Ask Our Lawyer – April 2021

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


Dear Rod, I contacted you some time ago about my long-term disability. It was not the Social Security Office but the insurance company from my previous employer. I have been disabled for over 20 years. And although I was used to having it periodically reviewed, this time around was a nightmare. Having someone else confirm my suspicions, that I was dealing with an overzealous new person who was probably getting incentive to cancel people was more than comforting.

After terminating my payments, I did ask for an official review. I jumped through all the hoops (metaphorically of course). Even so far as to go out of state for an independent medical review. Which took all of about 20 min for him to confirm what should have been obvious. Thank you so much for your advice and encouragement. Your call just to check and see how things were going, meant more than I can put into words.

I am happy to say that they have reversed the termination. I told you at the seminar I was just waiting on the money. Yesterday, they paid me my back-pay. Thank you again for all your help and thank you for lunch once again at the seminar. Have a groovy day! Shannon Johnson, ABATE member.

Shannon – Thanks for the good news and you are welcome.  Ride safe. Rod 


Q.  Rod, the GoFundMe group has sent me a tax reporting form (1099) for funds that I set up to benefit my daughter who was left with significant hospital bills.   Do I have any tax liability for this money as those funds went to pay for her medical bills and related expenses?  Worried as I have heard the IRS will audit these 1099’s.  ABATE member.

A.   It is true that the IRS is looking at GoFundMe transactions as billions have been collected. But they are finding it is for usually good causes like yours – for medical bills. Most of the contributions made through GoFundMe are below the gift tax threshold.  In those instances, there is no taxable event if the money is intended as a gift, but there may be taxable events where individuals are contributing significant sums of money. Different rules apply in those cases, so it is important to keep in mind the IRS reporting requirements for gifts over the exemption amount.  Donors who contribute more than the yearly gift exclusion to an individual (15k for single taxpayers and 30k for married taxpayers filing jointly for 2020 should contact Gino Johnson, the world’s best CPA, for further instructions.  He keeps me out of IRS hell.  And his advice is reasonably priced.


Such was me at the Seminar.  In the zeal to justify my existence to a crowd that gives up their Saturday to learn something that might help ABATE, I suffered a case of hoof and mouth disease.  Or kindly putting an inappropriate sense of humor.  We have an ointment for that in Wayne County. But to no avail as I offended those that I would never intentionally offend – police officer wives.  They are the ones that have suffered in silence lately – painfully watching and hearing news reports condemning police officers.  A lot of reporters have the “lumping disease” – lumping in bad cops with the good cops.  As we all know, most officers are wonderful public servants that we could not do without, but lately the news seems to concentrate on the bad cops who number very few. If you are not careful you can come away with a sense that most officers are in the public’s sights.  This is so ironic as my beloved first cousin John Higginson was the longest serving Illinois State trooper at the time he retired and never had to draw his revolver.  I revere his service.

Police Chief Gary Smith of the Hancock County Police Department and his dear wife Laurie Smith were in attendance at the Seminar.  Now the Chief can take a dose of my off the mark humor, but I have learned that you should never expect to get by with that with a police officer’s wife.  Laurie was rightfully offended at the attempts of inappropriate humor.  I called the Chief and requested that he extend my sincerest apology to Laurie with a promise to remember what we all know to be true – that we could not do without police officers like her husband and that they deserve our utmost respect.


On my way over to ride the Pyrenees Mountains, I stopped and paid my respects to those that died on Omaha Beach in Normandy. If you ever get the chance to go, take it and ride there.   You will never forget.  On June 6th, 1944, Company A of the 116th Regiment (Stonewall’s old Brigade) was to hit the beach at Dog Green Sector in a Higgins Boat (Made in Evansville, IN).  That sector was not a good place to be.  All 69 of them in that boat were from Bedford Virginia (a wonderful place to ride to ride in the Shenandoah Valley).  

Unlike many of the units that hit the shores of Normandy on D-Day, Company A of the 116th InfantryRegiment, 29th Division, was a National Guard outfit of men from the same hometown. Thirty-seven had grown up together in Bedford, Va., graduated high school together, played ball together, worked together — and 19 of them died together when the Higgins ramp  dropped and exposed all of them to German MG 42 machine guns. At 1500 rounds per minute, the boys from Bedford didn’t have a chance. The MG 42 sounds like a chainsaw when it is fired – probably the most dreaded sound at Omaha Beach. So distinctively terrifying was this machine gun that the Army developed training films to help our troops deal with the psychological trauma of facing this weapon.  It made a sound like ripping cloth.  Our boys called it, crudely, Hilter’s zipper.  Sadly, I am pretty sure our boys knew what they were in for when the ramp on that boat dropped.  The thought of dying for my county is ok with me, but dying before I even had a chance to shoot back is not. 

Western Union clerk Elizabeth Teass sat at a Teletype machine near the back of Green’s Drug Store in small town Bedford Virginia just after 8 a.m. on July 17, 1944, when the first telegram came through with the usual language, “The Secretary of war desires me to express his deep regret …” Teass was accustomed to receiving about one such telegram a week informing families in the Bedford area that their sons, brothers or husbands were missing or killed in action. That morning, she received 11.  And she would receive 9 more before it was over. D-Day was as bad as it could get for Bedford as it had just suffered the highest casualty rate of any town in America.

After I left the beach at Normandy, I had to visit the Colleville cemetery where the Bedford boys and many others are buried. It overlooks Omaha Beach and by any definition is a holy place. I couldn’t talk there – draw your own conclusions.  The gravestones are marked with the name and state of the fallen soldiers. Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio are inscribed on too many.  Omaha Beach is a long way from home for those guys and I wondered how many of their folks were able to visit the graves before they, too, passed on.  It bothers me that most of their loved ones didn’t get the chance to pay their respects. I gathered some sand from the Dog Green sector.  I couldn’t help it. That sand sits in an hourglass on my desk to remind me and will to my end.

P.S. Our guide took us by the German cemetery.  I didn’t ask to go there and he did not ask if I wanted to go.  If he had, I would have said no, after all I had lost family at German hands.  Then I learned a 13 year-old German soldier was next to a marker that reported, “Most here did not pick the fight or the cause”.  I am glad I went.


To: Rod Taylor rodtaylor@ABATELEGAL.COM Date: 3/8/21 From: janbednarz  Rod – Your column is the one I read first. I was a commercial insurance agent for 40 years. You have given your readers excellent advice re: uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. You mentioned Alec Caress.  Correct name is Alex Karras. Hometown Gary, IN. 4 time All State football from Gary – Emerson H.S.  College – Iowa, Pro – Lions. Blazing Saddles was correct. Enjoy your day. 

Jan -Appreciate your comments and thanks for reading the column. Auto correct is the devil in my life but at my age I need all the help I can get. Am not big enough to get the name wrong of anyone that can knock out a horse.   Ride Safe. Rod 


Q.   I live in an apartment complex in St. Charles, Illinois.  I pay my rent and follow the rules.  I am a good tenant and have an excellent job.  Here is the problem.  My lease says that I can not have a motorcycle in the complex unless I get prior written consent from the apartment manager.   I want to ride my motorcycle and park it in the complex.  I put on my best face when I paid a visit to the apartment manager seeking permission to ride my bike onto the apartment parking lot per the lease.  I even offered to shut the engine off outside the boundaries of the complex and push my cycle to a parking place.  I have never given the manager any problems and there has never been a complaint about me.   I didn’t even get to first base as the manager refused to give me permission to park my motorcycle in the complex.  I do not believe the apartment management is being reasonable. What can I do?  What about the Fair Housing Act?  Isn’t this discrimination?  Robert Swisher, ABATE MEMBER.

A.  It is discrimination, but remember that not all types of discrimination on private property is against the law.  You have a better argument under the lease.  In most states your contract/lease presumes that the parties to that document are dealing in good faith and are being fair.  Your lease allows motorcycles, IF you get written permission.   When you signed the lease, it was reasonable for you to believe that the landlord would not unreasonably withhold permission for you to park your motorcycle in the apartment complex.  You have not had any noise or speed infractions.  For the apartment owners to arbitrarily withhold permission to park your motorcycle on the complex property is unreasonable and is a violation of the lease.  But you have gone even further than the lease requires by offering to shut off the engine and push the bike onto the property.  That defines your fairness and good faith.   If the complex had wanted to bar all motorcycles from the property, they could have said so in the lease.  They chose not to and by allowing motorcycles with permission, implied that they would accept motorcycles from those who operated their cycles in a reasonable fashion. My recommendation is that you take a copy of this article and have a talk with them about how good a tenant you have been and that they should give you a chance to prove it.  If they have questions, have them call me on my cell (317) 727-4599, and I will do my best to appeal to their better angels.  I have a feeling they will go along with the program.


Honest people are trusting people.  And most bikers are trusting people.  Unfortunately there are people out there that will take advantage of honest folks because they know we are trusting.  As much as we all hate staring over the shoulders of our officers or co-volunteers, some basic protections must be in place or else you and your MRO risk falling victim to embezzlement.  

Here are a few tips that can help any MRO avoid becoming a piggy bank for an officer with larceny in his blood:  1. Every MRO should have a good business practice and that means checking references of those that handle our money.  2. There should be a set method of handling money and no one person should be in charge of both bookkeeping and depositing.  Rather, split those jobs between people.  3. Consider using an accountant for more than just tax filings, it may not be that expensive to also have them do semi-annual audits.  4. Do not rely on accounting programs to keep everything in check, you should do your own audit and review of MRO funds to make sure everything lines up.  

Having some basic protections in place is essential to help you and your MRO avoid sticky situations.   And it gains us business respect from those that watch us.

Ride Safe.

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by the client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: © 2021.

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Ask Our Lawyer – March 2021

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


Q. The little old lady with blue hair backs over your motorcycle in a parking lot and causes significant damage.  She doesn’t know what happened.   Here is the question.  “Do you turn the claim for repair over to your motorcycle insurance company if you have collision coverage, or do you try to get the lady’s insurance company to pay?  Good question.

A.  Since you are not responsible for the damage – she is – you have some choices if you have collision coverage for your motorcycle.  So, the first thing is to confirm that you have collision coverage on your bike.  If you do, your choice is easy.  Turn the claim over to your insurance company.  Why, you ask?  Since the little old lady caused the damage and it is her fault, some believe that they should make the lady’s insurance company pay and leave your insurance company out of it.  Wrong. You hired your insurance company to take care of you.  Let them.

Here are the advantages of having your insurance company pay, especially during riding season:

  1. Most of the time your insurance company has an immediate obligation to pay.  Otherwise, if you turn the claim over to the other insurance company you have to wait for that company to investigate and determine liability.  Then that company has to estimate the damage all of which takes time – your riding time.  And good luck getting the adverse to rent you a motorcycle while yours is getting fixed.
  2. Your insurance company is on your side and has a duty to treat you more fairly than the other guy’s insurance company.
  3. Your rates will not go up if you go through your insurance company.  Some will tell you to the contrary, but they are wrong.
  4. The only disadvantage of going through your insurance company is if you have a deductible, you may have to pay that amount before the body shop will let you have your motorcycle, but you can collect deductible from the other side.
  5. Some states only require $10,000 of property damage coverage so if your damage and your insurance coverage is more, definitely go through your company.

