Ask Our Lawyer February 2013

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


Q.   Rod, while riding in Kentucky, out of nowhere a stray dog jumped in front of my bike. I went down hard, was injured and my bike sustained considerable damage. While waiting for medical attention, I learned that the local preacher was feeding and caring for the stray, but was not otherwise securing the dog. He made a big point of saying that he did not own the dog and denied legal responsibility ( just like Peter Sellers did), but he did admit to feeding and caring for it. What is the law in this situation?

A.   In my experience, injuries caused by loose dogs are some of the more devastating – hence the reason that many states and counties have enacted laws/ordinances that protect the public. Many riders do not appreciate the dangers of loose dogs running into the path of a motorcycle. I didn’t until I got into the lawyering business. My technique of dog avoidance was to speed around them or nudge them away with my boot – both are bad ideas. Isaac Newton is right, “whatever you hit” hit it as slow as possible.   Here is what you can expect when you hit a dog, even at low speeds of 30 or 40 mph and god forbid you hit one at 50 or 60 mph. Your front tire instantly turns sideways even though you are traveling at lower speeds, and it does this – without a hint of warning, unless you are so good that you hit the dog – dead center. And that almost never happens with the usual collision causing your bike to go head over heals, with you somewhere in the mix. Not good. Most bikers that have not hit a dog assume that you just run over the top of the dog and go on. Not so, unless you’re that one in a thousand and happen to hit the dog with equal pressures on the front tire.

Laws have been enacted in many jurisdictions to protect the public from the dangers of stray dogs on roadways which include responsibility for feeding, caring for and otherwise harboring a stray dog. Even though the intentions are pure, once you undertake the care of a stray, there is a duty in many jurisdictions to make sure the dog does not run loose. In other words, if you start caring for a stray dog, you have to do it right and make sure that the stray you feed does not cause harm to others. Legally it becomes your dog to keep out of the public’s way. Interestingly, cats are off the hook in Illinois – must have had a good lobbyist.

Regulation 90.02 in Kentucky, 510 ILCS 5/2.16 in Illinois, Sec. 955.28 in Ohio and other similar laws around the country, defines the owner of an animal as one “who keeps or harbors an animal or dog, has it in his care, or permits it to remain on or about the premises owned or occupied by him ….” as such “is liable for all damages caused by such animal….” This is so even if a person just cared for the stray dog. No ownership is required. Common sense and lawmakers do not want folks harboring a dog without the legal responsibilities. Accordingly, most communities disallow the Pink Panther, “it’s not my dog defense.”

In searching for the law on responsibilities of “dog harborers” don’t stop with state laws (statutes). Counties in some states have enacted ordinances that provide legal responsibilities to the owner of the property, even where the dog is owned by the tenant. For example, an Ordinance in Howard County, Indiana provides for liability of the owner of business property, when that owner permits a dog to roam free on the property even when that dog is owned by another.   It is sufficient that the property owner knows that a dog is running loose and could be a problem. The idea is that the land owner has control of his property and can make sure the renter’s dog is secured.

In most cases, home/business insurance policies, provide coverage for your personal injury and property damage to your bike. So if you get hurt by a dog when it runs out in front of you, and the person standing over you seems to know all about the dog but does not want to own up to the responsibility for your injuries, I know a lawyer that knows all about your rights.


A while back, I wrote a story about a good friend of mine who had a traumatic experience while riding and gave it up. While on his weekly ride, his good friend was killed by a couple of racing drivers. My friend is a guy that had more miles on a bike than just about anyone I know – including me. Doctor Taylor here, concluded that surely more is going on with him than meets the eye. Motorcycling was his life. How could he quit? And what would cause such a drastic decision in his life. Using the experiences of clients I have had over the years, I suspected the root of the evil was posttraumatic stress disorder. My experience is that many of these riders return to riding at some point in their lives, but not until, they, on their own or with the help of others, work out the “stress issues”. And “we” have to realize that the meteorite can get us – unlikely, but it still can happen.

Interestingly, I have observed others who seem impervious to the “stress disorder” and go about putting their life back together even better than it was before. “Ron” is the poster biker for a fellow that gets hit on his motorcycle, and honestly believes that his life has become better for it. He was run over by a person who was not paying attention. Many surgeries and infections later, his right leg was removed below the knee. Now he is living life with the gusto of a man many years younger having become heavily involved in his church and the needs of his family. He has been an empty nester for many years now, and has replaced the requirements of his graduate engineer daughter with seven dogs. I think it is fair to say they are having a hoot. And did I mention that he continues to ride? Why is he and those like him different than the others? I wish I knew so that I could bottle his attitude and pass it on to those of us that need it desperately.


Since ABATE, MRF, AMA and other motorcycle rights organizations have gotten involved, 5 states have outlawed the practice of federally funded motorcycle only checkpoints. I have written about this practice in the past when it first started showing up in New York, Illinois and other states. What better way to ruin your day of riding than a federally funded police officer getting federal funds for his overtime gig to cause you delay or deter you from attending your favorite motorcycle event? Now Missouri has introduced legislation to join the other “outlaw” well thinking states. Looks like we have only 44 more to go if Missouri does as the other five. If you need help in your state getting legislation introduced to eliminate this unwarranted practice let us know.


With the freeze and thaw, there will be numerous potholes and dangerous riding conditions. Take a moment out of your day to report these adverse conditions to Looking out for others on the open road might just come back and look out for you!

From time to time we will commend people and companies that are proactive in helping to keep our roadways safe. This month we thank BNSF Railway for its quick action in repairing a very dangerous railroad crossing. The crossing, located on Somonauk Road/DeKalb County had a huge pothole 18 inches wide by 3-4 inches deep. Rebar was visible in the bottom of this small canyon – waiting on you to show up! After notifying BNSF Regional Director of Public Affairs, Amy McBeth, we were kept up to speed as to the improvement of this crossing which was completed in less than two weeks. Impressive! Thanks again to BNSF and Amy for their very timely and responsible actions!


In a trial, a small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her and asked, ‘Mrs. Jones, do you know me?’ She responded, ‘Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams. I’ve known you since you were a boy, and frankly, you’ve been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you’re a big shot when you haven’t the brains to realize you’ll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.’

The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, ‘Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?’

She again replied, ‘Why yes, I do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a

youngster, too. He’s lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can’t build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.’

The defense attorney nearly died.

The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said, ‘If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I’ll send you both to the electric chair.’

Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor
ABATE Legal Services

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.

Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery and expenses as approved by client, consistent with and conforming to applicable state law. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at (800) 25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to RodTaylor@abatelegalcom. © 2013.

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