Leslie O'Donnell

Having had my fair share of near-misses during my lengthy motorcycle riding experience, this accident was truly bizarre and resulted in my first serious injuries in over 35 years.

Explaining it to friends and family later, the collective opinion of many of them (who did not witness the event) was that a following rider is always at fault in a collision with a vehicle in front. This presumption is incorrect, as the subsequent court case proved.

Even the police at the scene of the accident and other traffic police who I talked to later, all appear to share this mistaken belief to some extent. I have no doubt that this ingrained ‘knowledge’ could potentially influence traffic accident investigations. I therefore feel that the details of the case provide valuable information for the general public and especially for other riders and traffic professionals.

The legal process with my insurer’s appointed solicitors started off poorly and got worse. They had simply asked for a written statement and we had some brief telephone conversations. I’m still not sure whether it was a qualified solicitor dealing with the matter. Eventually, they agreed with the other insurers that I was mostly (i.e. 80%) at fault. Something tells me that they did not put up much of a fight on my behalf. Frustrated at their feeble efforts, I asked them to close the file. I nowadays place no value whatsoever on the ‘free legal cover’ offered by insurers.

Shortly afterwards, I discovered Motorcycle Law Scotland.

Things immediately improved after chatting to Brenda Mitchell, an experienced motorcyclist herself and a very knowledgeable solicitor who recognised that I had a good case and was willing to take it on board.

Even more impressively, she travelled over to Northern Ireland to visit me at home and interviewed myself and my two witnesses all separately to acquaint herself with the facts. Without this level of professional support from the team at Motorcycle Law Scotland, it is likely that I would have given it all up long before this. The level of professional diligence was outstanding and I have no hesitation in referring their services to anyone.

After a period of negotiations with the other solicitors, it transpired that they were not willing to agree a sensible apportionment of blame and the case proceeded to the Sheriff’s Court in Edinburgh.

The outcome is described in the Case Study. The Sheriff was very incisive in his understanding of what he was hearing and I left the court highly impressed by the whole process (this was before I received the verdict).

My personal reasons for wishing to go to court were twofold:

(1) I just wanted compensation for my kit that was destroyed in the accident and which was not covered by my own insurance policy.

(2) Much more importantly, I wanted to see a verdict recorded that the accident was not my fault, or that at least, my contribution to the accident was negligible.

Finally, any accident will inevitably cause one to question whether there is anything which could have been done to avoid it. Had I been less confident of my actions prior to the impact, it is likely that I would not have been as eager to get back on two wheels as soon as I was physically able. Obtaining a favourable court result goes a long way towards confirming to myself that this confidence was not misplaced.

I have not forgotten the excellent treatment I received by the ambulance crew and by the doctors and nurses at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley; so any mention of them would also be appreciated.

After a number of solo adventures throughout Europe and North Africa, my trusty BMW R1200GSA was written off in this accident. I now ride a Ducati Multistrada 1200 and am planning a few more interesting trips.