Ask Our Lawyer July 2015

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services

MOTORCYCLE NATION

The year 1909 was a time when there were no cars, generally speaking.  Just trains, horses, bicycles and most significantly motorcycles.   For a biker that meant almost nothing to watch out for.   It was August of that year and a guy by the name of Fisher ( famous as founder of the Indianapolis 500, Miami Beach and Presto-Lite) was holding the first race at the Indy 500; it was a motorcycle race.  William Harley and Walter Davidson were there along with their chief line foreman, and everybody that was anybody in motorcycling.

How do I know this?  While at the Indy Motorcycle Expo, I took in the Old Timers area.  There, the old flat trackers, hill climbers, and Daytona veterans were in force.  Some bring artifacts from the glory days, like Kenny Staughton.  For the last several decades the equivalent of  the painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence for motorcyclists has hung above Kenny’s living room couch.  It is one of those seven foot long – one foot high brown-toned photographs of old.  The photograph looks North on Meridian Street from the base of the Monument Circle.  (The site of the Motorcycles on Meridian that happens each summer) Positioned on about a third of the Circle are 250 motorcycles.  I can identify two cylinder Indians and one cylinder Harleys.  In those days Harley was not into speed, but endurance.  Indian was into speed.  So two races were to happen.  One was the speed race at the Indy 500 and the other was an endurance race starting in Cleveland, down to Columbus, over to Dayton, Richmond, just  below Sky Castle Airport,  Rushville and finally Indy.  Bill Harley and Walter Davidson won the endurance race and came together with the Indy racers for the photograph.  I can identify William Harley and Walter Davidson and the Harley Davidson factory foreman – I think.  Or at least that is my story and am sticking to it.  I thought about having a contest and naming it “Looking for Walter” after the kid game.

What is striking about the photo is there are almost no cars in the photo – maybe a lonely handmade Buick, but that is about it.  Around the sea of motorcycles are horse and carriages and a bicycle or two.  In 1909 we were truly a motorcycle nation.  Not till 1912 when Henry Ford implemented the assembly line in Detroit City did that change.  Bob Schulteti of Harley South-Side believes that Motorcycle Nation existed into the late teens before there were enough cars to make a difference.

While admiring Kenny’s wonderful photograph, I wondered aloud where the motorcyclists got gas, since there were no cars- no gas stations.  Bob Schulteti  knew the answer – drug stores.  Imagine – a land before gas stations and no place to get a Big Gulp.

Kenny allowed us to get copies of his living room treasure.  I gave one of the copies to Andre Lacy, a fellow motorcyclist, friend, owner of Tucker Rocky, Biker’s Choice and Board Member of the Indy 500 operation.  When the folks at the Indy 500 discovered they did not have that photo – of the first race at the Indy 500, and never knew it existed, Andre’s copy was repositioned.  Next time you are in my office, take the time to gaze at a photograph that captured a time when America was a “motorcycle nation” – with not one gas station.

MIRACLE RIDE 2015 IN THE RAIN  – AND WOW THEY CAME ANYWAY

On ride day, we were anxiety ridden when the clouds and rain were predicted.  That is an almost new experience because for the last 20 plus years the no-rain gods have smiled upon the Miracle Ride.   This time, for the Sunday ride to Riley Hospital for Children and around the famous Indy 500, we were expecting the worst.  Not many my age, venture out into rain storms on purpose. We only do it when we are caught in it, or it is for a wonderful cause – like the kids at Riley.  Coincidently, my wife, Ann, has stopped calling me Weatherman Rod based on my lack of reliable weather predictions recently.  I had predicted clear skies.

Coming in to the back lot of Allison Transmission for the start of the Ride, only a couple hundred bikes were spotted – not a good sign.  Usually by that time, thousands would be present.  Celebration was the mood, and ABATE LEGAL would once again be serving  “Long’s”  famous donuts – free.  Life would be good and usually the kids at Riley Hospital would pack them in.  Not today, or so it seemed.  I started practicing the consolation speech that you give when things go badly.

Then, when barely enough time to  get lined up for the start remained, they started coming.  A few at first, then scores, then hundreds.  Before long, Tom of the Bob & Tom Show fame was entertaining his usual thousands.  They had come to help the kids at Riley – even in the rain.  I believe that is all you need to know about bikers and where their hearts rest.  We may not have set a Miracle Ride record this year, but we did for the Miracle Ride in the rain.

STATE REQUIREMENT OF MINIMUM INSURANCE –  IS NOT INSURANCE!

