Ruling continues the evolution of motorcyclist accident liability

Proof that allocation of liability in road traffic accidents is clearly an evolving life form can be found in this case. What may be less clear is the direction of and reasons for that evolution.

The table (below) adds Woodhams case to other very similar claims - as summarised in Bingham & Berrymans Personal Injury and Motor Claims Cases (13th Edition).

Uncannily, all cases involve a collision between a vehicle emerging from a minor road and a motorcyclist on the major road overtaking a large vehicle while obscured by it.

It will be seen that the Highway Codes simple duties of motorcyclists to look-out for vehicles emerging from junctions (and) take care and keep your speed low coupled with the motorists duty to watch out for motorcyclists they are not always easy to see has been interpreted in a variety of ways over the years.


Case Liability split (in favour)

(major road/minor road)

Woodham v J M Turner (2011) 70/30

Hamilton v OKane and 50/50

Claimant was a pillion passenger on the bike.

Heaton v Herzog (2008) 25/75

Motorcyclists speed was excessive

Farley v Buckley (2007) 0/100

Obscuring vehicle was turning left,

But could not complete the turn until the

defendant had exited the minor road.

Worsfold v Howe (1980) 50/50

Powell v Moody (1966) 20/80

Harding v Hinchcliffe (1964) 100/0

Obscuring vehicle was turning left.


How are those handling similar claims now to identify distinguished features that cause the pendulum to swing in one direction or the other? The judgement, or those summarised here (and there will be many other cases reported elsewhere), is the first time since 1964 that the overtaking, obstructed motorcyclist has not had to accept more than 50% of the blame. Whether this is the beginning of a new trend or an aberration will only be clear when the next such incident hits the Courts!