Ask Our Lawyer – February 2014

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services

ANATOMY OF A SLIP AND FALL CASE

 

Cary Scott stayed at a hotel recently, La Quinta Inn.   He is a good customer and will be returning in a couple of weeks.  His job as a project engineer takes him all over the U.S., but he is originally from Flora, Illinois, an ABATE member, and regularly reads this column.  He is a stand tall, pays his bills, supports his family, votes, never been sued or ever sued anyone kind of guy, and a pretty good pool player.  And he needed some help from ABATE LEGAL.

 

Here is the problem.  In early December, he was leaving the Inn, minding his own business, watching where he was going and slipped on the wet tile at the exit door all the while wearing Wolverine boots with one of the best non slip soles God ever made.  Partially catching himself in the fall, Scott injured himself and tore a leather coat. The staff at the hotel quickly placed a weather mat at the entry of the hotel to take care of the slippery nature of the tile. ADMISSION NUMBER ONE. There is also a video camera at this entrance area.  ADMISSION NUMBER TWO.  After the treating doc examined him, a prescription for pain pills was given and he went about his way.  Hopefully he just got shot at and missed and would be ok in a few.   All of this was communicated to the folks at the hotel and they promised that they would get with him regarding his medical bills and damaged coat – over a month ago. ADMISSION NUMBER THREE.

 

After getting no response from La Quinta, Scott called ABATE LEGAL as he suspected they were ignoring him.  In today’s world many companies pass their responsibilities to companies with nefarious names like “risk pool managers, risk assessment evaluators, risk adjustment bureaus” etc.  You get the idea.  Just like in a John Wayne movie – they went that away.  My experience is that delay, avoidance and the like are part of the strategy – “if we don’t call them back maybe THEY will go away and we don’t have to pay THEM.”  “Let’s make it too hard to deal with us.”  Hopefully that will not be the case with La Quinta – but we shall see.

 

Scott is a straight shooter and only wants to be reimbursed for his losses.  He has read my previous article on signing releases and so he knows that nothing should be signed that would waive any right to claims he may have for permanent injuries.  He needs to continue with his medical treatment to make sure that his problems are not permanent and that he will not need surgery in the future.  Nothing worse than having signed a full and complete release for a few hundred bucks, only find out a couple of months later that you need shoulder surgery and may not be able to do your job – or worse.

 

In the meantime Scott will copy me on all correspondence to La Quinta and their “risk pool manager.”  Hopefully that will help; and hopefully his injuries are temporary; and hopefully the hotel will do the right thing and that I will not be needed.  But if I am needed, we are prepared to help him to the next step because it is the right thing to do.  And he wants his experience published so that others can benefit from his efforts.  We will keep you posted as his case develops.  Remember that America is one of the safest countries in the world according to my theory.  First, we don’t want to get hurt ourselves, Second, we don’t want to hurt others, and finally, if you have to pay for what you break you are that much more careful.  It is that simple.

SCOOTERS, MOTORCYCLE COPS, WILLIAM MIDDLETON AND TRAFFIC COURT

 

William Middleton is a wonderful success story, but it did not start out that way.  Twenty years ago he had it all.  He was married with a wonderful family and a good job.  But he was also in a serious relationship with DEMON RUM.  He was an alcoholic doing what many alcoholics do – drinking and driving his way through life.  He did this so much that the law threw the book at him and took his driving privileges for a decade.  It was then that the light bulb came on.  He quit drinking and started appreciating life – booze free.  He became a wonderfully changed man.  And about that time he started riding a scooter as his way to work.  You know one of the 49cc jobs made in China or somewhere, with a foot pad, no requirement for insurance, registration, or a drivers license (or so we thought).  Life was good, real good.  He reconnected with his responsibilities and never had another drink.

 

The scooter worked for him.  When he asked how he got to work when the rest of us were snowed or iced in, he would demonstrate the scooter “V” with his legs spread as far as they would go astride an imaginary scooter.  He claimed it was a “hell of a two wheeler”,  which got him to work no matter the weather, and for cheap.  But then he was stopped by a motorcycle cop for going 40 in a 35 (what?); slapped with an “eight pack of charges” designed to get him off the road and derail his new life of meeting his obligations.  After being charged with eight traffic violations (speeding, no license, no license in possession, no registration, no registration in possession, no motorcycle endorsement, no insurance, and exceeding speed for a motorized bicycle) William gave us a call to see how it was possible they could give him all those tickets, and if there was anything we could do about it.  It’s been 20 plus years since I stepped foot in traffic court, but the thought of him getting stuck with over a $1,000 fine for going 40 in 35 was a bridge too far.  I felt like the guy in No Country for Old Men – agua.  I did not want to get involved, but I couldn’t help it.