Here are the disadvantages of going against your insurance company:

  1. As said above, you may have to pay the deductible amount to the repair shop before they will let you have your bike, but your insurance company will collect the amount of damage it is owed and your deductible from the lady’s insurance company and will send the deductible to you.
  2. You may not be able to collect amounts for the rental of another motorcycle from your insurance company – more about that later.

Here are the disadvantages of going against the other insurance company:

  1. Takes time.  They have to investigate your claim and determine liability.
  2. They may send you to “special estimating” facilities.
  3. They have no duty of loyalty.  They are the opposing side.  They are the Germans.


I have spent a lifetime dealing with those who profile bikers and attempt to portray motorcyclists as less than regular folks.   Some people will do that in trials to prejudice a jury against bikers, in hopes to make them look bad, so they will give them less money.  I look forward to presenting motorcyclists as they are – just like everyone else.  You never know who rides anymore as motorcyclists may be the neighbor next door.  They work, have families, pay taxes, vote and RIDE.  But every once in a while, you get a biker that looks tougher than Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator.  That stereotype is mostly gone.  After decades of representing bikers, I am good at presenting bikers as regular folks, even though some may appear differently and live a lifestyle unfamiliar to some.   If I have done my job, the juries I pick appreciate the client as just another citizen, looking for the justice we all want.  I love my job.

            Then along came a new friend as a client, Vincent Ray.  He loves to ride and spends his work time training truckers – a tough job for a tough man, “a rub dirt on it kind of guy”.  If a fight breaks out in a bar, you want him on your side because that will be the winning side.  He is like Alec Caress in Blazing Saddles, if you shoot him, you will just piss him off.  And you have no doubt that he could knock out a horse with one punch from that mighty right hand.

Fast forward.  Vincent and his bride Theresia need my help.  I will present Vincent as the man he is, a normal, hardworking, voting citizen.  But looks sometimes deceive.  No question about it, his size puts him into the tough guy category, and can even be a little intimidating.   Forget the size thing.  Once you get to know him his big heart melts you.  Just ask his wife Theresia.  And as a school bus driver for kids, she fits into the big heart mold as well.

            But I am privileged to present the honest facts about Vincent – he is a big guy who rides.  So I scratch my head and reach into my past.  How best to introduce Vincent to a jury?  Lawyers usually don’t miss much about people, but I didn’t see this coming.  Had no clue.  Nothing about him would steer me toward the information I am about to share.  You ask what possibly could I have learned that would have helped to introduce Vincent to a jury and the adverse lawyers?  How about years of his background that would melt the hardest hearted German farmer on a jury – the guys that say no to everything.   Vincent had been a kindergarten teacher teaching art to five year-olds for 8 years, and after that, he was an elementary school teacher for sixth graders for another 8 years.  He loved that job and would still be there if he could have learned how to live on the salary of an elementary school teacher.  The Vincents of the world usually don’t shout out their good nature.  Sometimes it is hidden.  Sometimes you have to drag it out of them, as I did with Vincent.   I see Vincent in a special light now, and I predict a jury will too, despite his intimidating size.  I am a know-it-all lawyer, but Vincent taught me something new.


This story is worth repeating as we soon will be at the beginning of benefit ride season in the Midwest. A California Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a ride organization.  In that case a couple injured in a recreational motorcycle ride sued because the ride did not have a police escort.  Plaintiff was an experienced rider and had signed waivers for previous rides, but somehow got in the ride without signing a waiver.  The Court of Appeals ruled that the injured couple “assumed the risk” of the ride.

In this case the couple on the ride were injured when a van swerved into their lane causing a collision.  The court ruled that the couple had waived any right to sue even though they had not signed a waiver for this ride but had signed such waivers in previous rides. (waivers are still needed but this case helps with those that sneak into an event without signing a waiver)  The court held that the risk of participating in a motorcycle ride with a large number of participants along public highways is self-evident.  And the risk of being injured while on a motorcycle procession is well known as all rides do not have police escorts.  The rule is that a voluntary participant in a recreational activity cannot recover damages for injury from a co-participant or organizer if the injury arises from a risk inherent in the activity and the defendant does nothing to increase that risk.  The court held that the lack of police escorts did not increase the risk of injury on a public highway.

Even though this is a California case it can be cited to other courts for its good logic and presents a victory for all organized motorcycle rides in this country.  Motorcycle ride organizers can breathe a little easier with this court decision if it becomes the trend in all states.  I expect Illinois, Ohio and Indiana courts to follow this trend.  Warning:  Still require waivers in case the above does not work.  Remember my mantra:  You never need a waiver until you need a waiver.  Got it?

NOTE: Marc Falsetti was the legal beagle on this one.  Marc, thank you for your good eye in finding the case.


Q.  A woman driver pulled out in front of me from a stop sign and claimed she did not see me. I had the right of way and was not speeding.  I applied the brakes but still hit her.  Sad to say, but I said some mean things to her at the scene as I was in pain and could not believe she did what she did.  Now her insurance company is trying to turn my bad language against me and even has the officer testifying against me as to the cause of the accident.  My case should be a simple one in that she is the one at fault but now I feel like they are putting me on trial unfairly.  Can they do this?  And do I need a lawyer?  ABATE OF INDIANA MEMBER. (case now concluded and information released)

A.  A police officer’s testimony as to the expert cause of a crash will be admitted during a trial only when the officer has been qualified as an expert having sufficient knowledge, education and training to express such an opinion, as not all police officers have such expertise.  Unless speed or braking is an issue, your case normally would not need an accident reconstruction expert.  She failed to yield to your right of way – case should be over.  Of course the officer may testify as to what he saw and heard (if relevant and material), but it is up to the trier of fact (usually a jury) to decide the cause of a crash, unless expert testimony is needed.  Issues such as speed, braking, coefficients of friction are the areas in which motorcycle experts testify, but it does not appear that the adverse is raising any issue as to speed or braking. 

  Always be mindful that the investigating officer might be able to testify as to statements made by you and witnesses about the crash and to each other.  These statements could include any names that you thought were appropriate to call the little old lady with blue hair when she missed the stop sign while talking on her cell phone. Your lawyer could file a motion with the court and try to suppress such name calling as inflammatory and really not relevant to the cause of the crash. The court may or may not grant your motion. So, you may be left with trying to explain your verbal treatment of the sweetest old lady (at least in court) that ever ran a stop sign.  Some jurors might understand the opportunity to express yourself in the heat of injury and severe pain, then some might not, especially the sweet old ladies on your jury.  If this ever happens again, help me – help you, by muffling yourself at the scene.  As Sergeant Barnes of the VietNam movie “Platoon” said, “take the pain”.  And yes, you need a lawyer.


“To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”  Thomas Paine

Ride Safe.

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by the client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: © 2021.

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Ask Our Lawyer – February 2021

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


Q.  Rod – In a helmet free state can you bring a claim for personal injuries if you are injured while riding without a helmet and were not the cause of the crash?  -A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois member

A.  Good question.  In Illinois, if a motorcyclist chooses not to wear a helmet, that decision cannot be considered negligent.  So the answer is no, but there are judges out there that need to be educated on the law as to that issue.  Not wearing a helmet in a helmet free state is your right much like driving a convertible or small car without a helmet, or riding a bicycle or a horse without a helmet.  If you are operating a vehicle legally, you should never be punished for failure to wear a helmet.  For example, if you suffered head or neck injuries, the insurance company may claim your injuries were caused by your decision to not wear a helmet. Their goal is to limit liability and assign as much fault to you as possible.  That defense is wrong, so our argument is that any legal activity should not be punished by allowing insurance companies to claim that your damages should be lessened for failure to wear a helmet.  I call this effort the “Silent Helmet Law” of insurance companies.

Here is where this nonsense comes from. When a plaintiff files a personal injury lawsuit,  some claim that Illinois and other states laws allow a defendant/insurance company to raise contributory negligence (735 ILCS 5/2-1116) as a defense. This theory suggests that the defendant is not responsible for all of the damages because the plaintiff also bears some liability by failing to wear a helmet. Could failing to wear a helmet—even though it is not required by state law—be considered negligent on the part of the plaintiff?  We say no way and that is how we approach ABATE cases when insurance companies attempt to raise that issue.  In short, motorcyclists who abide by traffic laws when they decide not to wear a helmet, should not be considered as contributing to their injuries.  Be on the alert for the insurance making this argument.  With a good lawyer on your side, you will be able to show that you are not responsible for any portion of your injuries by the failure to wear a helmet.

The law is similar in Indiana – a no helmet state for those over 18 years of age. Indiana Code Section 9-19-7-1-1 provides:  “An Individual less than eighteen (18) years of age who is operating or riding on a motorcycle shall do the following:  (1) Wear protective headgear meeting the minimum standards set by the bureau and (2) Wear protective glasses, goggles, or transparent face shields.” However there is no current Indiana case law which evaluates the question of fault of a minor being injured in a bike/motorcycle accident without a helmet. When looking at Indiana law,  so long as the rider is over the age of 18, evidence of the failure to use a helmet would be inadmissible in court.  This is because the lack of a helmet is not the “proximate cause” (i.e. reason for) the accident. This is the same principle that has been developed for seat belts though the Indiana seatbelt law applies to all people of all ages and specifically states that fault cannot be attributed to someone not wearing a seatbelt. The Indiana Court of Appeals has noted that “in a majority of jurisdictions, evidence of a motorcyclist’s failure to wear protective equipment is inadmissible in the absence of a statutory duty. See State v. Eaton, 659 N.E.2d 232, 236 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995). That same court found the motorcyclist in the case had no duty to wear a helmet or other protective eyewear, and thus the trial court did not err in prohibiting the state from introducing evidence of motorcyclist’s failure to use protective eyewear in motorcyclist’s action for injuries sustained in accident. State v. Eaton, 659 N.E.2d 232 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995).  Even with a minor, the no helmet issue must be a proximate cause of the injury.

Some insurance companies take great efforts to wrongfully use the fact that a motorcyclist was not wearing a helmet as a defense to injuries,  particularly head injuries. The purpose of trying to use such evidence is to suggest to a jury that the failure to wear a helmet contributed to causing the injury and, therefore, is a factor which may reduce the amount of compensation the motorcyclist may receive. That is misleading to a jury. 

To show how judicial comments can get out of hand, a judge in a federal case involving the City of Chicago made an inadvertent comment in a case that had nothing to do with motorcycles, bicycles or injuries.  This case shows how casual comments can cause motorcyclists problems when they present a case of personal injury while riding.  That federal case grew out of an incident in which a barge caused damage to a bridge of the City of Chicago.  In discussing whether the City was contributorily negligent in its maintenance of the bridge, the judge used an off the mark example noting that, “Even a thin-skulled bicycle-rider could be contributorily negligent for failure to wear a helmet.”   What if that judge made a similar comment as it concerns motorcyclists?  At ABATE we reaffirm that the law in Illinois, Indiana and most states take exception to that kind of judge “talk.”

