Claim involving an accident between a motorbike and a horse in the New Forest

Posted by Julie Donovan on

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As a result of the accident, the claimant suffered a serious head injury and brain damage, and the purpose of the court hearing was to establish liability for the accident, to see whether she would be able to recover damages for the injuries suffered.

The judge was faced with two different accounts of the accident circumstances; the first given by the claimant and her husband, and the second by the defendant and his pillion passenger.  The judge had to weigh up the evidence and decide 'on the balance of probabilities' which of the versions of events was most likely to have been correct.

It was the claimant's case that she and her husband were riding their horses in single file along a narrow country road, Lyndhurst Road in the New Forest.  The horses were walking slowly and they were calm, experienced on the road and so unlikely to be easily spooked by cars, lorries or motorcycles.  Ahead of them was a bend in the road.  The claimant and her husband first heard the motorcycle approaching in the opposite direction, before they could actually see it.  It appeared in front of them, ridden by the defendant who lost control of the motorcycle which then slid along the road towards the claimant's horse.  The horse turned to flee from it, was hit by the motorcycle and as the horse kicked out, the claimant came off her horse as it bolted away.

The defendant's version of events was that as he came round the bend and saw the horses ahead of him, he slowed.  He stated that the claimant's horse took fright and reared.  He veered towards the left to avoid a collision with the horse and hit the left hand verge.  The claimant's horse then bolted away and as it did so the claimant fell off.

The ruling

The judge found that the evidence given by the defendant and his passenger was inconsistent when compared with the evidence that they had given to the police at the scene.

There was evidence that was consistent with a collision occurring between the motorcycle and the horse, including a reference to horse hair on the handlebars of the motorcycle and an injury to the horse's hind leg.

It was agreed by all parties that the motorcycle had non-standard exhaust pipes, which meant that it was particularly noisy.

The judge decided that he preferred the claimant's version of events.  He found that the horses had been alerted to the sound of the motorcycle but not spooked at that time.  It was not until the claimant's horse was confronted with the motorcycle coming towards it at speed that it then turned to flee.  He also found that the horse had been hit by the motorcycle, at which point it kicked out and bolted, and it was this that caused the claimant to come off the horse.

Judgement was therefore given for the claimant on the basis that the accident had been caused by the defendant for travelling at excessive speed and losing control of his motorcycle.

The judge considered whether the claimant herself had been negligent in any way, as allegations had been made against her.  This could have resulted in the claimant's damages being reduced, if her own actions had contributed to the accident at all.

The allegations made were that the claimant should have moved her horse off the carriageway into the verge when she heard/saw the motorcycle coming, and that she should have remained in control of her horse even as it turned and bolted.  However, the judge did not consider that the claimant was negligent.  It was not foreseeable that her horse would spook simply because a motorcycle was coming in the opposite direction. .

This means that she will be able to recover full compensation for the serious injuries that she has suffered.

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About the Author

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Julie is a Senior Legal Executive in our Personal Injury team with over 18 years of experience in compensation claims.

Julie Donovan
Email Julie
023 8085 7322

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