Ask Our Layer – August 2021

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services

DROP MY NAME

From Lisa Best, A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois, Inc. –

Rod, “We wanted to say thank you.  We felt our car insurance company was taking advantage of us after an accident.  We dropped your name during a discussion with them and the problem was resolved within an hour. You must be famous!”

Lisa, any ABATE member is free to use my name anytime.  Hope it works. Rod

Comment from attorney Jim McCarthy regarding “Turnip Blood” Article

Rod, in response to “Turnip Blood,” you might have mentioned that the friend should look into his own UM/UIM coverage, which might kick in above the $25,000 the other driver had. Jim McCarthy, ABATE member.

Jim,  I usually mention that and have in other articles (which are set out below as a refresher).  Just went brain dead this time.  Will mention your good comment in a future article.  Thanks for taking the time to comment.   Note from Rod – Jim McCarthy is an excellent insurance defense lawyer in Chicago and a long time rider and member of ABATE.  He does a good job keeping this lawyer keyed in. The article “Turnip Blood” Jim referred to follows as a refresher along with another that gives the full story.

TURNIP BLOOD (follow up)

Q.    Rod, my friend was in a bad motorcycle accident last memorial day on Highway I- 65 just outside of Indy, he was sideswiped by a woman going in the same direction, causing him to lose control of his bike, he went down at 65 mph. His hospital stay was lengthy, and bills from that amounted to around $500,000.00. The woman that caused the accident only had state minimum insurance of $25,000.

After contacting a lawyer, my friend was told that suing the woman would be futile since you can’t get blood from a turnip. He is now stuck with the total amount of bills, with more coming from the radiologist, therapist etc. all the time. My question is, does he have an alternate way to get these bills off his back? Can he sue this woman, her insurance company? He has not signed off on any insurance.  Steve – ABATE of Indiana member. 

A.     Steve. Sorry your friend is having these problems. Most people who carry minimal insurance limits do not have money or a way of paying for the damages they have caused that is why they chose the state minimum for insurance.. If your friend sues and gets a judgment, the debtor usually files bankruptcy, and garnishing poor people is usually pointless, unless they hit the lottery or inherit uncle Skeets farm. Your friend should investigate the assets of this lady before he signs a release and takes the limits if that is all there is.  His lawyer will know how to do that search, if not have him call us.  The internet is a good cheap tool for that investigation.  Hate to spend lots on a full blown asset investigation when it is obvious from the signs there is no money to be had other than the insurance limits, but always be on the lookout for the cheap skate farmer with lots of hidden dough.  Hate to use the “B” word – bankruptcy, but your friend should look into all of his options.  He may be able to negotiate a minimal amount of payment on the hospital bills and avoid “B”.   Ride safe, Rod.

PLAYING MOTORCYCLE ROULETTE – THE MOST IMPORTANT ARTICLE YOU WILL READ REGARDING YOUR MOTORCYCLE/AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE POLICIES. Follow up article per Jim McCarthy

Like playing Russian Roulette? How about for $100 bucks a year? Worth it? Absolutely not. But that’s what you’re doing if you don’t buy adequate uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for all of your motor vehicles, but especially for your motorcycle. Studies by the Insurance Research Council indicate that up to 14 percent of drivers do not carry any sort of coverage. And I bet they make up the worst drivers. That is one in eight. And some say that figure is going higher. Even more have inadequate coverage – 25k is not insurance.  That is just enough to piss a guy off if you are lying in the hospital with a 100k hospital bill and still more bills to go. Then how do you pay your medical bills, mortgage/rent payments and living expenses? What about pain, suffering, temporary and permanent impairment? The answer is having adequate uninsured/underinsured motorist coverages that you buy. Without it, you may be out of luck – financially.  

If you don’t have significant uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist coverages (UM/UIM coverage), you are unprotected against the driver with no insurance or inadequate insurance. If you carry the legal minimum coverage, you may be in compliance with the law, but you are woefully underinsured if you are seriously injured. In other words the roulette game is on for you.  It irritates the hell out of me to hear the adverse say “I have insurance” and to discover that driver has minimal limits.  Sorry folks but that is not insurance.  Repeat – that is not insurance.

Let’s say you get injured in a crash that is the other guy’s fault. You have medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering of $200,000.00. The other guy has minimal coverage of $25,000 or even $50,000.. His insurance company pays all he has, leaving you with thousands of uncompensated damages. If you do as I say, you can claim money for your additional losses from your own insurance company under your UM/UIM coverage. But you can only make a claim for your losses to the extent that your UM/UIM coverage exceeds the coverage of the other guy. Of course, the higher your uninsured/uninsured limits, the better your protection.  So just do it.  Be easy on me when you call and tell me you are in the hospital and that the adverse has no insurance, and that you did not follow my “I told you so” advice.  I will do my best to keep my thoughts to myself.

Note from Jim McCarthy…  Thanks!   I like it (the above article)!  Don’t forget to mention that he may also have med pay coverage available. Jim

JUST IN TIME LAWYERS

Q.  I just had a traffic accident ? Do I need a lawyer right now?

A.   Well, that depends.   In a serious crash always call and talk to your lawyer or someone at ABATE Legal. You can get valuable starting points and the do’s and don’ts. Most traffic accidents fall into four categories: property damage only, minor injury, moderate injury and major injury. These classifications aren’t exact, but can be useful guidelines. (This discussion presumes that you weren’t at fault and there is insurance coverage available.)

