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Title: Filtering crash has sparked a row over blame

Date: 02 February 2015

When does filtering become overtaking?

Question

Can you tell me what the difference is between filtering and overtaking? In May last year I had what I think was a filtering accident when I was passing the outside of a line of stand still traffic at about 25 mph when someone in the queue suddenly pulled out across my path leaving me no time to stop. I went over the top of the bonnet dislocating a shoulder amongst other things! My solicitors says his counter-part is arguing that the person who pulled out on me said I was dangerously overtaking. My solicitors want me to accept 80% of the blame and therefore end up with just 20% of my compensation. I am not happy about this. The accident was caused by his failure to notice me – I was there to be seen had he looked!

Peter Smith, by e-mail

Answer

The difference between the two manoeuvres (filtering and overtaking) can simply be a matter of comparative speed. Filtering is perfectly legal so that has to be the starting point. Overtaking can be argued to come into play when the traffic being overtaken is no longer thought to be stationery or “stop start”.

Defendants often refer to Powell –v- Moody, an unhelpful case from 1966 which resulted in a 20/80 split and I imagine this is what your solicitors are thinking of when advising you to accept 80% of the blame. One has to take extra care when filtering. Filtering on the approach to junctions is where judges are most likely to reduce compensation by virtue of contributory negligence. However, primary liability (fault) should still rest with the person who pulls into the path of the correctly proceeding motorcycle, unless the motorcyclist is doing something reckless or dangerous, for example involving grossly inappropriate speed.

The courts have held that filtering at 10-15 mph past stationary traffic is a reasonable filtering speed. 25mph has been held to be unreasonable. You don’t say if you were on the approach to a junction and I would really need to see the road layout and what any witnesses say to be specific on the likely liability split. Although there are some guidelines within which we can assess liability in these cases ultimately it comes down to the specifics of each accident. My gut feeling on this case is 20/80 is too low.

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