£800,000 settlement for student motorcyclist after horror crash left him with a permanent disability.
How to claim for a road traffic accident
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Partner of Express Solicitors, Sharon Denby, represented J. to make a claim against D, J’s motorcycle instructor. Denby is a highly skilled solicitor with over twenty years of experience helping individuals obtain financial compensation after serious injuries. As well as heading various departments, she has also supervised over thirty lawyers within Express Solicitors.
“This was a complicated case from the start as we knew our greatest challenge would be to prove liability that D instructed J. to carry out an overtaking manoeuvre at a time and place that wasn’t safe to do so,” said Denby.
J. sustained a serious injury to his right elbow which required multiple surgeries and subsequent lengthy treatment to correct. Unfortunately, due to the severity of the fracture, he has been left with a permanent disability and no longer has full mobility in his right elbow. This has caused concerns for his future and surgeons are unsure of the number of surgeries he’ll need as he grows older there is also a possibility he may require a lower limb amputation. He also suffered a fracture to his left leg.
Unfortunately, due to the severity of the fracture, he has been left with a permanent disability and no longer has full mobility in his right elbow.
Denby worked tirelessly and thoroughly to gather all the evidence possible in order to secure a liability result. The case was severely defended and all claims were denied by D. The law states that even though J. was a student motorcyclist, he still had a duty of care for himself, which added to the fight for liability.
The court case was listed for split trial and had been heavily defended, just weeks before trial D made proposals to settle liability and after negotiation judgement was entered by consent but it was on the basis that he was on a 50/50 basis.
At this stage it was also revealed that D was not adequately insured as his professional indemnity insurance was limited to one million pounds and included the value of damages for any claim brought, the cost of the claimant and the defence costs. This was devastating news for J as his case had a potential value that exceeded one million.
A truly complex case with multiple unusual factors that caused proved challenging for Express Solicitors to prove liability.
Denby explained some of the challenges, “There were several things that were unusual about this case, one was that a student motorcyclist was instructed to overtake not one, but two vehicles at once, one of which was a heavy goods vehicle. The second factor was the public road on which the accident occurred was deemed acceptable by an instructor as an appropriate location for a motorbike lesson.”
The road on which the accident occurred is well-known as “The Cat and Fiddle” and it runs from Macclesfield (in Cheshire) to Buxton (in Derbyshire) and is 10.2 miles long.
“It is notoriously dangerous with its steep drops and sharp bends.”
“On the day of the accident, inexperienced J. had been quickly moved up to a more powerful motorbike to ride, which he was unfamiliar with. J. had ridden three different motorcycles on that same day, all of which were more powerful than the last. Based on our evidence, it’s thought that J. didn’t move through the gears correctly which caused him to lose control.”
Horrific injuries sustained by the claimant required experts in lower limb surgery to report to the court.
The claimant suffered fractures to his lower leg, a broken right wrist, his right arm was broken in 4 places, his right shoulder was dislocated, his right elbow dislocated and his left knee dislocated. He required two initial surgeries, the first one to repair his left leg and the second to stabilise his right elbow, with the damage far more complex than initially thought.
“Our orthopaedic limb expert who reviewed the case on our behalf said it was one of the most severe elbow injuries they had ever seen. They explained how the technology and surgery for elbows is not as advanced as it is for other joints, such as knees. Essentially what the surgeon was saying was there are a couple of surgeries that will get J. through the next 20 years or so but when he moves later into life, unless medical and surgical advances are made, he could be looking at a below elbow amputation. As someone who works in that sector, the surgeon knew that medical advances are being made all the time and the reality is J. will probably see the benefit of those advances but still based on today’s surgical practices, he could be facing up to five additional future surgeries in his lifetime.
Denby continued, “This created another area for dispute as the D’s orthopaedic expert didn’t agree with our expert’s predictions. Ultimately it’s very hard for surgeons to give you probabilities on an area like elbow surgery that isn’t as well established as other joints and they have to try and tell you where practice will be in 30, 40 or even 50 years’ time. Especially with a young claimant who might not be having his last surgery until his 60s or 70s. That’s how far ahead the surgeon has to try and give his best opinion based on the balance of probability. We had two very reputable surgeons with two very different ideas on that, so that was another factor that played into the ultimate settlement value.
At the time of the accident, J. was employed as a plasterer and as a result of his injuries he was unable to return to his work.
“Plasterers make wide sweeping motions with their arms whilst plastering. The dominant arm is used to make the movements and the non-dominant holds the mix. J’s injuries to his right elbow were of the utmost severity, and there was a lot of uncertainty around whether he would be able to return to work. Fortunately, J. had very supportive employers and they were able to adjust his role within the company to a management position which was less physically demanding. To his credit, J. returned to full-time employment as soon as he was able to.”
The biggest challenge Express Solicitors faced was meeting the evidential standards to show that the defendant was negligent with his instruction to J. on the day of the accident.