Even though federal court decisions do not create authoritative precedent for state courts,  a state court judge may find a federal court’s ruling persuasive and in the absence of clear state law authority, may choose to follow it.  So we should be concerned that it is just a matter of time before an insurance defense lawyer in a motorcycle crash case cites that case to persuade a trial judge to consider that an injured bicyclist/motorcyclist was not wearing a helmet at the time of their crash.  

For over four decades I have argued on behalf of ABATE Members that Illinois cases Hukill v. DiGregorio, 484 N.E.2d 794 (2nd Dist. 1985) and Clarkson v. Wright, 483 N.E.2d 268 (1985),  hold that a failure to wear a helmet cannot be used to prove an injury victim’s contributory negligence or to reduce the compensation to which they may be entitled. The majority of courts addressing the issue have, for assorted reasons, rejected the admissibility of helmet evidence. The federal court comment about bike helmets was what is generally referred to in the legal world as dictum.  Dictum is a  remark by a judge that is not intended to create binding authority.  But that verbiage can cause harm and does not reflect Indiana nor Illinois law, nor the law of most states.  Spread the word.

WHY WE NEED A POA (power of attorney) AND WHAT IT DOES

Q.  We are semi retired and have time to enjoy riding all over the country.  We have heard that we need a POA.  Why is this necessary and what does it do for us? ABATE member.

A.  Everyone needs a POA for both health care and your property.  If you become disabled, someone has to take care of your business, pay bills etc. and make decisions for you.  Choose wisely the person that you make your agent.  They are in a position to rip you off, so this person must be a trusted friend or relative.  If you do not have someone that meets this requirement, some banks can be hired to take on this responsibility if your assets are large enough to meet their minimums.  For the average Joe this is a problem.  If you have a good friend that is a lawyer, you might try to talk them into serving for you in that capacity.  The good news is that most lawyers have insurance that would protect you if the lawyer got a brain tumor and stole your stuff.  ABATE LEGAL drafts and provides POAs free of charge to members.  


Q.  My boyfriend talked me into taking compromising pictures of me on his Harley.  Then he was arrested for riding his motorcycle while intoxicated.  The cop who arrested him found his iPhone and of course the nude pictures of me.  Excited by his find, he called other officers over for a viewing of the photos of me.  This seems so wrong since some of the cops knew me and my family.  Did the officer violate our rights? ABATE member.

A.  As we know all warrantless searches are governed by the Fourth Amendment which protects us from unreasonable searches.  Reasonableness is the magic word here.  It has long been the rule that the area within the “wingspan” or “grab area” of the person being arrested may be searched, as well as the contents of his person.  This area may be searched without regard to the seriousness of the offense.  But the wonder of the Fourth Amendment is that by use of the word “unreasonable” it is positioned to be adaptable to the times.  Madison could never have envisioned the photos of you or the thousands of pages that can be stored in an iPhone.  Some courts view a smartphone as like any other container that is subject to searches.  However, other courts like the Supreme Court of Ohio, have held that the expectation of privacy is the reason that the police must get an additional warrant to search a phone’s contents.  In Ohio the cops would have been out of line, but this appears to be a minority view of the courts around the country.  Stay tuned on this one.

Ride Safe.

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by the client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: © 2021.

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Ask Our Lawyer – January 2021

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


Q.  Our local ABATE group is having an event that supports a local charity.  We play music over our sound system with an iPod.  Do we really need a license to play music we already paid to download?  And what if we don’t pay? ABATE of Indiana member.

A.  If you play music publicly, and there is a charge for admission, you have to pay for songs that are in the registry of outfits that are watching for those that play and don’t pay.  The largest of these groups are BMI, SESAC and ASCAP.  I have dealt with these outfits and they are not fun.                  Their job is to catch folks like you playing the music of their clients without permission.  They are like bounty hunters and I suspect they get paid per scalp.  Understanding licensing laws isn’t easy, and it can be tempting to do what you want to do and hope you won’t get caught. That isn’t wise. Most come to events and festivals armed with phones with cameras that can be posted to the internet.  A clever representative of a company like BMI or ASCAP needs only to look at that clip for proof that you are using music without a license.  The law is on their side if they take you to court and ask for thousands of dollars in damages depending on the crowd.

If you do not get a license to play the registered songs and if you do not get caught – no problem (that comment ignores the ethical issue of a rights organization).  Like with the IRS, as long as you don’t get caught cheating on your taxes, you can get by with it.  But that is not the way our country works. We are mostly voluntary compliance types in this country and that is the way it should be with compensating those who have valid rights for the use of their music.  Problem is many do not know that a high school marching band, an aerobics class playing music, a bar playing Elvis and Roy Orbison songs and a do gooder organization all need a license to play registered songs in a commercial environment. 

 Some songs are not registered, but you probably would not want to play those unless your crowd is a fan of John Phillips Sousa or maybe Roy Rogers.  You get the idea.

What happens if you don’t pay?  They can throw the book at you and get big bucks in the form of fines and damages.  To avoid big-fine city, you need to buy a license to play music at your commercial events, especially when there is a charge for admission. If you are having friends over to your home for a barbeque – no problem and no license required.   The cost for a  license for your chapter event depends on several factors i.e. number of songs, number of people attending etc.  Check out the website for BMI and ASCAP.  The site and explanations for what you need are very straightforward and easy to use.  Spread the word on this as motorcycle rights organizations such as ours need to set the example.  If you have more questions call me.


Q.  My late wife’s son was badly injured in a motorcycle crash and I want to get appointed as guardian, or at least I think I do?  She left him considerable funds.  What are my responsibilities as a guardian?  ABATE of Ohio Member          

A.  The court will require you to care for and manage your step-son’s estate prudently, and may authorize you to spend your ward’s (step-son’s) money for his comfort, support and education.  If the Estate has enough money, you can be paid for serving as a guardian.  Your bill for services, however, must be supported by careful records, and be approved by the court prior to you being paid.  


Most of my riding life has been done with safety equipment that I have owned for years – old-fashioned stuff.  I have my leather, steel toed boots that come to my knees, the same Hein-Gericke jacket and matching chaps that weigh a hundred pounds when wet, and of course, my Ace Hardware yellow leather gloves. When geared up, I look like an extra in the movie “Cruising”, except for the gloves.  What more do you need, you ask?  Let me tell you what I have learned that may save you some time and a hide transplant in Memorial Hospital.  And I am speaking to a lot of riders my age that have grown comfortable with traditional riding gear, and do not get it or even care about the new stuff that is out there.  Don’t get me wrong, as I am not about to go out and buy something colored green, but I am paying attention to friends that went down and survived without a stay in the hospital because of what they were wearing. 

Based on the following episode that will be described in detail, I am the owner of  First Gear items that I have grown to like (it is not green).  All of which were selected for me by the folks at Cycle Outfitters.  Harley shops sell similar good stuff. This equipment is top notch, comfortable, easy to get on – and off – rain proof and will do the job if you have a chance to go sliding down your favorite stretch of asphalt when the little old lady with blue hair (or old man with no hair) doesn’t see you.  I can’t tell you how painful it was for me to give up my knee high steel-toed boots that I have been training for years, but I did it.  They sold me some boot replacements that are rainproof and more sure-footed, and are comfortable to walk in.

            Imagine this:  you are riding along at the speed limit with no particular place to go.  Life is good and so is the sun. Then it happens.  A car from nowhere blasts you from the side and propels you into the air. You travel over 125 feet before Isaac Newton is proven correct – again.  What do you think about during the air time? Here are examples of  reports I have received over the years and in particular the good end results caused by wearing proper motorcycle apparel.

            Usually, no one can talk me out of my habits. That is until I spoke with Jay Jackson (the Dean of modern motorcycling).  And a clincher was the guy that flew over 125 feet in the air, landed;  laid still for a minute to see if his parts still worked, and then walked away with a beer-winning war story.  Friends like Rick Chupp tangled with a cager pulling a trailer on I-70; Jay Jackson survived a charge by a moose of a deer on I-74. Jay had nary a scratch and Rick lived to see another day. Both wonder what would have happened if they weren’t wearing good gear.  The experience of these folks talked me into leaving my long time  habits.

Now for the war story… You will hardly ever hear me tell sad tales of motorcycle incidents. I ride and I just don’t like to dwell on the unpleasant. Besides, there but for the grace of the Almighty, goes me. Well, here is what happened to the flying motorcyclist.  When the collision and subsequent launch occurred, he remembered thinking that he couldn’t believe this was happening to him and wondering how much the landing was going to hurt. Many have reported to me how long it seems that you fly through the air and how much time you have to think about things before you land. I tried to calculate the time you have when you are launched 125′.   Engineers claim we travel 22′ feet per second at 15MPH. I have to assume that it takes us awhile to get up to speed after we are hit – like maybe a couple of seconds. So add two seconds to the over six seconds we fly through the air for 125’.  With that amount of time we have an eternity to think about life and such. I am in awe of the way people describe these seconds in a near mystical/religious manner. In short, this time is nearly always described as seeming far longer than it is.  Like Mother Nature is letting you savor what may be the last healthy moments of your life.  Thinking things like; what you should have said to your mother-in-law or your asshole boss….

            Now for the landing part; he came down on his side, and all he remembers is sliding and sliding. They all do. That and the heat on his left knee and elbow. The shoulder comes next when his feet catch a hump in the ground and cause him to tumble uncontrollably.  He feels the tips of his state-of-the-art boots doing what they are supposed to do. He feels the body armor in his knee and shoulder pads go to work. His gloves go to work next – and they are not Ace Hardware specials. (Interesting fact: skin on the palms of your hands can’t be transplanted so always wear gloves). He remembers the heat build-up in his gloves and that the time of sliding seemed to never end. But it did. He laid there – totally still. Then, like he was running a check-list for an airplane flight, he methodically surveyed the movement and operation of his parts. Joy! They all worked.  He slowly rises to stand. People around him are screaming for him to stay down. He just smiles with the recognition that he has just been shot at and missed. He will remember this day until  he dies.

            The voices of those coming to help him are muffled as he takes inventory of his riding gear. His riding gloves did the job, but they are now souvenirs of a bad day. His body-armored jacket and pants are now odes to good judgment.  He refuses the offer of the EMT to get checked out as he is just fine – some lawyers hate that.  He is now a disciple of this riding gear and will proselytize all of those who will listen for as long as he lives. When asked how he would have fared without his body armor, he says, “at best, he would have been laid up a long time.”

            Enter Rod Taylor.  After hearing this amazing tale of survival, and despite being a creature of stubborn habits, I am a convert to this kind of riding gear. My leather jacket and boots have been semi-retired, but I still have my Ace Hardware gloves -not sure why.  I have now entered the world of modern riding apparel.


Q. Rod. While riding last week, my buddy hit me from behind. My bike was trashed, but I escaped with minor injuries – I think. Can I trust the insurance company to do the right thing with me? I also don’t want the insurance company to give my friend a hard time. How should I handle this situation?

