Accident between lorry and cyclist

Category: Personal Injury, Road Accident

Yet another Court of Appeal Case has examined how liability should be apportioned in road traffic cases, this time as between a cyclist and a lorry driver.

The Case concerns an accident which occurred in May 2011. The Claimant, Ms Collette McGeer, was cycling along a busy main road in Ellesmere Port. Ahead of her was an articulated lorry being driven by the Defendant, Mr Mackintosh.

Mr Mackintosh needed to turn left and stopped at a set of traffic lights indicating his intention to turn left.

He had to straddle the two lanes on his side of the road because of the size of his vehicle. The left hand lane was designated for turning left and the right hand lane was going straight on or turning right. It would appear that Mr Mackintosh had positioned his vehicle in such a way that he could swing more easily around to the left.

Unfortunately, it would appear that Collette McGeer did not notice that the lorry was turning left and, as the lights turned to green, she pedalled up the near side of the lorry and tragically was very severely injured when her bike came into collision with the lorry.

When the case first came to Trial in the Liverpool High Court in November 2015, the Judge decided that had the lorry driver checked his nearside mirrors before moving off, he would have had the opportunity of seeing Ms McGeer as she was cycling up the nearside. The Judge found that, even though the lorry could have executed the turn by being wholly within the nearside lane, it was not negligent to have straddled the offside lane to make the manoeuvre easier, but in so doing the lorry driver was duty bound to double check before he turned left that no one was coming up on his inside.

He was therefore negligent in failing to check and caused the Claimant’s injuries.

The Trial Judge however also found that Ms McGeer was also partially responsible for her own injuries. He found that she would have had sight of the vehicle for about 4½ seconds before it moved off. She should have realised that it was straddling the two inbound lanes and therefore could not reasonably or safely assume that it was going to go straightaway.

In terms of the apportionment the Judge went on to say that he had to take into account what lawyers called “causative potency”. The idea of this is that when assessing how liability should be divided the driver of a mechanical vehicle, especially a lorry, is often found more blameworthy because he was driving what the Judge described as a “potentially very dangerous machine”.

The Case ended up in the Court of Appeal in February 2017 but the Court of Appeal Judges backed the decision of the Trial Judge. The Court of Appeal found that, even though the lorry was driving very slowly, the Judge was entitled to find that it was potentially a very dangerous machine. Its size and bulk were such that in the event of a collision it constituted a very serious danger to a person in the position of the cyclist. Accordingly, the cyclist was left with 70% of her compensation which will now either be agreed or assessed at a later hearing.

Michael Shiers is a Solicitor at Nash & Co Solicitors in Plymouth. He has been a member of the Law Society’s Personal Injury Specialist panel since 1996 and is an accredited Senior Litigator of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.

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