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Title: Important Filtering Case - Higgins -v- Johnson 2008

Amount: BikeLawyer's Andrew Campbell acted in this important case involving a filtering motorcyclist


Higgins v Dr Johnson
Liability: motorcycle accident: right turn; overtaking.
Judgment of Recorder Harrap sitting at the Bristol county court on 4 February 2008.
Charles Utley of 42 Bedford Row, London, instructed by Andrew Campbell for the defendant/ Part 20 claimant.
The claimant (a car driver) issued proceedings for personal injuries and other losses arising as a result of a road traffic accident in Bath. The defendant, a motorcyclist travelling directly behind the claimant’s motor car, defended the proceedings and issued a counter-claim for his more serious spinal injuries.
On 18 September 2006 the claimant argued that she was indicating right to turn into the rugby training ground on the opposite side of the road when suddenly, having just commenced the manoeuvre, the defendant’s motorcycle drove into her front offside wing.
The claimant contended that the motorcyclist was speeding and had attempted a dangerous manoeuvre by trying to overtake her in a yellow box junction, when she was still or nearly still and indicating to turn right.
The court accepted the defendant’s evidence that the claimant first indicated left, then right, then left and finally right again. The defendant contended that he held back when he first saw a right indication but, once the claimant appeared to have settled on a course of continuing straight ahead, he pulled out to overtake her. At that stage, the defendant stated no indicators were showing on the car. He maintained that while he was abreast of the car it suddenly turned right, colliding with his motorbike and throwing him to the ground.
The defendant's case was supported by a credible and completely independent witness who was travelling in his own vehicle in the opposite direction to the parties. He stated that neither vehicle was travelling at an undue speed. He noticed the occupants of the claimant’s car talking to each other.
He described the claimant indicating left, right, left and right. The final right indication happened, he stated, when the motorcycle had already begun to overtake. There was then a collision. The court held that the claimant did not check her mirrors or look over her shoulder as claimed, as if she had done so she would have seen the defendant.
The defendant made reference to the Court of Appeal decision in Davis v Shrogin [2006] EWCA Civ 974, although the court made clear that cases such as these are fact specific. The claimants’ independent witness evidence, which stated that the defendant was speeding and had jumped more than one red traffic light prior to the accident, was not accepted by the court.
The claimant was found 75 per cent to blame for the accident. The court apportioned 25 per cent of the blame to the defendant on the basis that he was aware that there was an indecisive, erratically indicating driver ahead of him yet he proceeded to overtake her on a yellow box junction.
It is noteworthy that the defendant’s former solicitors had advised the defendant’s legal expenses insurers that the defendant stood no reasonable prospects of success and that the case should not be pursued.  
The defendant had protected his position by making a Part 36 offer of 60 per cent/40 per cent in his favour which he beat in court. The claimant’s solicitors made a 60 per cent/40 per cent Part 36 offer in their client’s favour a few days before trial, having previously made an offer of 75 per cent/25 per cent in their client’s favour.
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