A. Don’t trust the insurance company to do the right thing.  Some do, but some don’t. They are not on your side. Their job is to pay you as little as possible. That said, the insurance company is motivated to settle your claim  quickly – within reason.  It costs them money to handle claims. 

Separate the damage to your bike (property damage claim) from your personal injury claim. Your friend’s insurance company should fix your bike ASAP. If they want you to sign a release for the damage to your bike, make sure that release is for your property damage only. Better yet, send me a copy and I will make sure it is ok for you to sign. You are also entitled to damages for loss of use of your motorcycle. Don’t let them tell you because you have other modes of transportation that you are not entitled to loss of use.  The law allows you reasonable loss of use. As to your personal injury claim, make sure that your doctor has fully examined your injuries and that you are healed.  If that loss is minor, call me and I will give you some pointers.  There are time limits for your case and you should discuss that with me asap.  If the insurance company is unreasonable, tell them you are going to hire a lawyer. That usually gets them to deal fairly. If not, call me. If your personal injury is serious you need a lawyer.  It is not a fair fight between  an  experienced insurance adjuster and you.  Remember does not count unless it is in writing, so get the email or cell number of the adjuster and confirm everything they tell you when they tell you. 

Ride safe,  Rod  

ABATE Legal Services

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by the client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: © 2021.

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Ask Our Lawyer – December 2020

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


Q.   Our son is returning from active duty in Iraq.  He has a new motorcycle and wants to ride it as soon as he gets home, but his driver’s license/MC endorsement has expired.  How long does he have to renew his license and the MC endorsement?  A.B.A.T.E. OF ILLINOIS MEMBER.

A.  Usually military personnel on duty out of the United States have a reasonable period of time to renew their driver’s license.  In most states in the Midwest, returning vets have up to 45 days to renew.  Since you are in Illinois, tell him to get on his scoot and ride because he has two score and five days to enjoy his bike.  And thank him for his service for us.


Q.  My daughter wants an electric Harley Look – A- Like.  She is 12 and we live in the city.  Can she legally ride it on the sidewalk? ABATE of Ohio member.

A.  Most cities and towns have laws that bar these “vehicles” from sidewalk use and probably she would only be allowed to ride it on private property.  Several legislatures have introduced legislation that would have made the use of such vehicles illegal on streets and sidewalks.  And there are laws that tend to treat electric scooters as a motor vehicle in most jurisdictions.  Check your homeowners insurance policy to make sure you have coverage in case your daughter runs over the little old lady with blue hair.


    Next year on your way to Daytona tooling down I-16 or I-95 near Savannah, you may want to stop and pay homage to the Hell’s Angels of the 8th Air Force.  There you will find a museum dedicated to the Mighty 8th of the Army Air Corps.  It was in Savannah that the 303rd Bombardment Group (H) was formed to fight the Germans during WWII.  The Hell’s Angels, as that group called themselves, often fought the “Abbeville Kids”, the German yellow-nosed FW 190s.  On January 11, 1944, the 303rd made a devastating strike that took out much of the German Air Force.  For this, the Hell’s Angels were awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for bravery against the enemy.  At the Mighty 8th Museum you will learn all about those who sacrificed their lives for ours.  Did not know that the 8th suffered more casualties than the entire Marine Corps during WWI?.  And both suffered so much for our way of life.

    If you want to get on the lighter side of things, ride into Savannah to Chippewa Square. (Savannah is laid out in a series of squares with the houses on the outside and a park in the center.  They say much of London is laid out the same way). It was there that Forrest Gump told his life story – feather and all.


            These notes come from the Missouri DOT, but apply to all of the places we ride. -Rod

    The spring pavement striping program will begin after the first of the year, and drivers will see slow-moving caravans of trucks painting roadways throughout the state.  Crisp, easy-to-see striping is a significant safety feature on roadways. The paint contains glass beads that reflect light from headlights in the dark.  The “striping trains” move between 8 mph and 12 mph when workers are painting white and yellow lines on the highways. The trucks have flashing lights, boards with flashing arrows and signs that say “Wet Paint.”

    Many striping crews are working 12-hour days Monday through Saturday.  Although most of the striping is done during daylight hours, some nighttime work will be scheduled when traffic volumes are lighter. Rain or very damp conditions will cancel or cut short any striping work that is scheduled.

Safety Tips

Motorists should use caution in and around the striping equipment and crew workers. Here are riding tips to remember when coming upon a striping project:

– Stay behind the last truck in the work train. This will keep you from tracking fresh paint across the lanes and damaging the new stripes. It also will prevent paint from getting onto your bike.

– On four-lane highways, pull around the striping train by merging carefully into the open lane.  

– On two-lane highways, stay behind the last truck in the striping train, a place well behind the striping truck. This will give the new paint the few minutes it needs to dry. If traffic backs up behind the striping train, crews will pull out of the way where it is safe to do so and let congestion clear.  

– If you drive through wet paint, which is water-based, clean your  bike as quickly as possible with a high-powered water hose such as those used in car washes.

ABATE, though many know it not, is one of the greatest rights organizations ever;

but what it reaches for by far exceeds what it has achieved,

and what it has achieved is magnificent.


1.         Be familiar with every point in the waiver.

2.         Appoint a waiver overseer to direct the process of signing and processing the waivers.

3.         Examine photo identification and compare signatures (this may be discretionary in some instances).

4.         Then Waiver Overseer shall initial properly executed waivers at the time of execution (this is so you are able to obtain an affidavit verifying the authenticity of the signature should that become necessary after an incident).

5.         Secure waivers after confirmation (should be kept a minimum of two years).

6.         Transfer the signed waivers to the event person assigned to hold waivers from the event.

7.         In the event of an incident (however slight), notify the head of the event and your organization’s attorney.

8.         Secure waiver of the alleged injured person and make copies to be faxed and emailed to your attorney.

9.         Original waiver is to be retained by waiver overseer until further instructions from your attorney. Do not mail the waiver anywhere, and guard it with your life, as it may be your organization’s silver bullet etc. to avoid litigation.

10.       Get names, addresses and telephone numbers of all witnesses. Remember that long ago Gen. Forrest said it best – the firstest with the mostest wins.


Three Golden Rules

Q.  I have been asked to lead a ride for the local veterans group charity. What should I say to the participants of this ride and can I get sued if something bad happens during the ride? I want to do this, but I would like to know how much trouble I can get into if things do not go as planned.

– ABATE of OHIO member

A. The normal tendency of most experienced riders is to help those with less experience. Regarding the rules for a ride, the following is a good guideline to keep you out of the courthouse — and from getting sued.  You should assume that all riders have been adequately trained by the state that has issued that rider a license to ride. We all know people who can’t walk well, don’t drive a car well and even more that don’t ride well. Our instinct is to try and help the gyroscopically challenged. However, before a ride is exactly the wrong time to start giving instructions on how to ride. Remember, it is the state’s job to do that with trained instructors. There is a rule of law that places liability on your shoulders if you ASSUME a duty, a duty you may not have had under the law, and then fail to perform that ASSUMED duty properly. So, if you assume a duty of providing additional rules and riding instructions for the ride, you may have just set yourself up for a lawsuit, if they can claim your instructions were inadequate or just plain wrong. Remember, all you need to get sued is a lawyer with very little to do with a client that has a filing fee.

Here are the three commandments for ride leaders that will best keep you out of the courthouse and away from the process server jockey.  

1.         Rely on and assume that the riders are trained and skilled.  After all, the state has sprinkled holy water on them and provided them a license/endorsement to ride a motorcycle.

2.         Reaffirm the obvious — all riders are to follow the rules of the road and to obey all laws.  Don’t make up any new ones.  Common sense is your key to safety.  The riders on the ride are the ones that have to use it.  

3.         Make sure all riders know the road that is being taken to the destination.  Map quest takes it off you — use it.  If the ride is escorted by the law, put it in their hands and off your shoulders.  

P.S.:  Check your homeowners insurance policy. You may have coverage under that policy as a volunteer for a not-for-profit organization like a veterans group. That may be nice to know, so call your agent.



Q.  A member of ABATE was riding through Portage and was stopped by a cop for not having a helmet.  When the biker produced a motorcycle endorsement and advised the police officer that Indiana was helmet free.  That officer advised the biker – good try but in Portage, the city had an ordinance requiring a helmet.  How can this be when Indiana is a helmet free state?  ABATE of Indiana member.

A.  The officer is wrong.  It only makes sense that we have uniform laws throughout the states.  To hold otherwise would be to require bikers in helmet free states to map a path of travel in order to avoid helmet requiring towns.  Those cities and towns are not being practical, or good citizens. They may mean well, but they are off the rail.  Recall that Myrtle Beach in South Carolina tried to pull that one a few years back.  The Supreme Court of that state slapped Myrtle Beach and held the ordinance unconstitutional.  Likewise in Cleveland, where the city passed a stronger law on gun possession than the state required.  The Ohio Supreme Court ruled “no way” on the more restrictive ordinance, and held Cleveland’s ordinance unconstitutional by saying that in areas where the state has laws, cities and towns need to back off where the state has already decided to regulate.  The lawyers call that preemption.  One way to cure aggressive tactics of wayward cities and towns that violate our rights by stopping us based on bogus laws, is to require those towns to pay damages to the biker for the unconstitutional stop.  If they can fine us, we should be able to fine them.



Q.   Rod:  A fellow motorcyclist that was not paying attention crashed into the rear of  my brand new 2012 Street Glide that still had the paper tags on it.  I am sick about it as I only had it for two weeks.  The guy that hit me admits it was his fault and Progressive, his insurance company, has accepted responsibility for the damage to my rear fender, but are not willing to pay for my loss of use of the bike.  The dealership says that they can not get me a new fender in 6-8 weeks. It does not seem fair that Progressive can get off the hook by paying only for the fix of the fender.  Don’t they owe me something for loss of use of my motorcycle? After all, it is riding season!  That way I could rent another bike until my bike is repaired.  ABATE MEMBER.

A.   Hold your ground; they owe you.  Progressive Insurance Company touts itself as user-friendly for motorcyclists, so I am sure they are not trying to pull a fast one – at least you should give them the benefit of the doubt on that one for the time being until we give them a chance to overrule the adjuster handling your claim.  

    You have a duty to lessen (mitigate) your damages, but you also have a right to be put in the position you were in prior to the crash.  Just because an insurance company says they don’t do something doesn’t make it so.  Most states in the midwest, including Illinois, Indiana and Ohio allow loss of use damages which is payment for loss of use of your motorcycle.  This loss is measured by the reasonable rental value of your motorcycle and will vary depending on the value of the vehicle/motorcycle involved.

    In most states, it doesn’t even matter if you rented a replacement vehicle, you still get the value of your loss of use.  Indiana and Illinois courts have said that to decide otherwise would be to favor those who could afford to rent a replacement vehicle over those who could not.  Those that can’t afford to rent a replacement vehicle still have a loss of use which can be measured by the loss of the reasonable rental value.

