Ask Our Lawyer – January 2019

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services

 

THEY WON’T LET YOU DO WHAT YOU WANT IN JAIL – ARGUING WITH COPS

 

Q.  I was stopped by a cop on my motorcycle. When I tried to argue with him about the facts, he told me to shut up or I was going to jail. Do I have the constitutional right to argue with a police officer about an arrest? ABATE OF OHIO MEMBER.

 

A.  Many are under the assumption that once you are stopped and questioned by a police officer, you have no right to debate your position with the officer. Wrong. An Illinois Appellate Court (and many other courts) has reaffirmed our basic right to argue our position with an investigating police officer. One needs to be mindful that an errant cop has the ability to charge you with resisting and obstructing.

In the Illinois case, the prosecution told the jury that the defendant had no right to argue with the police officer.  On appeal, the Court held that this was a gross misstatement of the law and reversed the conviction.  We have and should always have the right to call into question the facts of an officer’s arrest. Obviously, when you have made your point, it’s wise to clam up.

Are you resisting if you are on a cell phone? No, but it could become resisting if you persist in refusing to get off the phone when requested.

According to the Court, nothing in the law suggest that you can’t initially question the validity of the officer’s actions. Certainly, you can ask why you are being arrested, and you can point out the officer’s mistake(s), and protest and argue against the officer’s actions. That said, if there was ever a time to practice diplomacy, it is when you are being arrested. Some of us found out the hard way when we were young and inexperienced, that jail is not good – they won’t let you do what you want in jail.

 

INSURANCE COMPANY MISAPPLYING “NO CONTACT RULE” WHEN YOU ONLY HAVE LIABILITY/ UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE AND NO COLLISION COVERAGE

 

Q.  Hello, My husband was in a wreck. Someone pulled out in front of him and he could not stop in time, so he choose to lay the bike down instead of hitting an SUV. Now everyone, including our insurance, says we have to pay for the damages to our bike because we did not hit the other vehicle. We even had a witness saying it was the other car’s fault. It’s all in the police report. So I was wanting to know is there any law that would help us so we don’t have to pay the $500 deductible and the days of work he missed? Thank you, B. W.

 

A.  Becky, the insurance companies are confused or are trying to pull a fast one. If the SUV driver caused your husband to take reasonable steps to avoid a crash and injury, the insurance company for the SUV should pay for damage to your bike and other losses. Call me and I will talk with you about your options. The no contact rule usually comes into play when you lay the bike down, get run off the road, and the adverse party leaves the scene and is never identified. Insurance companies say they have that rule in order to prevent fraud when you only have uninsured property damage coverage and no collision coverage.Some states like Florida have PIP coverage which makes these claims somewhat easier. Some enlightened and biker friendly insurance companies will at least let you try to prove the crash and run – in “‘no contact” situations. In many cases there are independent witnesses who can confirm the cause of the crash and eliminate the insurance company’s fraud concerns.

Below I have reprinted the article I wrote regarding the origin of the “no contact rule.” Hopefully this will help you with your claim.

 

THE INSURANCE COMPANY’S UNFAIR WEAPON – NO CONTACT RULE

 

How the insurance company’s no contact rule works and why it was created. Generally, the motorcycle insurance coverage you have meets the state legal requirements on the other guy in case you are at fault. You may also have uninsured/underinsured coverage when the other guy is at fault, but either does not have insurance or not enough insurance to take care of your losses. In the fine print of your insurance policy is language that says “if you do not make contact with the other vehicle that was at fault, and that unidentified vehicle leaves the scene, you do not have coverage for that loss.” In other words, if you lay your bike down to avoid the accident and injury, and do not make contact with the other vehicle–close but no cigar.  That is if you have no collision loss on your policy.  In your case we are talking about your uninsured coverage.  The insurance company with that language in its policy will not pay, even if you have ten neutral witnesses and a minister confirming your story. However, if you make contact with the vehicle at fault, your policy provides for payment of your losses.

Here is what the insurance companies have to say for themselves. They worry that if there is no contact with the adverse vehicle, they could be subject to fraudulent claims and they do not want to take the time to look into your story.

For example, if we are riding on gravel and lose it through our own fault, the insurance companies worry that we could contrive a claim for damages and say that a mysterious vehicle driven by an old lady with blue hair caused the accident and left the scene. But that would be fraud. Criminal penalties and the facts should deter this kind of claim. What about when there are neutral, independent witnesses who observe the adverse vehicle driving erratically so as to cause us to lay our bike down, and that adverse vehicle leaves the scene? No fraud here. How do you suppose the leading motorcycle insurance companies apply the rule in that case? They deny the claim every chance they get and point out the “no contact rule language”. There are some biker friendly insurance companies will give you the benefit of the doubt and let you supply witnesses and facts that prove your claim. I will publish the names of those companies in a future column. You should buy from them and fire the others.

 

 

RUN OVER? WHAT TO DO WHEN THE LITTLE OLD LADY WITH BLUE HAIR DOESN’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO PAY YOU?

 

Q.  Rod, I was run over by a person with low insurance limits. Do I have to settle for those limits? The insurance company says the person who hit me does not have any more money. What do I do? A.B.A.T.E of ILLINOIS MEMBER.

 

A.  Believe it or not, Mrs. Smith can drive down the highways of this country and is only required to have minimal insurance limits. Even though she may not be able to hear, see or think, as long as she has a driver’s license and the state required minimum insurance she is free to run over you- as long as she doesn’t do it on purpose. Minimum state insurance requirements can be as little as $10,000.00. Try to get a broken leg fixed for that. But even if the insurance limits are $100,000.00, what do you do when your hospital bills are over $100,000.00, your lost wages are over $25,000.00 and you have a permanent limp and other disabilities that adversely impact your life?

