Court overturns rider's crash compensation

Despite being hit be a lorry that was on the wrong side of the road...

WHEN Soham rider Robert Whiteford won the right to damages after losing a leg in a crash caused by a Lithuanian truck that crossed the central line on a road near Ely, it didn't make the news. But now the truck operator has been sensationally cleared of negligence by the Court of Appeal.

Whiteford lost his right leg when the truck struck him a glancing blow back in August 2009. He was on his side of the road and evidence showed the truck had been partially across the central white line. Cambridge County Court last year awarded Whiteford the right to claim damages, potentially worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, from the truck's Lithuanian operator.

However, the operator appealed, claiming that it was wrong to “impose so high a standard of driving” on the lorry driver, and saying that the motorcyclist was riding too close to the centre of the road. The Court of Appeal agreed. Yes, you read that right; the HGV crossed into his lane and the court still decided the accident was the rider's fault. Compensation? Zero.

The problem was that Whiteford had earlier accepted part of the responsibility for the accident when the lawyers for the truck firm claimed that in the circumstances he should have been riding in the middle of his lane instead of near the white line.

In the appeal, Jonathan Watt-Pringle QC argued for the truck operator, saying: “The collision occurred for one reason and one reason only, and that is because the claimant was driving right close to the centre when he accepted that the course should have been a very different one.”

In his ruling, Lord Justice Richards said: “A finding of negligence in this case would, to my mind, be to impose an unacceptably high standard on the driver.”

The BMF has now written to Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke, asking “how it can possibly be right that a driver licensed to drive the largest and most dangerous vehicles on the road is not expected to stay on his side of the road?”