Jet patching causes motorcycle crash and associated injuries

John Smith is an experienced motorcyclist from Elgin and was out on a full day solo ride on 16 June 2017 on his Triumph Explorer. He was on his way home when he realised he had another 15 minutes before his ‘curfew’ and so he thought he would take in an extra loop near his home since it was so nice.

He rode out the Elgin Golf Course Road which is only a mile from his home and a road he knew well. Whilst negotiating a left hand bend, his bike suddenly slid away from him and he low-sided off sustaining soft tissue injuries to his foot, ankle, knees and rib cage. 

Damaged motorcycle

He quickly came to realise that the road was covered in an excess of chippings. He attended hospital in Elgin later that night. 

Loose chippings

John could recall seeing only one roadworks sign around 20 metres prior to where he had lost traction. He hadn’t seen the sign before his crash because it had been placed opposite a junction and directly before the bend. By this point, John had already assessed the bend and taken what he felt was a safe position on the road.

Loose Chippings SignageJohn called Moray Council to report the road conditions and was told that the road had recently been jet patched and that there were adequate road signs in place to report road works.

Jet patching (also known as velocity patching) is a technique where small defects can be quickly repaired using a process similar to surface dressing. A lorry based machine is operated using a nozzle which blows the road debris clear, then a sticky bitumen bond is sprayed on followed by a mix of bitumen and gravel followed by dry gravel. The affected area ought then to be compacted and loose gravel swept or blown away.

Jet patching machine

Despite what Moray Council had told him, John still didn’t think that the signage had been adequate to warn vulnerable road users, so he contacted Motorcycle Law Scotland to see if we could help.

We obtained full details from John and requested full documentation from the Council on the roadworks, jet patching procedure and signing schedule. We intimated a claim to the Council on the basis that there was an excess of chippings and that the signage was inadequate. Liability was denied by the Insurers and we proceeded to raise a Court Action at the All Scotland Personal Injury Court, in Edinburgh with a Court date set for March 2019.

Throughout the case, the Council denied responsibility for his accident. The Council made no offer to John. We met with the solicitors for the Council in February 2019 at a Pre Trial Meeting where they continued to deny that their roads department had done anything wrong and declined to compensate John for his injuries and losses. Undeterred, we simply prepared for the Court Action set for March 2019. We were able to have the support of an Expert Witness Highways Consultant, who prepared a report for the case confirming that the risks to road users of jet patching were the same, if not greater, than surface dressing meaning that the same level of advance warning signs ought to have been in place.

We were able to make arrangements to meet with the Council Roads Department Workers who had undertaken the jet patching works on the day of the incident. We met with them in person in Elgin and over the course of four hours took full statements from them about the work that they had been doing that day. It then became clear that the Council solicitors had not even taken statements in person from their own workers about the signage placed out.

We were able to confirm from the workers that the loose chipping sign had been placed at a junction preceding the bend so that it could warn both road users coming down the Golf Course road and also road users entering from the side road. This was simply far too close to the hazard to give adequate warning to road users, especially vulnerable road users like John.

Incident Locus

It was no surprise that following this meeting, a full offer to settle was made, only two weeks before a Court Hearing and we were finally able to resolve this matter for John.

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