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Title: Must I wear a suit of armour?

Date: 29 November 2013


I had an accident 4 months ago on my Gilera Runner. I was taken out when this lady pulled out from a side road into me. I tried to brake but it really was too late to do anything. I sustained mainly left leg injuries but fortunately nothing too serious. Now to my mind this was clearly entirely her fault yet I am told that her insurer wants to take 25% of my compensation due to the fact I was wearing jeans not protective trousers. Their thinking is my injuries would have been less serious. Is this acceptable?

Martin Burton, by e-mail


In short, no - not as the law currently stands. Motorcyclists are legally required to wear helmets. However there is nothing requiring bikers to wear protective clothing such as gloves, boots, jackets or trousers. The Highway Code advises that ‘strong boots, gloves and suitable clothing may help to protect you if you are involved in a collision’. The Highway Code does not say it will protect you which is partly the reason there is no legal requirement for riders to wear protective jackets, trousers, gloves or boots. This advisory guidance is not compulsory.

I imagine you sustained a degloving injury which is fairly common. Degloving is exactly that, where your skin is pulled away like a glove. It may well be that protective trousers could have prevented or lessened the severity of the injury but this, as the law stands, is irrelevant.

Laws are made in two ways. Through statutory instrument (Acts of Parliament) and judicial precedent (court decisions). There is currently no statutory obligation to wear protective trousers whilst riding and as such a rider cannot be held to be in breach of a statutory obligation that does not exist. Further, I know of no court decisions (judicial precedent) that states that a rider can have his compensation reduced for the lack of protective trousers. What the insurer is trying to do in your case is apply the law relating to seat belts worn by car drivers. In such cases there can be a 25% or 15% reduction in compensation depending on whether a seatbelt was worn and the difference it would have made had it been worn (an issue for the medical experts involved to comment upon).

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