Liability - a fine line

In the recent Court of Appeal case, Scott v Symons (2012), it was found that a claimant motorcyclist injured in a road traffic accident was responsible for the accident by riding his motorcycle onto the wrong side of the road.

The Claimant appealed against the finding that he was responsible. The Court of Appeal judge found, on the balance of probabilities, that it was more likely than not that the Claimant had crossed onto the lane of oncoming traffic causing the accident.

During the hearing the Claimant revealed that he had been approaching a left hand bend in the road and, in order to increase his visibility, drove very close to the middle of the road. The Claimant went so far as to say that his right hand may have crossed the centre line. However, he contended that the collision must have been caused by the Defendant crossing onto his side of the road, although he did not see the Defendant's vehicle cross the line.

The Defendant in this case, a 93 year old man, was not fit enough to attend court. A statement was taken from the driver of a vehicle who had been in front of the Claimant at the time of the accident. This stated that the driver had seen the accident in his rear view mirror and the Claimant had been on the incorrect side of the road. The driver of the third vehicle was due to give evidence in court but did not attend.

The decision to dismiss the appeal was based on the fact that the Defendant would have had to drive past the vehicle which was in front of the Claimant on the correct side of the road. It was therefore considered unlikely that the Defendant would then have driven erratically into the opposite lane. The judge also relied on the fact that if the claimant's right hand was over the central line, and he was driving round a bend to the left, his vehicle would also have been over the white line.

In this case the judge found in favour of the Defendant despite the lack of evidence from the Defendant and an acknowledgment that the Claimant was an honest and credible person.