“The D strongly denied that he gave any instruction to J. to take the manoeuvre,” explained Denby. “Another part of our case was seeking the advice of a motorcycle instructor expert who believed that it would have been more appropriate for someone of J’s experience to familiarise himself with each of the bikes within a safe training environment and taken through the key manoeuvres that you would want him to be competent with in order to pass his test. The instructor was only allowing J. to ride each bike for around an hour before moving him up to a more powerful one.”
Denby continued, “It was getting towards the end of the day and they were on their way back to the learning centre when D suggested riding along The Cat and Fiddle road. It was quite unprofessional and was almost like he was showing off to J. who was quite young and impressionable. The D denied that this road was known for being dangerous, despite it being quite well documented. Our expert motorcycle instructor was shocked when advised of the location of the accident.
“The D strongly denied that he gave any instruction to J. to take the manoeuvre.”
Further, Denby researched and contacted a number of motorcycle instructors until she found three that were willing to help her show by giving witness statement evidence of how they conduct training and tuition in order to help establish the standard of a competent motorcycle instructor and they too couldn’t believe an inexperienced rider was taken to the Cat and Fiddle Road for a tuition lesson.” They also thought that the D’s decision to lead was provocative and placed J under some pressure to follow.
Another unusual factor was that the instructor led the manoeuvre and rode in front of the claimant.
“The D had taken the overtaking lead which is the wrong thing to do as an instructor because by nature that would encourage the student to follow. It would be safer for the instructor to ride behind the student and when the student is ready and if they feel safe, they can begin the manoeuvre with the instructor behind them to watch and see what they’re doing. This way the instructor could have given more verbal tuition and checks and this was agreed by the expert instructor who provided a witness statement for the case. Again, this was denied by D. Our biggest challenge was getting over those denials and showing that those actions were wrong.”
Express Solicitors spoke with multiple expert motorcycle instructors to get their professional advice.
Denby explained, “We researched and found some other motorcycle instructors who we took witness statements from and asked what they would do in these circumstances. All of this started to inform us that we had here a D, who was tutoring a young and impressionable student and carrying out the lesson plan and tuition in a way that didn’t seem normal. D’s approach didn’t seem to be in line with how a reputable and responsible instructor would instruct a student in those circumstances.”
“We found an expert that could give us evidence on what would be an appropriate standard for a motorcycle instructor to meet. This was a challenge in itself and something I hadn’t dealt with before in my career.” continued, Denby. “They were able to tell us of any specific guidance on overtaking or the location itself specifically for motorcyclists.”
A lack of detail in the police report didn’t help whilst gathering evidence for J’s case.
“Although the police did attend the scene, they did not carry out a full accident investigation and or complete the full accident report that one would expect from such a serious accident,” explained Denby. “There were photographs available that were taken on the day and although there was some helpful evidence, it was limited .”
What did Express Solicitors need to prove for their client to have a case for a road traffic accident?
“We had to show that the standard of motorcycle tuition given by the D fell below the standard of a reasonably competent motorcycle instructor. The expert we instructed had to guide the court on that.”
The case was directed to a split trial by the judge.
Denby explains, “Due to the severity of J’s injuries and the complexities of the case that was being firmly denied, a split trial meant we could leave the quantum side of the case aside and initially focus on all the evidence needed to deal with the liability issues. This simply allows both sides to submit their liability evidence and for those issues to be tried without having the expense of multiple expert witnesses before knowing whether you’ve got a viable claim.
“Another factor that made it clear a split trial was the right route to take was D’s solicitors informing us that the level of indemnity on D’s insurance policy that would be used to pay J’s claim (this was before any admissions or settlement) was limited to £1M. This amount was to cover any claim made by J. for damages and costs on a successful claim as well as D’s own defence costs. We were immediately concerned that we had a claim that was worth more than the insurance indemnity level available, so we began to look at the personal assets of D. J. (to his credit ) did not feel comfortable pursuing a claim against D as an individual as he did not want D to suffer financially by losing his home”
Denby continued, “Both J. and myself took the pragmatic view knowing there was only a certain amount of money for his settlement that would help him get his life back on track and provide him with some financial stability for the future. It’s not known what level of support or what further medical procedures J. will need later on in his life, so we worked towards getting him the highest monetary outcome possible.”
Why were Express Solicitors successful in winning this road traffic accident case?
“Our determination and thorough research approach to the liability evidence got us a liability result, which otherwise we may not have achieved.”
J’s life now and the outcome of the case from Denby’s perspective.
Denby shared, “J. is doing really well. He’s a very stoic and brave person who was a pleasure to represent. Ultimately I am pleased that the settlement award was significant enough for J. to be able to plan for his future. J now feels more secure with some money behind him to invest. It’s very likely he will need further surgeries and more support as he grows older.”
“He’s a very stoic and brave person who was a pleasure to represent. Ultimately I am pleased that the settlement award was significant enough for J. to be able to plan for his future.”
“Overall, it was a difficult case but we did go on to win it and we got a good settlement. It’s a very severe injury to a very young claimant. It’s vital that we consider all the possible future needs of each client when compiling cases to ensure the level of compensation they receive is aligned accordingly.
Taking all of those things into account, J. did get some justice and he now has a brighter future ahead of him than he would have had without his case for sure, so I am pleased we were able to do that for him.”