   Despite the law, some insurance companies still try to take advantage of motorcyclists by saying you have other vehicles you can drive, so you don’t have a loss.  This is false.  Surely a company which seeks motorcyclists’ business would not take this approach.  Share this article with that adjuster.  It might help.  And send the adjuster the communication that you received from the Harley dealer that is doing the repair confirming the 6-8 weeks delay in getting the parts for repair.  Then get a figure from Harley as the to reasonable rental value for a motorcycle comparable to yours.  Armed with this information, you should “educate” the agent as to the facts and the law.   I predict they will send you a check for your loss.  If they don’t,  I will call them for you. 

Ride safe,  Rod  

ABATE Legal Services 

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by the client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: © 2020.

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Ask Our Lawyer – November 2020

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


ABATE LEGAL previously warned members about BMW motorcycles with potentially defective and dangerous brakes.  BMW has done right by motorcyclists who have purchased the affected models by issuing a non-compliance recall and stop sale which is set forth below.

BMW Motorrad is announcing a recall and stop sale for the K50, K51, K52, K67 and K69. The recall is related to a potential leak of the front brake calipers in vehicles produced from 8/27/2018 up to 2/28/2020. A process is currently being developed to inspect the affected vehicles and repair if necessary. The affected VIN’s have been marked with a stop sale flag “STOP340006.” Bikes in dealer inventory with this stop flag cannot be sold until further notice.  More information will be communicated through Dealer Direct as it becomes available.

August 13, 2020 NHTSA CAMPAIGN NUMBER: 20V476000

Front Brake Calipers May Leak/FMVSS 122

Overtime, a leaking front brake caliper can reduce the amount of brake fluid in the reservoir. Low volume could affect brake performance, increasing the risk of crash.


BMW of North America, LLC is recalling certain 2019-2020 R 1250 GS, GS Adventure and R 1250 RT, 2020 S 1000 RR and S 1000 XR motorcycles. The front brake calipers may leak brake fluid when parked. As such, these motorcycles fail to comply with the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 122, “Motorcycle Brake Systems.”


BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and if necessary, replace the front brake calipers with an improved version, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 6, 2020. Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.


 [Article written last April warning of the problem.]

Received a call from a long time ABATE member who purchased a 2019 BMW R1250 with a leak failure in the Hayes brake caliper.  He suffers from unanswered questions that should have been answered by the dealership and the manufacturer, especially after repeated repair attempts to fix the new motorcycle, or so they said.  Sadly, his brand-new motorcycle still drips brake fluid from the caliper and the dealership that is handling his problems is a hundred miles away. I reminded him that Indiana is still one of those Cro-Magnon states that does not have a lemon-law for motorcycles.  In the age of motorcycles costing as much as autos, I do not understand that lapse of motorcycle protection by the legislature.

If you learn of other such failures, please call ABATE LEGAL at 317-635-9000 and ask for Rod.  This could be a matter of life or death.


I attended this year’s Meeting of the Minds in Indy which was one of the best ever.  Jay Jackson and his crew of invincibles pulled that one off and gave us perfect weather to boot.  At the Meeting I had a chance to catch up with our gallant leader of the MRF.  No one works harder, or smarter, or travels farther for the MRF than Kirk “Hardtail” Willard.  He is truly the unsung hero of motorcyclists in this country, and probably worldwide. He can claim some Hoosier – Illini heritage as his job takes him to the facilities of Clabber-Girl – located in Terre Haute.

I remembered a previous conversation with Hardtail that occurred in Sturgis years ago. I brought up the subject of the State of the Union as far as we bikers were concerned.  I suggested that I had not heard about pressing issues in Congress or of scary legislation being rolled about on Capitol Hill.   With his intense focus, he cut me to the quick and posed the following, “do you have any idea how much work it takes to keep Washington D.C. and its collection of do-gooders “quiet” concerning proposed bills affecting motorcycle rights?”  With that response he made his point.  I had become so hardened to expect one adverse motorcycle piece of legislation after another being proposed that I had lost track of the point.  That we did not want any bills out there being kicked around that impact us adversely – period.  The moral of the story is, that because it is “Quiet on the Western Front”, it is also no time to relax.  “Quiet” is hard work.  Thank you Hardtail and all of the folks at the MRF for what you do.


Had a chance to catch up with Mark Buckner at the Meeting of the Minds, a long-time mover and shaker of the MRF.  Time usually causes most of us to rust out, but not with Mark.  He looks the same. 

 And it was great to hear stories from others of how he could cleverly entice an unsuspecting motorcyclist into a conversation as to how badly that person was needed to support the “cause”.  Mark is described as having the skills of an encyclopedia salesman in that at the end of the conversation the “unsuspecting’ had a new task assigned to him by Buckner without realizing it.  This happened so many times to so many “volunteers” that Jay Jackson coined a new word in the English language for the occurrence – “Bucknered.” Here is the meaning of this new word that I have sent to “Webster’s International Dictionary to consider for inclusion in the next edition of that dictionary.  

Bucknered \buck-nurd\v – a crafty procedure to entice good hearted people to work hard for the rights of motorcyclists.  Likely involves the transfer of funds from the good hearted person to the bank account of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation.  And usually occurs while that person does not realize that he is being had by the “great proselytizer” of the MRF.  After the process some of these volunteers are heard to have exclaimed, “I have been Bucknered”.


Q:        We have tried to get our police department to help us as escorts for our bike runs and as road guards, but they claim they are too busy and that we need to find off-duty officers who will volunteer.  We haven’t had any luck.  We inquired about being able to take a course to train us to be certified road guards to take pressure off cops and free them for more important things. There is no class in New Mexico, but we were told if we establish a curriculum the state will help us establish a class.  My question is: are there any other states that have such a class and if so, could you share that information with me?  –  Annette, NM

A:        [This response is from Jay Jackson Executive Director of ABATE of INDIANA]  I am not aware of any state that allows for anyone other than law enforcement to escort a procession that can disregard traffic control. Even parades can get a little weird. Some states have a provision in their code that allows for funerals, but are usually pretty specific with regard to who can conduct the escort. In addition, in some states, it is a felony to block traffic at an intersection to allow the ride to pass through. 

What you have been told is pretty common across the country, especially in larger cities. Police departments used to conduct funeral escorts and they also used to help people that locked their keys in their car. Hardly any departments (maybe a few small towns) do either of these anymore. Most of the larger rides are forced to “hire” off-duty law enforcement to organize escorts. The going rate is about $100 per officer (that’s per intersection if they are blocked for any real length of time) and generally about $500 for someone to perform administration (apply for permits and schedule the individual cops). 

I hate to be saying this, but I would suggest seeking legal counsel before having your members “play cop” either with, or without, any sort of training. If there is an “incident” and anyone other than recognized law enforcement is “in charge” the whole event or organization could be liable. I was part of an event that had an off-duty cop, out of his jurisdiction, on his own bike that was helping us out. After about 10 minutes at this particular intersection a car got tired of waiting, pulled around two other cars and drove into the intersection collecting three bikes in the process resulting in serious injury to several riders. All kinds of people got named in that lawsuit and it was indeed a learning experience. 

Except for the biggest rides where we bite the bullet and pay as much as $5000 – $10000 for off-duty cops, we’ve taken to having destination rides where people travel in small groups (3-8) obeying traffic laws and just meet at the end rather than have one massive group. Life sure was a lot easier in the old days. Good Luck. 


Q:        My father just died, and as the personal representative, I have been working on collecting all of the estate assets – death benefits, retirement accounts and the like.  It turns out that my dad, who was divorced 10 years ago, had never changed the beneficiary of his retirement plan at work.  Now, his ex-wife is going to get all of his retirement benefits.  Is there anything I can do?

A:        Unfortunately, probably not.  Only the employee can make changes to the retirement plan (including death benefits, investment accounts and pensions), so once the employee passes away, there is no way to make changes to those designations.  Further, if your father was covered under a type of plan called an ERISA plan (named after the federal law that regulates those plans) only a specific type of order (called a QDRO) can automatically change the beneficiary upon entry of the divorce order.  If such an order was not entered and he took no steps to change the beneficiary, the retirement plan will pay the named beneficiary, even if it was obvious that your father did not want that to happen.  Some states, including Indiana, have statutes which will by operation of law revoke all provisions in the will in favor of the spouse, but you should consult with a lawyer to see what the law provides in your jurisdiction or whether the divorce order was sufficient to change the beneficiary.  Also, remember that other assets like life insurance, motor vehicle titles and bank accounts can have survivor rights attached to them, and they will also need to be reviewed to make sure that proper steps have been taken to change the beneficiaries.

Ride Safe.

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services 

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by the client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: © 2020.

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Ask Our Lawyer – October 2020

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


Please be advised our law firm has been contacted regarding a dangerous roadway in your area.  It has been brought to our attention that 400 West nearest S.R. 10 is covered with loose gravel, presumably from chip sealing.   Chip Seal can be a nightmare for motorists and motorcyclists alike; slick conditions, tar on vehicles, vehicle damage, etc.  Please see that any areas that are scheduled for Chip Seal are swept of any excess rock in an expeditious manner.  


A bad day starts with reading a sign that says “fresh chip seal ahead”. You have two choices- maybe. Turn around or see how lucky you are, and head into asphalt hell.  As we know, chip seal is a bituminous treatment that is a coating of liquified asphalt (let’s call it oil) covered with sharp rock that can bust windshields, cut tires, puncture eye protection and cause hours of cleanup. No one likes chip seal other than the bureaucrats who seek re-election/reappointment. 

What about the dangers of loose chips which you cannot see that take you by surprise, especially on the curves.  Road rash due to chip seal is the worst. Besides flat tires and the balls of asphalt that spit up into your face on a hot day, what is there not to like about chip seal?  At least you can see potholes and maneuver around them. 

So do we vote for roads screwed up with total coverage of oil and rock, or go for a few potholes that we can deal with?  I know what works for most of us. In 2020 there has to be a better and safer way.  


Q.      Hi Rod and Brian, I have some questions on behalf of the Blackhawk chapter of ABATE of Illinois.  When a chapter has an event and other organized riding clubs join the ride and they decide to provide road guarding without our solicitation could our chapter be held responsible?

Could our chapter add a clause to the event release stating that all riders are to follow the traffic laws and posted traffic signals and we do not permit road guards and road blocking?

            This scenario recently happened on a ride that we hosted.  We received a letter from the city of Moline informing us that we must complete an application if we want to ride in a parade style.  I thank you for your consideration on this matter. – Carla Enburg, Newsletter Coordinator

A.     Carla, your Chapter and ride organization are in harms way if you allow/acquiesce in others  violating the law.  Your idea of adding a clause to the event release is a good one.  And I like your idea of advising that all ride attendees are to follow the traffic laws.  I would go so far as to post this information at the registration facility and at the beginning of the ride.

            While I appreciate that these errant participants were just trying to help, many do not recognize that vigilante road guards are illegal in most states – even if they are trying to do the right thing – in their mind. A common misconception is that the leaders of any motorcycle ride have the authority to stop traffic in the interest of safety.  The law prohibits this do-it-yourself ride control.

