Tractor takes out biker who is then charged by the PF

The collision circumstances

On 8th June 2016, Geoff, a keen motorcyclist, was returning home from work on his motorcycle. The weather conditions were ideal. As he rode south to Dalbeattie on the A711, nearing the village of Beeswing, he came up behind a car which was following a tractor and trailer unit. Waiting and evaluating the situation for a bit, Geoff determined he was able to overtake both. He indicated and proceeded, approaching the rear of the trailer unit. Suddenly, the tractor driver turned right with no indication, braking, or alteration in speed. With nowhere to go, Geoff steered to the right and swerved into the tractor.

Geoff Whitely Incident Locus

He awoke underneath the tractor with his bike wedged under him. An air ambulance was called but could not airlift Geoff due to the severity of his injuries. An emergency ambulance transported him to Dumfries Royal Infirmary where he remained for some weeks. Geoff sustained significant fractures to his left shoulder, arm, ribs, right leg, foot, ankle and heel. He suffered a pneumothorax, lacerated his kidneys and shattered his spleen.

Injuries sustained

Geoff’s injuries meant he had to use a wheelchair and crutches. He could not drive, let alone get on his motorcycle. He required time away from work. His wife, who was also extremely busy running her own business, assisted him and took care of everything. However, circumstances worsened when Geoff’s employer went into administration, causing him to lose his job.

Geoff’s recovery was slow. His spleen had to be removed requiring him to take antibiotics for life. His injured left arm and shoulder, which was in a brace and sling, developed into frozen shoulder leaving him with little to no strength or grip in his dominant hand. Sleeping remained painful and numerous painkillers had to be taken. Overall, Geoff was fatigued and emotionally distraught by the accident and his condition.

Police investigations and PF charges Geoff with careless driving

Police Scotland investigated the incident. The tractor driver was questioned as was Geoff. The tractor driver was not injured in any way and yet it was Geoff who was charged with careless driving. This, at a time when he was physically compromised and emotionally distraught having lost his job and facing months of slow and painful recovery. The procurator fiscal decided to prosecute Geoff for driving without due care and attention at excessive speed. This news confounded Geoff. He was driving below the speed limit and it was the tractor driver who had not indicated nor looked to see Geoff who would have been in the driver’s view when overtaking.

Criminal trial brings ‘not proven’ verdict

At Motorcycle Law Scotland, we were equally perplexed by the fiscal’s decision. Geoff was already in a tough positon following the incident and prosecuting him could not be in the public interest. Surely, he had suffered enough? We arranged Geoff’s criminal representation and following the criminal trial, a verdict of 'not proven' was delivered to Geoff’s relief. In truth, he should never have been put through such an ordeal in the first place.

Proving fault on behalf of the tractor driver

To recover compensation for Geoff, we had to prove fault on the part of the tractor driver. His insurers denied liability outright as Geoff had been charged and not their policyholder. However, at the Criminal trial, the tractor driver admitted that he had only indicated 10 meters prior to turning right which was probably too late. At that time, Geoff was already overtaking and the driver should have been aware of him approaching. It was also not the first time the tractor driver had knocked a motorcyclist off in similar circumstances.

Raising a Court Action for Geoff

Faced with a denial of liability, we had no hesitation raising an action in Court for Geoff. The third-party solicitors went from denying liability to raising their offer and then eventually agreeing to our high value.

On the road to recovery but still angry

Geoff feels vindicated and the compensation has eased his financial concerns. He’s on the road to recovery but still cannot understand why he was charged by the Police and then prosecuted when the tractor driver got off scot-free.

If one of the criteria for intended prosecution is consideration of whether the accused has suffered enough, then surely this was such a case. It cannot possibly be in the public interest to prosecute a seriously injured motorcyclist for overtaking a tractor that’s not indicating or slowing. As it turned out, the prosecution failed but Geoff has been left with a very bitter taste in his mouth and it’s no surprise. He remains angry about how he was treated by Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurators Fiscal Service.

"My wife and I cannot thank MLS enough for their help and guidance in pursuing my claim. The whole team went above and beyond in securing a terrific outcome for us. I still cannot understand Police Scotland and the PF's reasoning for my prosecution especially where an accident so serious that an Air ambulance was required in what almost became a "Fatal" accident.   I would urge all motorcyclists in Scotland to have MLS fight their corner because they really do make that difference." 

The MLS Difference

Thanks to Motorcycle Law Scotland, Geoff can now start to rebuild his life. During the dark days of prosecution and faced with a denial of liability in the civil case, the outcome looked bleak. At MLS, we dig deep and will always push for the right result. It still beggars belief that Geoff was prosecuted in the first place.

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