“Do I have a claim?” | Your Motorcycle Legal Questions Answered with Sorrymate

WE would like to thank everyone who tuned in to our Instagram Live on Wednesday 27th of July.

Promo image for the Visordown Sorrymate Q & A

If you missed it, here are the answers to your questions, or you can watch the whole video on our Instagram. And don’t forget to catch up with June’s Q&A with Sorrymate.

Question 1: “I was at a crossroads, my lights turned green, I started to go and a cyclist from another direction ran the red light and I clipped them. They were fine, I dropped my bike and it’s got about £600 worth of damage. Who is at fault? Can I get the cyclist to pay for the damage?”

Answer: On the face of it, the cyclist is at fault. You've gone through a green light, they've run a red light, they're responsible. The trouble is cyclists don't have to have insurance.

You've given an example of costing £600 worth of damage to somebody's bike. But actually, they could put you in a wheelchair. And they don't have insurance.

However, a lot of them belong to British Cycling and British Cycling insures them. If you’re hit by someone with an expensive bike, there is a chance they’re a member of British Cycling. They may also have cover under their household insurance policy. There are quite a lot of home insurance policies that have accident cover. So do some credit cards.

It's definitely worth trying. It doesn't cost an awful lot to send a couple of letters and see what sort of reaction we get.

Question 2: “Autonomous cars are on the way, regulations say they will be automatically absolved from blame for crashes. But crashes do and will happen, so do you expect insurance costs to rise to compensate?”

Answer: This is still very much up in the air as far as I'm aware. They can't make them blameless. My understanding is that the reason that they don't insure is that the companies (certainly Volvo) are saying that they will insure all the autonomous cars they produce. So I think the idea is that the companies are looking to build the cost of insurance into the price of the cars or something.

I think the government would struggle to turn to people and say that “You've been hit by a driverless car. You've got two broken legs, your career is over and you don't get anything.” Human rights issues over that. 

And regarding whether insurance costs will come down, I ask everyone [reading]: “How many times in your life has your insurance gone down?” That's just not going to happen. Unless you go to a Swedish system where there is no blame. If you have an accident, your own insurance pays you. There's no claiming off other people. So unless you go to a system like that, then autonomous cars will have to have some sort of insurance product in place. 

Question 3: “Will autonomous cars be cheaper in insurance and will human cars become more expensive?”

Answer: If you have hundreds and thousands of autonomous cars, you've got fewer human-driven cars. And insurance has base costs that they have to cover. If you've got a smaller pool of people, it goes up. If you look at all the specialist insurances, they're all more expensive. Again, how often does your insurance go down?


Question 4: “An Audi overtook me, slammed on the brakes and I went into the back of them. They have witnesses to say this isn’t how it happened. Can I fight it or is it my word vs theirs?”

Answer: It is your word against theirs because they're saying they braked normally and naturally, and you're saying it slammed on. So, that is your word against theirs. But that doesn't mean you can't fight it. At the end of the day, if you go in front of a judge, and he believes you rather than them, then you win. If he believes them rather than you, then you lose. But the fact that they're denying it, and it's your word against theirs doesn't mean you haven't got an argument. It just means you're relying upon evidence given in court and what the judge thinks of that evidence.

If they've got a witness and the two statements are exactly the same, that suggests that they sat down and worked it out. Because no two people remember an incident the same way. There are always little differences.

There's an awful lot of businesses that have CCTV for whatever reason. Petrol stations are an obvious one because people steal petrol and drive off. Under licensing laws, lots of pubs, clubs, and bars have to have CCTV. A huge number of private houses have CCTV.


Question 5: “I’m buying my first bike, do I need to get insurance before I pick it up, or can I ride it home legally?”

Answer: No. Legally, you cannot ride it home. You must be insured to ride on the road.


Question 6: “Hypothetically, I was over the limit (drink driving) and riding, came off and it wasn’t my fault. Do I have a case?” [Visordown note: DON’T DRINK AND RIDE!]

Answer: Depends on why you came off. So, if you're riding down a main road, 30 miles an hour, nicely within the speed limit through a green light and somebody breaks a red light and drives into the side of you. The fact that you're over the limit has not contributed to that accident. So I would argue that you can recover losses.

To go back to the insurance point, if you ride uninsured, it does not affect your ability to make a claim. If you get hit.

Question 7: “The weather is hot and sunny – my protective bike gear makes me hot – so I was riding in shorts and a t-shirt when I had my accident (not my fault).  Will this affect my compensation?” [Visordown note: How to stay cool and safe.]

Answer: There is very, very little actual law on this point. So the best thing we can do is kind of compare it to not wearing a seatbelt, which is almost the closest thing to it. If you have an accident, not wearing a seatbelt and the injuries you have would have been reduced by a seatbelt, then your compensation drops by 20%. But that sort of case comes down to the judge on the day. Whether he accepts that or not.

To give you an idea of how wrong decisions can be I had a client who was pulling a wheelie down the road. He wasn't necessarily speeding, he was simply riding on one wheel and somebody pulled out in front of him. And the judge said that because he was pulling a wheelie, he couldn't be seen.

