The Facts

Intoxicated friends ride trail bikes on public road and crash into each other

At 5:15 in the morning following a night of heavy drinking, the plaintiff and defendant (who were friends) each rode unregistered off-road motorcycles (trail bikes) on a public road in New South Wales. Neither motorcycle was fitted with a headlight.

While travelling in opposite directions along the road, the two trail bikes were involved in what was effectively a head-on collision.

The collision occurred on the plaintiff's side of the road, about 1.5 metres from the centre line on the road. The bikes collided both on their left sides, which meant that the defendant's bike had to have crossed the path of the plaintiff's bike before they collided.

The plaintiff was wearing a motorcycle helmet, but the defendant was not. While the plaintiff was unlicensed, he did have considerable experience riding trail bikes.

Blood-alcohol content of defendant three times the legal limit

Both the plaintiff and the defendant were intoxicated. The plaintiff's blood-alcohol content (BAC) was undetermined. The defendant's BAC was estimated by a forensic pharmacologist to be 0.156 at the time of the accident, which is over three times the legal limit for driving a motor vehicle.

The evidence established that the defendant was travelling in excess of the speed limit, while the plaintiff was travelling at or below the speed limit.

Plaintiff suffers serious injuries and sues Nominal Defendant

The plaintiff suffered very significant injuries, including the amputation of his left leg and the loss of effective use of his left arm, among others.

The plaintiff sued "the Nominal Defendant", the entity which is taken to be the insurer of unregistered or uninsured vehicles for the purposes of a compensation claim arising from accidents which occur on the roads in New South Wales.

case a - The case for the defendant case b - The case for the plaintiff
  • The plaintiff knew that I was intoxicated. This means that I did not owe him a duty of care.
  • We both elected to ride unregistered trail bikes on a public road even though the plaintiff was unlicensed and we were both heavily intoxicated. This means that together, the plaintiff and I were involved in a breach of the criminal law, more specifically a "joint illegal enterprise".
  • In these circumstances the plaintiff is not entitled to claim compensation.
  • Even if the plaintiff was owed a duty of care, his own contribution to the accident was so extensive that he should receive a 100% discount on his compensation.
  • I accept that we were both very foolish to ride the trail bikes at all in the circumstances. However, the defendant was more foolish than I was, and I am less to blame. Unlike me, the defendant failed to keep to the correct side of the road, did not wear a motorcycle helmet and was exceeding the speed limit at the time of the collision.
  • Despite all the surrounding circumstances, the defendant still owed me a duty of care.
  • He breached that duty of care by riding his motorcycle so negligently that he caused a collision between the two trail bikes. If he'd kept to his side of the road, the accident would never have happened.
  • I accept that I should receive a 25% discount on my compensation to reflect the extent of my contribution to the accident.

So, which case won?
Cast your judgment below to find out

Vote case A – the case for the defendant
Vote case B – the case for the plaintiff

Brett Watts
Motor vehicle accidents
Stacks Goudkamp

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.