Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Contributory Negligence: The Role Of Excessive Speed In Road Accident Injury Claim

Compensation And Contributory Negligence In Motorcycle Accident Claim

A motorcyclist suffered serious injuries after colliding with a car performing a u-turn on the A435 in the case of Marcel Beasley (A protected party by his litigation friend Cadell Beasley) v Paul Alexander (2012).

The Defendant, Mr Beasley, was driving a VW Golf along the A435 when traffic became stagnant. The Defendant decided to perform a u-turn and continue his journey via another route. Although no reports by witnesses or the parties themselves can confirm how long the Defendant indicated for, the Defendant did indicate his intention to pull out of the lane of traffic.

The Claimant, motorcyclist Mr Alexander, was travelling in the same direction as the Defendant had originally been going and was filtering through the stationary traffic when he was struck by the Defendant performing his u-turn.

The negligence of the Defendant was easily established however the question of contributory negligence by the Claimant was considered.

Contributory negligence

It is open to a defendant to a claim to argue that the claimant has contributed to his or her poor outcome by reason of his or her own negligence. This is known as “contributory negligence”.

The contributory negligence of the claimant may sometimes reduce the compensation to be awarded against the defendant. It is up to the judge to decide the proportion of responsibility of the claimant and to reduce the amount of compensation accordingly.

For example, if a judge decides that as a result of the defendant’s negligence, the defendant is 75% responsible for the accident and the claimant 25% responsible as a result of his or own negligence, then the value of the compensation will be reduced by 25%.

The Claimant in this case had performed his manoeuvres correctly and so the only form of negligence could be deduced from excessive speed. The A435 is governed by the national speed limit i.e. 60mph. Experts were instructed to determine speed, stopping distances and safe limits in which the Claimant could be travelling to avoid the collision. The Claimant was most likely, as concluded by expert evidence, travelling at 45mph at the time of the collision.

Although the Claimant was deemed to be travelling too fast as he passed through the traffic, no contributory negligence was found. Expert evidence suggested that even if the Claimant was travelling at a top safe speed of 35mph, there would nonetheless have been an accident.

The key element here was causation. The Claimant had not caused the accident by driving too fast; it would have happened in any event. The Claimant was not criticised for filtering through the traffic either. This case highlights that expert evidence on speed, accident reconstruction and stopping distances can be incredibly compelling, but whether a person’s speed is excessive will depend on the circumstances of each case.

If you have a claim for personal injury arising from a road traffic accident please contact the team.

Author: Lee Hart