Legally, you only have to wear a helmet. Everything else is optional. (Apart from indecent exposure.)


Question 8: “Why does my insurance want to settle 50/50 when I was filtering, a car changed lane causing me to hit the back of it and I wasn’t speeding?”

Answer: Because for the insurance company, that's easy. If it settles 50/50 the same amount of money basically gets paid out, because the car driver gets his car paid for half and half, and the biker gets his bike paid for conversation half and half. So essentially, money generally comes out of the overall insurance pot. So if it’s 50/50 both the insurers get to increase the insurance premium for their driver the following year.

That's very, very cynical. But the reality is, for insurance companies, it's all about the miles, it's all about the figures. That how much they pay out isn't as important as knowing how much they pay out. So they know how much they're going to pay out next year, they can set their premiums and get it right. So they settle at 50/50 that’s all been knocked off, a lot less hassle, and no lawyers involved. That's easy.

But the fact is if you're filtering, and somebody changes lanes, logically, they're moving into the right-hand lane. Therefore you're not filtering your overtaking. It's perfectly legitimate, as it's filtering for that matter. But they're perceived differently.

So if you're riding in the outside lane, going faster than the inside lane, and somebody pulls out and you hit them. They're at fault. No 50/50. He or she has not done anything wrong. 

Question 9: “My insurance has been automatically renewed for the past five years in a row. Suddenly, this year, my insurance company just didn’t bother. I’ve had no email or letter to advise me and now I’m facing prosecution for riding without. Who’s to blame, should my insurance have responsibility?”

Answer: I'm a civil lawyer rather than a criminal lawyer, but my understanding is that no insurance is what's called a strict liability offence. So basically, once it's shown that you don't have insurance, that's conviction.

Now, it may be that if you went to the front of the magistrate and said, “Look, my insurance was auto renewed for five years…” then they might give you a lower sentence, but you will still get a conviction of having written without insurance, which will increase your insurance premium the following year. 

The interesting thing would be if you had an accident and somebody made a claim against you, I think you would have an argument with your insurer to say that they should have auto-renewed. But it's only an argument. 

Question 10: “Me and my mate were out on country roads, enjoying the corners and that. Unfortunately, my mate hit a van that was blocking the road. It was parked while loading with its back end facing a driveway on our side of the road. I was on a left-hander. My mate has lost his bike, is a total write off and has multiple injuries. The insurance is saying it was his fault and the police say he was riding without due care and attention. You just don’t expect a van to be blocking a road like that.”

Answer: This is very difficult because there are arguments to say that if you're riding in the country, you should ride so you can stop if there is a hazard on the road. 

The counter to that is that van has created a hazard on the road. It's perfectly open for the van driver to get a red triangle, walk around the bend and put a red triangle in the road. But he didn't do that,  so I think you'll get a split liability on that.



Question 11: “I’m worried about these new Noise Cameras. My exhausts are not standard, but the bike passes an MOT each year, what should I do?”

Answer: As long as the bike passes the MOT with that exhaust on it, there's no reason to believe that it will set off a noise camera. The levels that the noise cameras allow cannot be lower than the MOT. 


Question 12: “The laws on A2 bikes not being actually being restricted.”

Answer: You haven't got a  licence to ride that bike. So effectively, you're riding with a licence.

Again, you're moving very much into the criminal arena. From where I come from, if that person had an accident, it actually makes no difference. It's the facts of what happened besides liability.

The licence question wouldn't affect having an accident or not or a funding claim. But you would get prosecuted for riding without the appropriate licence.


Additional: Clients’ experiences with a large bike recovery firm.

We have one case where I have a client of mine, and she's had an accident with her bikes being collected by her insurers. I won't name names, but a large bike recovery company. And what they've said here is that they want £75 an hour to take her bike rack and other bits off her bike before the bike gets scrapped, because the bikes are right off. And they won't tell her how much it's going to cost. But what we're saying to them they can't do is just leave it open.

Interestingly enough, I have another client whose bike repairs are being sorted by the same company. And for some reason, they're saying to him that if he takes his bike away from them, and takes it to his own bike dealer the insurance will only pay what they would charge. One that's incorrect. But secondly, interesting this time, the repair costs are £30 an hour. The same company. One’s a Ducati Scrambler and one’s a Triumph Rocket 3.

£30 an hour because they want to keep the bike and do the repair or write it off and keep the salvage. And £75 an hour because they don't want to be bothered taking the bits off the bike and sending them back. In my view. 




Yorkshire Air Ambulance raffle

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The bike was free and every penny goes to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. It has been signed by over 60 motorcycle racing stars, including Steve Harris, James Whitham, John Reynolds, Shakey Byrne, John McGuiness, and Peter Hickman. You have a chance of winning a piece of biking history.

There you have it, always get a second opinion. You’re not alone if you get into an accident, and there are biker lawyers who understand the inner machinations of a motorcyclist. Contact Sorrymate with your questions and queries, and don’t forget to buy your raffle ticket whilst you’re there.