The reason for the draconian rules against vigilante road guards is that horrific crashes have been caused by well-meaning volunteers, who in most cases, have had no or inadequate training to perform such duties.

            A few years back at the Miracle Ride, we had an off duty, out of city, out of uniform police officer attempt to control traffic on a U.S. highway in Indianapolis.  A disgruntled person objecting to the off-duty and out of uniform officer’s attempt at traffic control, proceeded thru the intersection injuring two participants.  Certainly a showstopper for them, and the rest of the five thousand riders.

            Moral of the story?  Let the local police officers do what they are trained to do and leave the rest of the riding to us.  P.S.  We can help you with the language in your ride waiver.


Sean McDonald was having a wonderful day on his bike until he reached the intersection of Bronk and Caton Farms Roads.  There he was confronted with a notorious traffic signal device from hell – well known around the Joliet area.  This type of signal delay problem is the reason a state law allowing bikers to proceed through a red signal after waiting a specified time, was passed.

            So much time elapsed for Sean, that he had time to get off his bike to adjust his saddle bags.  After he complied with state law, he proceeded as the red light still glared.  About the time he got into 3rd gear, he noticed one of Joliet’s finest in the rear-view mirror.  He had an inkling of the problem he was about to confront.

            The conversation went like this.  Officer. “May I see your driver’s license”.  Sean. “No, because I did nothing wrong”.  Officer.  “Are you resisting”.  Sean, (humorously) “Are you calling for backup”.  Sean knew she was stopping him for proceeding through the red light.  And he knew that he had waited the legally required amount of time, so he was like the Christian with four aces.  In defense of the officer, she was not a rider and had not been informed of the state law allowing a bike to proceed through a traffic signal under specified conditions.  Still, Sean couldn’t believe that the officer was citing him, despite his protests. And he couldn’t believe she was unaware of the law allowing him to “run the red”. He invited her to look up the statute on her computer.  Neither could find it (more on that later), so Sean was cited for running the red light.  He couldn’t believe it.

            At home that evening, he was surprised to see Officer Maureen drive up to his garage and exit her squad car – smiling.  Her first words were magnanimous, “ Sean, I am here to let you know that I am big enough to admit I was wrong and that you were right.  Give me the citation that I issued today as I have notified the department that the citation was incorrectly written”.  She had found the law authorizing Sean’s actions.

            I salute both of these citizens; Sean for sticking up for his rights and Officer Maureen for admitting a mistake.  And I predict that Maureen will be running the department one of these days, and Sean will still be sticking up for what is right – the epitome of the perfect ABATE member.

            Since this statute is so hard to find, I have provided the citation and summary of the Illinois law.  Clip this article and carry it with you as you may run into other non-riding officers that are unaware of the change.  Same goes for many other states that have a similar law.  And follow Maureen’s and Sean’s lead – keep it light and smile.  In short this law allows motorcyclists to proceed through a red light after waiting the required time.

(625 ILCS 5/11-306) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-306)

3.5. In municipalities with less than 2,000,000 inhabitants, after stopping as required by paragraph 1 or 2 of this subsection, the driver of a motorcycle or bicycle, facing a steady red signal which fails to change to a green signal within a reasonable period of time not less than 120 seconds because of a signal malfunction or because the signal has failed to detect the arrival of the motorcycle or bicycle due to the vehicle’s size or weight, shall have the right to proceed, after yielding the right of way to oncoming traffic facing a green signal, subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a stop sign as required by Section 11-1204 of this Code.


Q.     How can you go from a motorcycle tire tread depth of 2/32″ (a supposedly safe motorcycle tire) to paper thin in less than 500 miles? I thought the tires were made better today. The tire was absolutely paper thin when it was replaced. If that tire had deflated while I was traveling down the interstate, would the manufacturer have any liability for personal injuries that I may have had because of the sudden wear of that tire? ABATE OF INDIANA MEMBER.

A.     According to Rick, the minimum safe tire tread is 2/32″ (or one millimeter for you metric guys). An easy rule of thumb is to take a penny and place it in a tire groove. If the tread is deep enough to reach the top of Lincoln’s head, you have approximately 2/32″. Another trick is to measure the wear bars with a ballpoint pen by running the pen through a groove until you hit the wear bar. (They are hard to see, hence the ballpoint pen.) If the tread is even with the wear mark–park it unless you are going to a shop to replace it, and then don’t ride any faster than you are comfortable with sliding down the road on your hide.

            As to the question on how the tire wore so quickly in the last 500 miles, Rick Chupp of Cycle Outfitters (one of the best motorcycle tire suppliers in the country), provides an answer.  He believes that the tire grooves provide significant cooling, hence, as the tire wears, less cooling. Remember, the hotter the tire–the faster the wear.

            We know of numerous cases of our fellow motorcyclists unknowingly riding on paper-thin tires only to incur a blowout at interstate speeds. The result can be devastating. You don’t just pull over on the side of the road and get off. It does not work that way. A deflation on a rear tire at 70 mph goes approximately as follows:

            You could get lucky and get to the shoulder without any problems. Unfortunately, you could notice a mushy handling characteristic, indicating a developing problem. By the time you have figured out what has happened, you are trying to slow from 70 mph, but the bike is becoming increasingly unstable. The rear end does not want to cooperate.

            If you have a passenger, that problem is tripled. If you are lucky/skilled, you may be able to maintain control and somehow get you and your passenger to the side of the road without catastrophe. In many cases, the motorcyclist loses control in the process of slowing the bike.

That control loss is occasioned by known and unknown gyroscopic forces that are forcing the

bike into odd aerodynamic postures and increasing forces from wind resistance. When all of

these forces, including gravity and friction, are competing for control of your bike, you lose.

The point of this story is that don’t even consider less than perfect tires and interstate speeds. While tires are more reliable today than ever, tire manufacturers demand air pressures be kept as specified and that the tire is not used beyond the wear specified for that tire. Do not be fooled by the wonderful tire experience you have on your automobile.

            Those tires may very well last 60,000 miles. Because of the nature of the manufacturer’s compounds of the motorcycle tire, and because of the extraordinary demand of a motorcycle tire, namely that it be flexible in almost all axis, rear motorcycle tires routinely need replaced at 10,000 miles. Again, use the Lincoln head penny or the wear marks as your guide. If your motorcycle is a Garage Queen (has not been ridden 10,000 miles in a 4 to 5 year period), I would replace the tire.

            As a final answer to your question, relating to facts that you pose, I find it hard to imagine that any jury would find fault with the tire manufacturer if the motorcyclist did not comply with the manufacturer’s recommendations on inflation and wear. Clearly, they could conclude that you misused the product in question, despite your claim that there was excessive and sudden wear the last 500 miles of the tire.

Ride Safe & Free,

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services 

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by the client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: © 2020.

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Ask Our Lawyer – September 2020

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


Hi Rod, first off I’d like to thank Brian Shadiow and yourself and your office for the preparation of my Will.  That’s a valuable service you provide and much appreciated!  In your column this month there was a question about the pronunciation of ABATE.  I know this is a trivial issue, especially in light of our Country’s current events.  Anyway, the dictionary pronunciation for the organization ABATE is abate (əˈbāt or uh-beit).  ABATE originally stood for A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments but has since stood for American Bikers Against Totalitarian Enactments; American Bikers for Awareness, Training and Education; A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education; and American Bikers Aimed Towards Education.  In 1972 I was a sophomore in High School, working in a small truck stop when a driver left a well used copy of EasyRiders magazine with an article about the National Custom Cycle Association, but the membership application information was missing.  After two phone calls I got to speak to Lou Kimsey and was told the NCCA’s name was changed to ABATE and was told what the letters stood for, so I got the pronunciation right from the founders mouth. Hope this finds you well.

– M.E. Evans Jr., Canfield Ohio


Rod -Thank you for the great articles every month.  As an Abate member, an avid motorcyclist, and insurance agent, I look forward with great interest to your article each month in the Hoosier Motorcyclist.  In my office, we work hard to educate our customers on the coverage’s you frequently write about.  I was rereading your article from July about uninsured/underinsured coverage and wanted to share an idea with you and ask you a question.  State Farm no longer offers uninsured/underinsured coverage on our Personal Liability Umbrella Policy.  However, you can still get 1MM of uninsured/underinsured on your individual motorcycle policy if you carry 1MM in BIPD.  Could I get your permission to reprint that article and share it with our customers that ride?  I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I’m trying to share this with all our customers that ride! Sincerely, David Wiese, State Farm Agent Attica, IN Phone: (765) 762-6151 

David, Hoosier Motorcyclist is ok with your reprinting the article referred to below.  Please give ABATE credit in your brochure.  We need all the members we can get.  And thanks for being an ABATE member and watching out for your insured motorcyclists.  I will be reprinting your email to me so we can all learn.  Ride safe. Rod  







Q.  I was riding my bike the other day, when a local cop stopped me for not having a muffler on my bike. I have an expensive custom bike, and it has pipes, but no baffles. The cop and I got into it a little bit, and he threatened to have my bike impounded. I was afraid that if they impounded my bike, it would have been damaged, so I backed down. I’m still mad about it, though. Can they do that? A.B.A.T.E  member.

A.  As with most legal questions, the answer is, it depends. Mostly, it depends on where you live and what the law is there. In Indiana and Ohio, inappropriate mufflers are subject to citation and fine as misdemeanors.

The officer can stop you and give you a ticket, and you will more than likely be allowed to roll on down the road. In Illinois, however, the law is much more strictly written.

Under Illinois law, “ It is unlawful for any person to drive or move or for the owner to cause or knowingly permit to be driven or moved on any highway any vehicle . . . which is equipped in any manner in violation of this Code.” See the details of the circumstance where you can be towed in Illinois Vehicle Code 625 ILCS 5/11-1302.

The Illinois vehicle code requires that “Every motor vehicle driven or operated upon the highways of this State shall at all times be equipped with an adequate muffler or exhaust system in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise. No such muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass or similar device.

No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle, and such original muffler shall comply with all the requirements of this Section.”

Since the statute declares that a vehicle in violation of the vehicle code shall not “be driven or moved on any highway,” the officer would be within his authority to impound the bike and have it towed.

Neither Indiana or Ohio have the same sort of language. Both of those states make it an infraction (Indiana) or minor misdemeanor (Ohio),but neither statute authorizes the officer to impound the bike. So if you feel like racking those pipes off (within reason) in Indiana and Ohio you can do so with some assurance that the cop won’t impound your bike unless you are really disturbing the peace.  In Illinois – go quietly as the little old lady that you awake could be the cop’s mom. 


Q.  I have been an ABATE member and rider for more than 20 years. Last week I was riding and came up to a stop sign. I was able to stop without putting my feet down. The local town cop saw me and arrested me for “running the stop sign.” I thought all you had to do at a stop sign was stop. The cop laughed at me when I used that excuse. Should I fight this or let it go? P.S. I have a CDL license and this could affect my job.  ABATE MEMBER.

