Motorcyclists and their pillion passengers are naturally very vulnerable. The high degree of exposure that riders have, along with the reduced visibility of their small, narrow vehicles to other road users, means that the chances of them sustaining severe injuries are far greater than those road users travelling in cars.
While minor accidents can lead to injuries that cause temporary or moderate discomfort, more severe motorcycle accidents can cause broken bones or serious injury to the head or spine. In the worst-case scenario, a collision could have fatal consequences.
Since passengers riding pillion have no control over the motorbike, they have to put their trust in the biker to be careful, observant, and considerate so that unnecessary danger is avoided.
Sometimes motorbike riders may need to accelerate, brake, and move road position without warning to avoid potholes or unsafe road surfaces. While the rider is doing this to avoid a hazard, they may be inadvertently putting themselves and the pillion in further danger.
A pillion passenger will have a number of effects on the performance of a motorbike, and if these aren't anticipated by the driver, an accident is more likely to happen. For instance, the weight of an extra person affects the bike's centre of balance and increases the time it takes for it to slow down. There will also be an impact on the bike's handling. The weight of a passenger may make the steering lighter, cornering harder, and cause more clutch control to be required – factors the biker may not account for in a sudden manoeuvre. Drivers of powerful, heavy motorcycles will also experience increased difficulty manoeuvring at slow speeds with a pillion on board.
It is vital that the driver takes it upon themselves to remain attentive and read the road efficiently enough so that they can spot potential risks early, giving them plenty of time to move safely.
The rider's duty of care to their pillion passenger
The motorbike rider has a duty of care to ensure that they have done everything within their control to protect their pillion passenger. First of all, to even be able to carry a passenger, they must make sure that they meet the basic legal requirements. These will seem obvious to many; they include possessing a full motorcycle licence for the class of bike being ridden (bikers with only a provisional licence are never allowed to carry a second rider). They also need to have appropriate and valid insurance which must include pillion cover and have a bike that is fit for the road (with an appropriate MOT certificate).
As far as ensuring that their passenger is well-secured during the journey, there are certain things the motorcyclist must check before setting off, especially if their guest rider is inexperienced with motorcycles. These include the following:
- The bike must have a pillion seat that is suitable and fit for purpose
- Although there is no minimum age limit for the passenger, they have to be able to reach the footrests while seated
- Both the passenger and the driver need to be wearing an appropriate helmet
- The passenger should be instructed on how and what to hold on to when the rider accelerates, brakes, and corners.
- The driver and the passenger need to establish a preferred means of communication between them while they're moving
There are several other things that should be made known to the pillion passenger as well as precautions that they're obliged to take to minimise the amount of risk for themselves.
- They should be wearing suitable protective clothing
- They should never distract the rider
- They should never move or shift weight suddenly at low speed or when the rider is cornering
- They should exercise good judgement and not agree to go on a motorbike when they are unconfident about the rider's ability or fitness to ride
In the event that a passenger has contributed to the cause of the accident, possibly by ignoring some of the above steps, then the amount of compensation that they can claim may be reduced because of contributory negligence.
Making a claim as a pillion passenger
If you have suffered an injury as a pillion passenger in an accident that you believe was due to the biker's negligence, then you should be able to make a claim for personal injury compensation. This is where Thompsons Solicitors can help.
When you make a claim with Thompsons, we will take the full extent of your suffering into account. We will assess the amount of pain and suffering caused, any loss of wages due to missed work or other financial losses sustained, and any services that you now require as a result of your injuries.
We understand that making a claim as a pillion passenger can seem difficult, particularly if the accident was caused by the bike rider and they are a friend or family member. However, if the motorcyclist is properly insured, it will be the insurance company that pays out any damages, and, if you have sustained pain and suffering, you are fully entitled to seek compensation
Our priority is always to achieve a just outcome for those wrongly harmed by another's actions, and everything we do will be done to serve your best interests.
So, if you've been a victim of personal injury as a pillion passenger on a motorcycle, call Thompsons' personal accident and injury solicitors to receive free, no-obligation advice on your claim. We also offer a No Win No Fee Solicitors package should you wish to go ahead with your claim.