Compensation Claim Reduced in Milk Tanker Accident as Motorcyclist Found Partly Liable

The settlement to be awarded to a young motorcyclist as the result of an accident with a milk tanker has been reduced as the he was ruled partly liable for the injury.

Adam Wagner (23) was riding his motorcycle along the B7076 Gretna to Johnstonebridge Road at night in August 2009. On his journey, he noticed lights of a vehicle that he presumed was approaching him on the road. Adam dipped his headlights as a result, and continued driving at a speed of around 50 miles per hour.

However, as Adam approached the lights, he realised that they were not coming from an approaching vehicle at all. The source was an articulated milk tanker that was reversing into a nearby farm, and blocking both carriageways of the road in the process. Adam attempted to avoid the vehicle, but while swerving, hit the offside wheel of the tanker’s trailer. Adam was brought to hospital, where he remained unconscious for two days. When he awoke, he found that his left leg had been amputated below the knee.

After seeking legal advice, Adam made a compensation claim for the injury caused by the milk tanker accident against the driver of the tanker-Thomas Grant-and the company who owned the truck, Arla Foods UK PLC. Adam alleged that there was a lack of lighting on the side of the trailer, and this it was difficult to see that it was blocking the carriageway. Alastair Pasco, Adam’s uncle, supported such a claim, as he had been following Adam home on the night of the accident.

The defendants denied liability for Adam’s accident, claiming that the tanker was indeed adequately lit, and warning hazard lights were clearly displayed to other road users. They further stated that the reversing milk tanker would have been clearly visible to anyone who was paying attention while driving.

Liability for the injuries was initially denied, and after three years of long negotiations, Thomas Grant’s insurers offered £9,000 to Adam so that he could make appropriate renovations to his house in light of his injury. Despite receiving recommendations from his solicitors to accept the claim, Adam rejected it, stating that he wanted a full settlement. As a result, his solicitors refused to represent him further with the case.

After finding new legal representatives, Adam and his solicitor took the milk tanker accident to the Court of Session. Lord Uist heard their claim that Thomas Grant should not have performed the reversing manoeuvre without appropriate lighting on the vehicle, and that Arla Foods should have carried out risk assessment procedures before collecting milk from the farm at night.

When the hearing ended, Lord Uist agreed that the reversing manoeuvre was “inherently dangerous”, but he did believe that the vehicle had been adequately lit. He further stated that it was significant that neither Adam nor his uncle-who was an experienced motorcyclist of over 20 years-failed to see the tanker blocking the westbound carriageway.

60% of the liability was attributed to Arla Foods and Thomas Grant, and the remaining was to Adam. The compensation claim was reduced from £568,926 to £341,356 accordingly.