A.  FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT. You are a CDL holder and you have no choice but to fight. Serious points will be assessed against your CDL license if you don’t.  (It has always stuck in my craw that the points are assessed against your CDL licence when you are on your motorcycle – not your truck). The cop is just plain wrong and needs to be educated. This case reminded us of one in Springfield where a bicyclist was ticketed by a cop for running a stop sign when the two wheel operator failed to put his feet down at a stop sign. The cyclists argued with the cop that he merely balanced the bike at a full stop and then proceeded through the sign. The officer did not buy it nor did the judge, who could not believe that a cyclist can balance a bike at a full stop. The cyclist offered to demonstrate his ability to the court with the bike. To the judge’s surprise, the balance was shown and the case was ordered dismissed.

Many of us get very good at stopping with no feet. The slow ride at biker events allows most of us to practice this to perfection, but most cops are under the illusion that if you don’t put your feet down you did not stop. There is a presumption against us that there is motion unless one foot is on the ground. THAT IS NOT THE LAW. Usually there are two defenses to this type of allegation; 1. I had my foot down and the cop didn’t see it or the cop was lying (judges usually don’t go for the last one) or 2. I don’t have to put my foot down because I can balance the bike. WARNING: be prepared to demo your balance skill to the court. ADVICE: if you are short on time, it is easier to put a foot down.


Q.  I have a bike that I bought stock five years ago and have made a number of improvements to it including a lot of chrome, custom paint, and other customized equipment. My bike was stolen last month, and the insurance company only wants to offer me book value for the bike. By my estimation, it’s worth about twice the book value of a stock bike. Is there any way I can convince the insurance company to re-evaluate their offer?

A.  There may be a way to do that, but it depends on how good your records are. Most insurance policies cover customization and items added to bikes, but the insurance company has to be assured that the customizations that you claim you added were actually added to the bike and became a part of the bike. There are a number of ways to do that. The easiest and best way is to document all the customizations done to the bike. This means keeping meticulous records of the modifications done to the bike, who did them, when they were done, how much they cost, and what effect those customizations had on the value of the bike. Oftentimes that requires hiring the services of an appraiser to evaluate the bike with and without the modifications.  And take lots of photos and send them to your insurance representative – before your bike gets stolen, of course.

Let’s assume you did a custom job with three distinct components: First, you did some body work – you put on a new fork, new handlebars, and new wheels. You did that during the course of one season and didn’t plan on doing any more work that season. It would be a good idea once that work was completed, to take pictures of the bike, put those together with all the receipts from the work done to the bike and send copies of that information to your insurance company.  At that point you should get an appraisal for the bike. Often, appraisers work at a motorcycle shop or dealer. You especially want an appraisal if the value of the bike together with the additions is more than what you paid for the bike plus the value of the additions. For example, you bought the bike for $5,000.00; you added $5,000.00 worth of additions, but those additions and your sweat equity caused the bike to be worth $15,000.00 rather than just the value of the bike plus the parts, which was $10,000.00. An appraisal will prove to the insurance company that the bike is worth more than the sum of its parts.

Now let’s assume it’s the next season, and you have added a lot of chrome to the bike. Again, you should take pictures of the bike, keep copies of the receipts, describe the work done, and submit that info to the insurance company for their files.  Suppose later on you decided to complete the customization and get a special paint job on it. Once that work is finished, you need an appraisal of the value of the bike to show the insurance company what it’s worth with all the customizations. With those documents, you will be in a good position to prove the value of the bike to the insurance company should you need to make a claim.

Remember, some insurance companies offer special coverage for customizations or for bikes with historic or antique value. If your bike has value for collectors beyond the book value for a stock bike, check with your insurance agent about modifying your insurance to make sure your investment is covered.  Some insurance companies offer coverage for a specific supported value.  This might be your best way to go.   Never forget that with insurance companies, if it is not in writing it doesn’t count.  Get email addresses of your insurance company reps and make book on them, because they are making book on you. Meaning, you should confirm every conversation and send them every doc and photo you have.  If that doesn’t work, call us.

Ride Safe & Free,

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services 

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by the client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: © 2020.

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Ask Our Lawyer – August 2020

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


Long before Harley Davidson came up with the Fly and Ride Program that made motorcycling across the country so easy, others had an idea that made traveling the Natchez Trace workable.

Back in the 1820’s Midwesterners that wanted to haul the corn crop via whiskey down to New Orleans would build a flatboat and take the current of the Ohio and Mississippi all the way at about 4-5mph.  All they had to do was steer away from the shoals and other water hazards.  Once in New Orleans, the travelers would sell the flat boat for scrap and then what?  Some walked back to the Midwest taking the Natchez Trace, which runs from Natchez to Nashville Tn. and is still the perfect motorcycle run.  During the depression, the WPA tackled the road and turned it into a national treasure.  No large vehicles or semis are allowed.  Just passenger cars, small trucks and of course motorcycles.  It is one of those roads you need to ride before you die. 

Back to the story of “Tie and Ride”.  Rather than walking back to Illinois, Indiana or Ohio some would pony up for a mule or donkey and split the bill.  One would start out riding the mule/donkey and would soon be far ahead of the walker.  The deal was – at noon the rider would tie up the mule/donkey and start walking.  When the first walker reached the tied-up mule he would ride until he caught the walker that tied the mule.  At nightfall the travelers would camp for the night, have supper and start the “tie and ride” all over again the next day.  Hence the term “tie and ride”. 

Have wondered if one of the Harley execs knew this history of the Natchez Trace and just modernized it to ‘fly and ride”?


444 fabulous miles and no commercial traffic.  That means no semis, no billboards, no lawyer advertising, no power lines, no road alligators, no crossroads to get hit in –  just pure backroad riding for 10 hours at 50 mph. Plan on two days and if you are heading south, start in Nashville and if you are heading North start in Natchez.

If you want food or a hotel you have to get off the trace.  Some of the restaurants are wildly famous and good.  Print the list from the internet.  Fried chicken is the best ever and the barbeque is a close second.  You can visit a cypress swamp with real alligators – not the road kind. Windsor Ruins is a treat and the old town of French Camp is a step back in wonder. Stop in Tupelo and pay your respects to the birthplace of Elvis.  And stopping in Vicksburg is a must as it was a key battle during the Civil War.  The town reigns as a crown jewel for southern style cooking. If you are a biscuits and gravy person, you might not leave.  And once you get to Natchez you might as well head on down to New Orleans following the Great River Road.  Almost Heaven.


The Miracle Ride has been cancelled because of many uncertainties including, most importantly, the health of the Riley Kids who would sit in their wagons and wheelchairs outside the Riley Hospital supporting the thousands of motorcyclists that participate in the Ride.  That Ride has raised over $6,000,000 for Kids at Riley.  Mark this down – we will ride again for the kids next year.


Q.  I am a board member of the Hartbauer/McBride Bikers Helping Bikers Foundation. We hold events to raise money to give bikers a helping hand.  Hartbauer is a 501C3 charitable organization, my question is when they have an event and someone were to be injured, would the board members be liable for damages if there wasn’t insurance for the event? We have a website if you would like to check it out for more information.  ABATE of Illinois S.W. Region Coordinator – Dennis Kinnikin

A.  Dennis. You ask a good question. Normally Board members would be immune from lawsuits concerning an incident involving the charitable corporation. But you must make sure that the charitable organization is acting like a corporation and complying with its legal requirements.  

Many states provide immunity to those who serve on charitable boards. Otherwise the fear of personal liability would deter many from serving worthwhile causes. 

As an aside many homeowner insurance policies provide coverage for when a board member is sued personally. So if you get sued, call your insurance agent to check for coverage.  Actually you should call your agent and inquire if you have coverage and if not can you get it?  It should be dirt cheap as there is little exposure to the insurance company.  – Rod


Abate of Ohio’s Ed Schetter, is good at covering our liability exposure.  Here was his concern and it is a good one: many ABATE/MRO’S own trailers that are used for ABATE/MRO business only, but many do not own towing vehicles.  Ed’s concern is, how ABATE should handle the potential liability where it is alleged that the trailer was a cause of an injury/crash.  Most MRO’s maintain trailer tires, lights, brakes and the like and are responsible if there is a failure of those items that causes a problem.  Which means that if there is a failure, your organization could get sued.   Usually the insurance policy of the volunteer towing vehicle for ABATE would provide primary coverage for any occurrence alleging a malfunction of the trailer, but a key issue is – how much coverage?  If the driver has the state minimum, that may be woefully inadequate to take care of serious injury/significant property damage.  You know – like the investment banker in a 300k Ferrari.

I recommend the following: 1. Maintain an ABATE/MRO policy that prohibits non ABATE/MRO use.  In other words, the trailer is not loaned out for use by others.  2.  Establish minimum limits of insurance policy coverage for those who tow the ABATE trailer and to provide evidence of this coverage (a copy of the Declaration Page of the policy is fine).  3. Make sure that the General Liability Policy of ABATE/MRO provides excess coverage above the limit of the towing vehicle.  If it doesn’t your MRO is exposed, and your MRO should investigate the cost of acquiring such a policy.  If you can’t afford one, then require higher limits for your volunteer tow vehicles.



The other day a semi came up behind me and passed me a little too close for comfort. The wind blast pushed me off the road onto the shoulder. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, and since I had taken the Motorcycle Safety course, I was ready for the change in pavement. What I wasn’t ready for was the sharp drop-off between the highway and the shoulder. It seems the highway department had been replacing the pavement and had milled off the top layer of the shoulder. As a result, there was a three to four-inch drop from the highway surface to the shoulder. When I attempted to climb back onto the roadway, the bike got caught on the lip and spilled me. What is the best way to climb uneven pavement on a motorcycle? ABATE OF INDIANA member.

You’ve already done a good thing, which is to take a Motorcycle Safety course. There’s no doubt that trying to get over a raised pavement is very difficult. Often the best thing is to stop, wait until there’s a break in the traffic, and slowly bring the bike back onto the roadway.  Come at it at as close to a 90 degree angle as possible. The closer you are to going straight at it, the better the bike will climb the drop-off. Conversely, the closer you are to parallel the drop-off, the more likely you are to catch the wheel on the drop-off and dump the bike.

Jay Jackson, Executive Director – ABATE OF INDIANA, suggests some good ways to handle similar situations. He notes that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends a process for going over objects that we are unable to avoid by stopping or going around. You must determine if it is possible to surmount the obstacle. You should be able to ride over a two by four from a contractor’s truck, but obviously that won’t work with a sofa that fell off of a furniture truck. You want to approach the object at an angle as close to 90 degrees as possible. If you don’t have your protractor handy, just try to contact it close to square. Control your path of travel by looking to where you want to go. Look well ahead and toward your escape route, don’t look down or at the obstacle. If it is that important, go back and look at it after you’ve gotten over it and parked.

Jay also says to use a specific method to surmount the obstacles. Rise slightly off the seat. Keep your knees bent and against the tank. Bending your knees has them working like shock absorbers and allows the motorcycle to move beneath you without bouncing your feet off the pegs. Roll on the throttle. A slight bit of acceleration just before the obstacle, combined with shifting your weight to the rear, will lighten the front wheel to provide for more travel in the suspension. When the front tire contacts the obstacle, roll off the throttle. Now you can breathe again.