Roulette is what you should call the next time you ride to Mardi Gras or Bike week and  travel through Mississippi, where it is estimated almost a third of the vehicles in that state are uninsured.  Meaning that you are on your own if you get hit by one of those.  It boils down to –  how lucky do you feel?  And we have discovered that of those who are insured in Mississippi, almost 50% of those have the state minimum of 25k.  Some states have the nerve to call 25k insurance.  By any definition that is not insurance.  With a left turn in front of you,  a helicopter ride to the hospital, surgery for injury repair, lost wages, pain – suffering, and temporary impairment, 25k from the adverse driver is just enough to piss you off.  And to make matters worse, all of health insurers will have a priority lien on those proceeds.  So if your hospital bills exceed 25k guess who doesn’t get the money – you.

For any state to claim that 25k  (some states have even less) meets a minimum liability requirement based on potential damage caused is terribly misleading.  That state minimum goes back decades.  Shouldn’t it be updated to at least keep up with increasing medical costs, wages etc.?  An air-vac ride to the hospital can cost over 25k.  Since the state and insurance companies are not looking out for you, you have to look out for you by buying adequate uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.  What is adequate?  As much as you can buy is my answer.  The costs to upgrade is cheap, cheap and wonderfully cheap.  I maintain that you should not ride in Mississippi, Florida and many other states where the numbers of uninsured/underinsured are breathtaking, unless you have adequate uninsured/ underinsured coverage.

There should be a law that disallows anyone to call insurance “insurance” unless the insurance amount is sufficient to pay for the harm caused.  After all, in most civilized countries, the rule is “if you break it – you should pay for it.”  And if you can not pay for the harm to the biker/motorist that you just ran over – you should not be allowed to drive.

Lets take a typical state insurance requirement where the state minimum is $25k per individual, $50k for all claimants, and $10k for property damage.  The average premium for this policy is

$48.20 per month, but without uninsured/underinsured coverage.  If you add that coverage, it costs only a little less than 4 bucks more or $51.93  per month.  On average it costs only about 10% more of your monthly payment to carry uninsured/underinsured coverage for the lower limits.

Significantly, the  cost to go from state minimum insurance to upgrade to the most popular coverage of $100K- $300K,  is less than $5.00 more per month.  And the cost to go from state minimum insurance to upgrade to the usual highest coverage of $500k was less than $12.00 more per month than the basic liability policy –  which is roughly 25% of your monthly payment.  And that is with uninsured/underinsured coverage.  By any definition – a good deal, especially when the little old lady (or man) that can’t see or hear – gets you.

MEDICAL BILL HELL

Q.  I was in an motorcycle accident recently, and the medical bills are starting to pile up.  The other guy’s insurance company won’t pay the bills, even though the accident was clearly his fault.   I believe it is unfair that my insurance company should have to pay.  What should I do about all of these bills? O ABATE of  OHIO MEMBER.

A.  There are several things you can do to protect your credit rating while you convalesce and try to maintain your household.  Of course, you could let ABATE Legal Services team deal with the insurance company for you!  First, notify your motorcycle insurance carrier of the accident, and ask if you have medical payments coverage.  If you have this coverage, the insurance company will pay your medical provider if you are injured in an accident, regardless of who was at fault – up to the limits of your coverage.  Also, you should notify your health insurance carrier, so that they can pay the balance of the bills for your care.

Many people are reluctant to have their own medical/health insurance cover the bills, especially when it was the other person’s fault.  Don’t let that stop you! You paid insurance premiums for a reason, usually an hour at a time – so use it!

Most insurance companies have policy language requiring reimbursement for medical bills  paid for you caused by someone else’s fault.  If you are involved in an accident, your insurance carrier will send you a letter asserting a “right of subrogation.”  That is lawyer talk for the right to be repaid.  Basically, the insurance company will pay your bills now in exchange for the right to be paid from the proceeds of a settlement or judgment against the guy who caused the accident.  Almost certainly, your contract with the insurance company obligates you to reimburse them for the money they paid from the proceeds of your settlement.

This can work to your advantage, and here’s how.  Most settlements and judgments are based on the amount of the medical bills the accident victim incurred.  And insurance companies understand that the amount of the medical bills is a reflection, however imperfect, of the severity of the injury and factor settlements accordingly.

You should know that insurance companies have previously negotiated rates with health care providers that permit them to pay less than the billed amount for services rendered.  While the bill for the hospital may be $10,000, your insurance company may have only paid $6,000.  In that case, all you are obligated to pay back is the amount actually paid to the medical provider.

And ABATE Legal Services can help.  We have had great success in negotiating with insurance carriers to minimize or eliminate subrogation repayments, so that $6,000 subrogation obligation described above could be significantly reduced depending on the facts of your case.

Don’t forget, you can always call the ABATE Legal Services team if you have any questions about your legal rights.

Ride Safe & Free,

Rod Taylor


ABATE Legal Services

abatelegal.com
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 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@abatelegal.com  © 2015.

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