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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