Our personal injury team here at Hudgell Solicitors has recently secured a damages settlement for a motorcyclist who was knocked off his bike and suffered serious injuries as a car swung out into his path when he was ‘filtering’ down the outside of standing traffic.
It seemed an ideal opportunity to turn the spotlight on the issue – one which has always divided motorcyclists and their four-wheeled counterparts (mainly because it means us bikers can bypass traffic to the front of the queue!).
To end any debate immediately, filtering is perfectly legitimate, as long as a biker;
- Does not cross over or straddle a solid centre white line system
- Does not overtake after a ‘No Overtaking’ sign.
- Does not overtake the lead vehicle within the confines of the zigzags of a pedestrian/pelican crossing
- No danger is caused to other road users and no vehicle is caused to alter course or speed
However, should a biker be hit by a car when filtering, the matter of establishing who is to blame – or mostly to blame – is often far from straight forward, and can lead to the matters being disputed in court – something our specialist personal injury litigators at Hudgell Solicitors have an excellent track record of avoiding whilst still securing compensation.
The legal precedents on motorbike filtering claims – and why each is judged on own merits
In filtering cases, when deciding upon blame, a court will look at:
- The speed and position of the motorcycle in the road.
- Whether the stream of traffic was stationary or moving.
- How fast the other vehicle emerged from the side road or from the line of traffic.
Some years ago, when a motorcyclist was involved in a filtering accident, most insurance companies used the case law of Powell v Moody, which dates back to 1966, to mitigate their losses.
In that case a motorcyclist was overtaking a line of stationary traffic and was found to be 80% to blame when he hit a car which was ‘inching out’ into the carriageway. The court ruled the motorcyclist was carrying out an ‘operation’ which was fraught with great hazard and which needed to be carried out with great care.
In the case of Clarke v Whinchurch in 1969, an overtaking motorcyclist in similar circumstances was found to be 100% to blame. On that occasion, the judge ruled that he should have realised something was happening ahead when a bus in a line of slow moving traffic stopped to let a vehicle out from a side road on his left. The car came out quite slowly in front of the bus and was hit by the moped.
Leeson v Bevis Transport 1972 saw a motorcycle and emerging vehicle found equally responsible. The court said the motorcyclist did nothing wrong in overtaking the line of stationary vehicles, but needed to keep an effective lookout, whilst the van driver should have been aware of the possibility of vehicles overtaking in this way.
In 2006, in the case of Davis v Schrogin, a car driver was found entirely at fault by the Court of Appeal.
The accident occurred on a long straight section of road, with one lane in each direction and with a long queue of stationary and slow moving vehicles, A motorcyclist travelling in the same direction was overtaking at approximately 40 mph, half to two-thirds of the way across from the central white line, displaying a dipped headlight and a right hand indicator.
He had been in that position for approximately half a mile and was not weaving in and out of traffic when a car lost patience and did a U-turn when the motorcycle was no more than five car lengths back, causing a collision.
The car driver was ruled wholly at fault as the motorcyclist was there to be seen, and even if he had been travelling appreciably more slowly, the biker would have been left with no time to react.
However, Farley v Buckley in 2007 was a case where once again, a motorcyclist was found to be wholly at fault. On this occasion the motorcyclist had been passing a refuse wagon travelling in the same direction and was indicating an intention to turn left into a side road.
The lorry was unable to complete its turn as the side road was narrow and there was a car waiting to emerge and turn right. The motorcyclist, travelling at a speed of about 30 mph, overtook the refuse wagon with its wheels virtually on the centre white line when the car drove out in one continuous movement at approximately 5-8 miles per hour, ending with a crash.
The Court ruled the motorcyclist was travelling at a too high a speed, which in the circumstances was reckless given the nature of the manoeuvre, the lack of visibility to his left and the fact that the refuse wagon had been displaying its left indicator.
Legal expertise is vital, could prevent court and ensure maximum damages
So to sum up, filtering in most cases is perfectly legal, is accepted as being a benefit of riding a motorcycle and is something that just about every rider has done at some stage without any problems.
However, the nature of how accidents of this kind happen can often lead to debate when civil claims are launched as each has to be judged on its merits, and no two cases are ever the same.
Therefore, don’t be surprised to find a defendant insurer pointing some of the blame in your direction. That is when the advice of specialist lawyers, and people such as myself who has been involved in accident investigations for many years, can prove essential.
As our client says, there is an extra need to be vigilant when filtering past standing traffic.
As with any decision on a bike, ask yourself whether it can be done safely, will other traffic be inconvenienced, and are your actions likely to really give you any benefit?
If the answer to the first two is yes, then hold back until such time as an opportunity presents itself, but always be aware of the possibility of other vehicles changing lanes suddenly without warning.