Once you’ve gotten back on the road, you should do a couple of more things. The first is to inspect your bike and then contact your ABATE Legal Services team and report the hazard. As you know by now, the Legal Service team maintains a website,, to track these problems and report them to the proper authorities.  Our experience has been that once the government entity is on notice, the hazard gets corrected quickly.


Q.  My mother lives out of state and has been assisted in her activities by the next-door neighbors. My mother has a will that leaves her estate (not large, but a nice chunk of change) to her children and grandchildren, but I recently found out that she may be attempting to change her will to leave the estate to the next-door neighbors. What can I do to prevent her from doing that?  ABATE OF OHIO MEMBER.

A.  Unless you want to take drastic measures, there’s not much you can do to prevent someone from changing a will. Any competent person can execute a will, so unless you can have your mother declared legally incompetent, you can’t prevent the execution of a new will.

However, there are alternatives. A will can be disregarded by the court if there has been “undue influence” on your mother during the drafting of the “new” will. That is, if your mother was being manipulated or coerced into changing the terms of the will or the beneficiaries of the will. If you can produce evidence that your mother was being unduly influenced by her neighbors to change her will, then the court can throw out the “new” will and probate your mother’s “old” will.

Ride Safe & Free,

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services 

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by the client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: © 2020.

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Ask Our Lawyer – July 2020

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


Can a parent sign away a child’s rights?  Good question.  Let’s start by saying if a parent can’t, who can?  Interestingly, a judge must sign off and approve “minor settlements” over a certain amount, as a minor’s settlement is required by most states.  But what about a waiver?  The general rule has been that a parent can sign a waiver, but is that waiver valid, especially since the Supreme Courts of many states, including Indiana, have not ruled on that question.  One could say that the parents have waived their right to contest the waiver that they signed, but what about the minor?  Especially the minor who has serious injuries?  Case law in most states cloaks parents with significant authority to sign for a child.  Common law allowed that.  By law a parent is a guardian of the child. So my answer to the above question is still yes until some Supreme Court says, “ hold up a minute”.  And for now it is the best we can do.

Your second question:  How do you prove signature and the facts of parental authority?  A notary requirement would give the process a formal element and perhaps quell any thought that the signature was a mere formality and didn’t amount to much – hence the rationale for a misrepresentation.  Language on the waiver that requires the parent to swear that he has the authority to sign the waiver would give most a pause before swearing to something that is not true.  Notice that I said “most”. 

Your third question:  The minor signs the waiver, lies about his age and presents himself as an adult misleading, thereby us.  Do we take that chance? If not, how do we fix it?.  Requiring a driver’s license or other photo ID verifying age should solve this problem along with keeping a copy of the ID presented for our files should cover us.  If we have been presented with a fake ID, the law may cover us and hold that against the minor.  Maybe.

Your fourth question:  Do we accept a signed waiver of the parent without proof of parental authority other than their implied say so?  Remember the old adage -” you don’t need a waiver until you need a waiver”.  So thinking that we could hold the signer/misrepresenter to some penalty set forth in the waiver for falsely signing may not work against a claim from a minor who has suffered quadriplegia caused by ABATE negligence.  So should we think about requiring proof of parental authority to sign?  But what proof and how far do we go?  Photo ID from parents?  Copy of birth cert.?  The latter should work.  But at what cost?  And are we requiring much for a minor possibility?

As to the legal theories, Indiana has always recognized that when a child is injured there are two claims. The parents have a claim for loss of services for the child and other expenses.  And the child has a separate claim for his personal injuries.  So you can see the rub here.


Q.  I just have a question.  Last Sunday, I was on the way to the hospital to see a terminally ill family member.  We were told we had very little time to see them before passing.  On my route I was caught in what appeared to be a poker run of bikes.  I have NO problem with this but what got me was …there was no police escort and they (were) blocking traffic.  I could not get around them for about 10 miles.  Is this legal?  If so, where do I file complaints because (it) isn’t fair! I’m thankful for the good theses runs do, but I should have had the right to pass them and get to the hospital in a timely manner….thanks for your time!

A.  I understand your complaint.  All rides organized by ABATE are permitted rides and are police escorted.  In other words, they have the blessing of the powers that be.  Special consideration is given to traffic patterns to minimize the delay caused by the ride, especially around emergency facilities.  In your case,  had that been a legally permitted ABATE ride you would have been escorted around the ride so that you could reach the hospital with as little delay as possible.  I have written about the need to make sure all organized rides conform to the law  for safety sake and the concerns you have expressed.  We are passing on your sentiments as an example of what all of us in the motorcycle community should strive to prevent.


The Road To Paradise – Ride It Before You Die

While out in Sturgis, I had the chance to ride from there to Yellowstone and took U.S. 14.  That road was built in 1926 to get the hordes of Ford Model A’s there in good style. It goes from Chicago and follows I-90. I call it the road to paradise. If it ever had an Indian name, that has to be it.

I used to suffer under the illusion that all U.S. highways could have no more than an 8% grade. Not so! If you want a riding experience that will test your skills, ride U.S. 14 into Yellowstone. Coming from the East, cut through Sheridan, Wyoming and head to Burgess Junction. A few miles out of the Junction, you will be treated to some of the best riding and scenery God ever made as you are smack dab in the center of the Bighorn Mountains. Once you get to the top and start the down-hill slide, stop at the only rest area on the way down and take a moment to collect your skills – you will need it as old U.S. 14 gets narrower and the switchbacks get scarier. Some folks say that the Bighorn Basin was possibly the site of the greatest mammal explosion the world has ever seen eons ago. This is riding with knowledge, folks.

As you shoot into Cody on the way to Yellowstone, beaucoup campsites are reasonable and fit the bill for bikers. If you like guns, take in Buffalo Bill’s Museum. And if you don’t take in the Cody rodeo, you will be sorry. People from all over the world flock to see this All-American experience. Sitting behind us were Germans, to our left – French, and to our right were a bunch of Scandinavians. The world comes to see us there as this event underscores our American image. But if anyone would have yelled “fire” few would have understood.

As you come out of the rodeo, hang a right. It takes you straight to the Yellowstone gate. What will strike you is the size of the park. It is at least 60×70 miles so calling it a “park” is misleading as it is bigger than some states. Call ahead for campsites (I was not so smart) and live in paradise. You can be just like Jim Bridger, Kit Carson and Jeremiah Johnson for at least one night.

You can’t get enough of “Old Faithful.” It is more impressive than I imagined. Some say that it is part of a super volcano that will erupt like no other volcano has in the last few million years. When it does, they claim that ash from the volcano will go all the way to Delaware Street in Indianapolis. But don’t fret, as that is not supposed to happen for a few more million. As you leave paradise, you are joining the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and just about anybody that was somebody in the world. And they and you will say there is no other place like it. Do it and do it again, before you die.


Q.  Our local ABATE organization has been successful until recently. Before, all of us got along well and made a difference in achieving ABATE’s goals. Now we have a person in the organization  that is tearing the place apart with his bullying. At first, this individual seems like he is your friend: flattering, well-spoken and energetic. Then he turns one by one on his “friends” by dividing and conquering us, seemingly to get his own way. He is a master manipulator. He spreads falsehoods about those he wants to get rid of (usually those who disagree with him). Many have quit because of his “bullying.” He spreads falsehoods and when upset sets off a flurry of emails cutting his target. As volunteers, there is just so much stuff most of us are willing to take. I am concerned for our organization. To make matters worse, there are some financial irregularities that he has created. What can we do? I know there are legal remedies for libel and slander, and he can be prosecuted for theft if that is the case, but that is not the direction we want to go. Help!

– ABATE member

A.  Sounds like you may be dealing with a person who the medical professionals say is afflicted with a personality disorder. The American Psychiatric Association lists ten types (see DSM-IV-12).These types flock to not-for-profit organizations like ABATE. They are confusing and misleading in that they are usually very talented, but you should not ignore the serious disruptive effects that they can cause in your organization. Impulsive behavior, wild emotions and calculated divisiveness contribute to discord and disunity of our ABATE organizations. Disruptions by this kind of personality can be very confusing, especially in a volunteer organization.

Daily contact in not-for-profits is usually infrequent, which makes catching on to and stopping them especially difficult. Persons with this disorder usually get to where they are – by conning those above them and exploiting those below them. Typically they don’t give a damn about anybody. Their by-line is “I don’t give a f____.” This disorder is usually signaled by a history of unstable relationships outside the family and abusive relationships within the family. Usually the person has a checkered employment past as they do not make good traditional employees. Almost always the person that suffers from this type of disorder goes from treating his targets as best friends to declaring them hated enemies, bewildering and confusing those that work with the affected person.

Accompanying these types of symptoms are always extreme angry reactions and impulsiveness. Misappropriation, fiddling with the books, fiddling with expenses, pilfering, embezzlement, fraud, deception, awarding benefits to family and accusing others of doing the same are also common indicators of the bullying personality disorder.

ABATE should be on the look-out for this type of person when they join our organization. After all, we provide the perfect breeding ground where this personality type can create self-promoting turmoil. It is difficult to catch on to their ways when there is no daily contact and as such, they can comfortably ply their manipulative techniques. Usually, in the normal business situation, management catches on and the situation dies a natural death with firing. But what do we do in not-for-profit organizations like ABATE, with the person who has managed to hang on and continues to wreak havoc in the organization?

Here are some of the non-legal recommendations that I have passed on to others dealing with this issue.

Unfortunately, we are a volunteer organization, so it is tough to fire these types. If you can, you should. We are not in the mental health treatment business. Since we cannot fire, I recommend that you educate yourself and the organization as to “personality disorder” symptoms. Your description of the person touches on the classic characteristics of that disorder, so be familiar with the usual pattern of conduct that these afflicted persons exhibit. Share your knowledge with others. In recent years, many business organizations have had to develop plans to deal with this personality type. By educating your organization, everyone will have been clued into what is going on and the techniques used by this person. That takes the fun out of it for the afflicted trouble maker. Once the news is out and exposed, it is highly likely the person will leave, taking the problem along with them.

Another method is to try the straight-on approach. Control and security issues drive the person afflicted with these issues, so meet with the person and review honestly his concerns. Compliment his work where warranted. You should have others with you for these meetings. Keep it positive. If the person is salvageable, keep him with the strings you attach. If not, get rid of him ASAP. He is poisoning your ABATE well. If you cannot get rid of him, at the very least separate and assign him projects that lessen his involvement with others. Have him report to a “committee” so he cannot turn on an individual. Never let this type of person handle money for ABATE. Almost always, they steal.

If the “bully” does not get the hint, confrontation may be in order. Typically, the disordered person leaves a trail of inconsistent emails, false allegations/conversations, inflammatory accusations, bad books and puzzling math. Keep records and make “book” so that you can back up what you say. When the “bully” realizes that his methods are known, the fun runs out of his approach and the problem goes away when you have done a “HIGH NOON” on him.

Ride Safe & Free,

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services 

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by the client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: © 2020. 

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