liability was again denied and the Defender stated the motorcyclist caused or materially contributed to the accident. He had a duty to drive his vehicle with reasonable care and failed to do so. He failed to keep his vehicle under proper control.

The case was then set down for a Court Hearing. We were well prepared and had even instructed an expert civil engineer from Transport Research Laboratory who supported our case confirming, in his opinion, even small amounts of loose chippings on a bend were particularly hazardous to motorcyclists given the inherent instability of a motorcycle negotiating a bend.

On the evening before the case was due to be heard, an offer was made on a full liability basis and the case was settled with the motorcyclist recovering £22,500 for his injuries and loss. He was delighted with the result.

It is common for insurers representing Roads Authorities to deny claims for damages arising from road works and, in particular, the presence of loose stone chippings. It’s important for any motorcyclist to take images of a road surface defect that causes a sudden loss of control and if you can’t, then get a mate to do so or ask the Police.

Finally, motorcyclists in similar situations need to instruct a specialist lawyer, one who understands motorcycle dynamics and control and one who is prepared to go the extra mile.

At Motorcycle Law Scotland, not only do you get access to experienced solicitors, you get access to a solicitor who rides a motorcycle and understands more than most the hazards of road surface defects to motorcyclists and, let’s not forget, if we instruct Counsel, you can be sure they ride too.

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