 

So I became a traffic court lawyer for a day – been a while since I have been there.  Turns out, Indiana law on scooters/mopeds is about as clear as the roads after this year’s blizzard.  Since the law is so muddled – local law enforcement has come up with their own rule to determine whether your scooter is a “motorcycle” requiring a license, registration, insurance, and an endorsement.  Here is the rule: if the manufacturer’s identification tag on your scooter lists the vehicle type as a “motorcycle” then you will be subject to the laws for operating a motorcycle.  You know that old adage, “looks like a duck, walks like a duck, etc.”, well apparently even though it looks like a scooter, rides like a scooter, and is defined as a scooter by Indiana law – it is not a scooter (per the higher ups).  And it seems that every two wheeled vehicle made for street use, in Indiana at least, happens to be labeled a “motorcycle” on the manufacturer’s identification tag, even if it is under 50cc, has a floor pad, and is really a scooter.

 

In the end, the prosecutor agreed to drop 7 out of the 8 charges – except for the speeding.  C’mon, 40 in a 35 – who gives a ticket for that?  But my guy says that the cop nailed him right on the speed.  It wasn’t a complete victory – but it was a hell of lot better than where we started.  Moral of the story – if you ride a scooter in Indiana without having all of the requirements for riding a motorcycle – you might end up with an eight-pack of charges (even if you kicked the habit years ago).

CAN I CUT THE BITCH/BASTARD OUT OF MY WILL? (LET’S TRY THAT AGAIN) CAN I DISINHERIT MY SPOUSE?

Q: I have been married for 22 years, but we are no longer getting along. She is my sole beneficiary under my Last Will and Testament – CAN I CUT HER OUT OF MY WILL?

A: Most states let you do what you want with your stuff [personal property and real estate] when you die. However, most states will not let you cut out your spouse completely unless they agree. In many states, including Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, a surviving spouse can renounce your Will if you have cut her out and elect to receive a percentage of your assets, regardless of what you provide for in your Will. And you thought you got rid of him/her!

 

WHERE THERE’S A WAY, THERE SHOULD BE A WILL

Q: I want to do my will, but I’m not sure what I should put in it or what I need to consider when I’m doing my will.

A: Anybody who’s ever heard me speak at one of the state meetings knows that I think everybody should have a will. They don’t have to be complex, and they don’t have to be expensive. We do wills for ABATE members for free!

When you are ready to make a will, there are several things you will need to think about and come to a decision on:

  •                Who should receive my property?
  •                Who should take care of my minor children?
  •                Do I need to create a trust for my spouse or minor/adult children?
  •                Do I want to make any charitable gifts?
  •                Should my life insurance go to a trustee or directly to the beneficiaries?
  •                Who do I want to administer my will?
  •                What about taxes?

If you already have a will, you should review it to make sure it is up to date and reflects changes in your marital status or changes in the beneficiaries you named.

And by the way, there are several requirements that have to be met to ensure that the will is valid. In general, the will has to be made by some over 18 and of sound mind and memory. Also, it must be in writing, signed by the maker, and witnessed (with signatures) of two disinterested persons (not anyone who would benefit from or is named in the will). Upon the death of the person who made the will, it is presented to the court, who will make sure it is valid and provide appropriate orders to make sure the instructions are carried out.

If you don’t have will, or want to make changes to your will, call ABATE  LEGAL SERVICES. We will do your will for you, free of charge!

ROADHAZARD.ORG IN RECORD TIME

On Monday, December 30th we received notification of a cluster of potholes that needed attention on 21st Street in Indianapolis (at 10:58 AM).   We promptly reported this area to the Mayor’s Action Center, which is the go-to for road issues within the city limits.  After reporting this area, we sent an email to Josh Cornell (the gentleman who made us aware of this issue) advising him to let us know when the potholes had been fixed.  We were astonished to receive an email from him at 2:58 PM (the same day) that a majority of these had already been filled!  Thanks to Josh and the MAC for your help in keeping our roadways safe!  We report ‘em – they fix ‘em.

 

Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor


ABATE Legal Services

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