1. Property damage only: Almost always, no lawyer needed, except when a special edition or customized bike/vehicle is involved. If the damage to the car or bike is readily evaluated, the insurance company will make a settlement based on the value of the property and the policy provisions. There may be a little room for negotiations, but generally, the estimates will dictate the settlement.  As to value disputes with the insurance company, get on EBAY and get comparative value information.  And remember that you paid retail – not wholesale as the adjuster may try to pull one over on you.  If you have trouble with that, call us.

2. Minor injury: Usually, no lawyer is needed, so long as your injury is truly minor.  Have your doctor sign off on that one before you even think about signing a release and accepting a settlement for your injuries, and don’t be in a hurry.  Take the time to completely heal.  Your doctor should be able to determine if you have fully recovered.  If the insurance company is not responsive, call us. We can help. Sometimes just mentioning my name does it.  See first article above.

In these types of accidents, the injured person has bumps and bruises, and may be a bit sore, but has no symptoms that last more than a week, and will have lost no more than a couple of days off work. Oftentimes, the medical claims will be only for a brief visit to the hospital to be checked out after the accident, a follow up visit to the family doctor, and some pain medication or muscle relaxants. In these cases, the insurance company will make a settlement offer after you have been released from treatment by the doctor. The settlement will generally include the medical bills, lost wages, and an amount to compensate you for your pain and inconvenience. The amount of the settlement will be negotiable, and the insurance company may not make an offer unless you have made a demand first. Make sure that your communications with the claims adjuster are in writing (preferably email), and keep your demands reasonable. We can assist you with a proper evaluation.

3. Moderate injury: A lawyer is needed. These injuries are ones that may debilitate for a period of time, or may lead to lifelong impairments of a part of the body, but are not life threatening. The lost wages may be significant, or the calculation of the pain and suffering damages may be complex. Our office will be able to negotiate with the insurance company and secure the best compensation for you. If a suit is necessary, we can represent your interests.

4. Serious injury: You should always contact a lawyer. These cases involve life changing circumstances. There are many complex issues that will have to be evaluated and considered. Without an attorney, you will be at a serious disadvantage.

CUSTOM BIKE BLUES

Q:   I have a bike that I bought stock five years ago and have made a number of improvements to it since then, including a lot of chrome, custom paint, and other customized equipment. My bike was stolen last month, and the insurance company only wants to offer me book value for the bike. By my estimation, it’s worth about twice the book value of a stock bike. Is there any way I can convince the insurance company to re-evaluate their offer? ABATE MEMBER.

A:   There may be a way to do that, but it depends on how good your records are. Most insurance contracts/policies cover customization and items added to bikes, but the insurance company has to assure itself that the customizations that you claim you added were actually added to the bike and became a part of the bike. Some insurance companies will agree to a value up front and charge a premium based on that value.

The easiest and best way to make your claim is to document all the customizations done to the bike. This means keeping records of the modifications done to the bike, who did them, when they were done, how much they cost, and what effect those customizations had on the value of the bike.  And don’t forget the photos; you can’t have too many. Oftentimes you need to hire the services of an appraiser to evaluate the bike with and without the modifications.

Let’s assume you did a custom job with three distinct components: First of all, you did some body work – you put on a new fork, new handlebars, and new wheels. You did that during the course of one season and didn’t plan on doing any more work that season. It would be a good idea once that work was completed, to take pictures of the bike, put them together with all the receipts from the work done to the bike and send copies of all that information to your insurance company, asking them to add that to your file and explaining that those modifications have been done to the bike since you purchased it. You may at that point want to get an appraised value for the bike from an appraiser. Often, appraisers will work at a motorcycle shop or dealer. You would want to get an appraisal if the value of the bike in total with the additions is more than the value of the bike plus the value of the additions. For example, you bought the bike for $5,000.00; you added $5,000.00 worth of additions, but those additions caused the bike to be worth $15,000.00 rather than the value of the bike plus the parts, which was $10,000.00. In that event, getting an appraisal would be in your best interest because you could prove to the insurance company that the bike is worth more than the sum of its parts.

Now let’s assume it’s the next season, and you have added a lot of chrome to the bike. Again, you would want to take pictures of the bike, keep copies of the receipts, description of the work done, and submit it to the insurance company for their files so you can maintain the value of the bike. Let’s assume now that you have decided to complete the customization and get a custom paint job on it. Once you finish all the customization that you plan on doing, at that point you should get an appraisal of the value of the bike to show the insurance company what it’s worth with all the customizations. With all those documents and evidence of the customizations, you will be in a good position to prove the value of the bike to the insurance company should you need to make a claim.  And always send the insurance company copies of your latest appraisals.

Some insurance companies offer special insurance deals for customized bikes or those  with historic or antique value. If your bike has value for collectors beyond the book value of a stock bike, check with your insurance agent about modifying your insurance policy to make sure your investment is covered.  You may be able to agree on the value of the bike if it is totaled or stolen.  So if the bike is totaled or stolen they will send you a check for the agreed amount.

Ride Safe.

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services

http://www.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 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: RodTaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2021.

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