Answers revealed! Your legal questions answered with Sorrymate

Thank you to all that watched and submitted questions for our legal Q&A with Liz from Sorrymate on the 29th of September.

Sorrymate solicitors sat on their bikes

IF you missed it you can watch the video over on Instagram, or look for your question below. In the first episode, we had answers to arguments with insurers after an accident, whilst the second episode included questions on autonomous cars, this time we have Highway Code changes and potholes (every road user’s favourite gripe).


Question: I ride with my dog. Am I breaking the law? (NB: The dog is not in a sidecar)

Answer: It depends. Is this a chihuahua or an Alsation? Is it in a backpack? Is it on in the top box? You know, where is the dog?

I think we have to compare it with having a dog in a car. If you're gonna take your dog in the car with you, you have it harnessed and strapped down in some way.  If you have to brake suddenly, you don't want the dog being flown forward. And I think it's a similar sort of situation. So there is no specific law that says you may not ride a motorcycle with a dog but have some common sense.

There is an offence of driving without due care and attention, and it's very vague and it would be up to the individual police officer to decide.

Just be aware that the police can interpret driving or riding without due care and attention pretty widely. And if they felt that that was, in some way unsafe, it could still be interpreted that way. Although not a specific offence.


Question: I came off when I hit a deep pothole and I need a new wheel. I will speak to the council, but is it their area?

Answer: The short answer is yes, It is their area. That doesn't necessarily mean that you would succeed in getting them to pay up for a new wheel. Potholes are a huge, huge issue. The council has to inspect and prove that they've inspected, even if they haven't fixed it.

I certainly have succeeded with these claims in the past, if the defect is deep enough. And it has to be deep enough, and there are specific measurements. And if they have not inspected within a reasonable amount of time, then you might succeed. 

There's no specific time limit within which they've got to inspect or got to fix. Once they have inspected you will see white paint marks around them and you will be expected to ride around.

Question: Who is liable for stuff (gravel, mud, oil, etc.) on the road? Farms? Residential properties? Water companies? Building sites?

Answer: It depends. If there is diesel on the road, it has come from another motor vehicle, and the likelihood is you're not gonna know where it's come from. There is an organization called the Motor Insurers Bureau. They deal with claims where there's a motor vehicle involved, but you don’t know who, or they were uninsured.

Gravel is a real problem. You could not prove where that had come from unless you were behind a tipper and you saw it actually come off the tipper. At every single junction, and every roundabout, there's a buildup of gravel at the side of the road. It's not come from any one specific location.

Unless we can prove that somebody has been negligent in leaving a pile of gravel on the road, it can be difficult. The council really only has a duty to clear up something that's a specific hazard.

With mud, if you saw the tractor or, you saw where it came from, there might be something. But, if there's a sign, then you've got no chance. Farmers will put a sign out saying mud on road.


Question: Riding without the proper kit can affect insurance payout, so why is riding with just a helmet the law? Why isn’t other safety gear compulsory?

Answer: I don't know is the answer. I suspect it would need way too much regulation for each individual piece of safety equipment, and it’s down to the police.

Please don't go out in just a t-shirt and shorts. You would be surprised at the number of horrible, horrible skin injuries I've seen because people have said ‘it's too warm, I'm wearing shorts.’ 



Question: The Highway Code has changed, but nothing has changed on the road. Could a rider get in trouble for not stopping to let a pedestrian at a junction, when stopping would put us in danger? After all, lorry drivers are taught to keep momentum, car drivers don’t know we can filter and regularly block (or go for the back wheel).

Answer: Yes, you can get in trouble, it is the Highway Code. The guidance in the Highway Code has shifted to give that priority to pedestrians. But once again, my answer once again is within common sense, consider if it is going to cause more of a danger in suddenly anchoring on.

Question: I saw a rider with a pillion, where the pillion was filming the journey on the mobile. Was that legal?

Answer: It's not illegal, as long as it's not distracting the rider and not causing the rider to be riding without due care and attention. But, we're back down to how an individual police officer would judge it.


Question: The legal side of using cameras (Go Pro, helmet, on bike).

A. Can police request/force us to hand over footage?

Answer A: They can request, but the question is, what's the involvement of the rider in this?

Say you've got a rider with a helmet camera, or camera on the handle of a bar if they are involved in the incident. Then I think the police probably could take that as evidence. If they witnessed somebody else having an incident, then I think that's a slightly different question, as to whether they could be forced to hand that over.

B. What parts of footage can they use? E.g., if we recorded an incident, but earlier on in the footage we popping a wheelie, can they then take action? Even though it’s not relevant to taking the camera to start with.

Answer B: Again, it depends. If you are the person involved in the incident, and you were popping a wheelie earlier, the problem there is that that's evidence of your style of riding. That's evidence of your attention to the road. And again, we're back to riding without due and attention.

Question: We asked the audience what laws they would like to create, and what are your thoughts. (These were the most common answers.)

A. Everyone has to do a CBT as part of their car test

Answer: I love this question. I was actually asking my clients at the end of their cases, just out of interest, “What would you change if you could change something?” and you'd be surprised the number that said I would have something on a car driver's test that brought to their attention what it's like to be on the bike.

I think a CBT is asking too much. My own personal thought is, wouldn't it be nice if you could get someone to have a virtual reality headset, so that they know what it's like to be out there on a bike?

I don't think, to be honest, that anything much is gonna change, but yeah, I am in favour of something on the curriculum for learner drivers that emphasized the vulnerability of motorcyclists. Something that got them to understand what it's like to be out there on powered two wheels.

B. Unrestricted use of bus lanes

Answer: Back to the Motorcycle Action Group. We've got a huge campaign about this at the moment. But the word that you're using is unrestricted and the point is it would have to be countrywide. MAG’'s big campaign at the moment is to get unrestricted use of bus lanes unified all over the country.

C. Make it illegal to wear yellow “Polite” vests

Answer: Oh, do you know what? I don't have an opinion either way or not. It doesn't mean anything to me that I think that's a really interesting question. Somebody's got a real problem with that, haven't they? 


D. +20% over the speed limit for bikes, always safer to be moving through, rather than being overtaken

Answer: This is my personal opinion… I don't think that's feasible. It's too difficult to police, and I don't mean that in a negative sense. I mean, it would be very difficult for an individual officer. I just cannot see that working in the real world.


Additional: If you had an accident, but haven’t done anything about it yet, then get in touch with Sorrymate. 

You have three years from the date of an accident within which to bring a claim against the party. And by bringing a claim, I mean putting it into court.

If you are under 18 when it happens, then you've got three years from when you turn 18. There are exceptions (accidents abroad are shorter), so it’s best to call us.


If you’ve had an accident, a ding, a drop or would just like to ask a question, get in touch. It’s free to ask and can help put your mind at ease, and put you back in the riding seat.