You have a serious case so you should have legal counsel as you have entered the big league of legal issues. A good lawyer will learn the amount of insurance limits of the car that Mrs. Smith was driving. ABATE LEGAL requires the insurance company to certify the amount of those limits.

If the limits are inadequate, what options do you have? If Mrs. Smith is underinsured, we need to determine whether you have underinsured coverage with your insurance policy that could pay for your losses, including medical bills, lost wages, pain/suffering, temporary and permanent impairment, loss of enjoyment of life and your spouse’s loss of consortium.

What can you do in order to maximize your recovery and stop the futile chase of a no asset person for more dollars? A search of public records is a must. You should look for exempt and attachable real estate, vehicles and other property. The internet is a valuable source for this information. After you or your lawyer have conducted a search of Mrs. Smith’s assets and learned that she does not have any assets (or at least she says she has no assets), how do you protect yourself if she misrepresents the truth or hides her assets?

Here is our advice. Prior to accepting Mrs. Smith’s insurance limits as a complete release for your losses, demand that Mrs. Smith provide a statement under oath affirming the extent and value of her assets. If she has very little, that is one case. If she owns 500 acres of good farmland or just hit the lottery, that is another. Armed with the statement under oath, you can now rest assured that if Mrs. Smith lies to you about the lottery she won or the farm she owns, you should be able to set aside the Release you signed based on her misrepresentations to you. The theory being: if she would have told you the truth about her assets you wouldn’t have accepted only the limits of her insurance policy. You would have insisted that she part with some of her lottery winnings and/or some of the farm.

 

ENCOURAGEMENT FROM THE AMA

 

Rod, I’ve attached an article (brought to our attention by a member) I thought you might enjoy. It reaffirms your strong position that liability waivers are essential to protect organizations and individuals. Your presentations on why we should take waivers seriously are among the most important of the MRO state seminars.  AMA

http://www.oregonlive.com/hillsboro/index.ssf/2013/11/skiers_beware_recreational_lia.html

 

GUNS, AMMO AND LAWYERS ARE FINE, BUT DON’T FORGET THE WAIVERS

 

Q.  Hi Rod, My wife and I have a 10 acre farm on river and are getting more and more visitors. Per your advice at the Seminar, we need a waiver for accidents /lost or stolen items/ and if possible requiring litigants against us to be responsible for all our attorney fees – just like you discussed at the seminar. Thanks.

A.  Waivers are on the way, good luck and thanks for all you do for ABATE.And remember that adequate insurance coverage for this event is the best solution – IF YOU CAN GET IT AND IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT. Rod

 

STONEY LONESOME MOTORCYCLE CLUB – HOW TO LIVE ANOTHER 70

 

Q.  Rod, Stoney Lonesome Motorcycle Club has been around since the 50’s. We own around 300 acres in Brown County that we operate as a private club for off-road motorcycle events, many of which are sponsored by the AMA. The AMA events usually involve minors.Having dodged a few lawyers/lawsuits involving minors in the past, what do we need to do to make sure that we are not cleaned out by a lawsuit that could exceed our insurance limits? And can you help us? Roy Garrett – ABATE/Dirt Off- Road Director. ( This is a repeat of a prior article, but we thought the message worthy of a reprint.  Rod)

 

A.  We will do our best to prepare waivers that will help protect your organization against claimants. In today’s litigation world, courts routinely recognize the validity of waivers and enforce them so long as they are clearly written and are fair.

The AMA sent a letter (printed above) referring to a lawsuit filed by an 18 year old alleging negligence against a ski operation. Sadly, that 18 year old was severely injured. Although he was 17 at the time of signing the waiver and 18 at the time of the injury, the court held that the waiver was clear, fair and that he had reaffirmed that waiver by subsequent use of the ski facility. In other words, there was an expectation of a waiver being signed as a condition of participation.  I cite this case as an example of how the courts will work with us and enforce waivers, it they are done properly.  Along the same line, a California case held a couple was bound by a waiver signed at a previous poker/run/ride when they neglected to sign a waiver for the ride in which they were injured.  Again, the court reaffirmed there was an expectation/requirement of a waiver and held them to it.

My greatest fear for our events is an injured minor who was accompanied by an adult that arguably did not have the authority to sign the waiver for the minor.

Along with waivers the Club should form an independent company to lease your facility for all the AMA events involving minors. That company would have complete control and responsibility for the activities on race days and would include requirements to inspect for safety.

Stoney Lonesome’s responsibility should be limited to the leasing of the facility and the complete delegation of the AMA event activities to this new leasing entity. That company would be responsible for obtaining the signatures of the custodial parents of the minor’s involved in the AMA event. This should be done on site at registration, or in advance if possible. In a pinch, a waiver could be sent to the custodial parent by email (iPhone and the like) with a text consent and acknowledgment. The latter is better than nothing and I believe the courts would uphold such a waiver is properly proven.

And don’t forget my “YOU ARE A TRESPASSER IF YOU DIDN’T SIGN A VALID WAIVER” sign, that should be posted prominently on the property at the registration point and other high traffic areas. Recall that the duties to a trespasser are less than to an invitee.  And that could help get your organization off the hook.  I know that does not look very neighborly, but you and yours want to be around for another 60 and those signs will help me – help you – with that. 

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. 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 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: RodTaylor@abatelegal.com  © 2019.

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