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Ask Our Lawyer - January 2010

Back from Afghanistan, a Solder Needs Help

Chase Crain, from Pontiac Illinois, is back from Afghanistan (as part of the wounded warriors program at Ft. Knox) and he needs help. He is a fellow biker, and here is his story. When he was a teenager in Pontiac, he did what a lot a teenagers do: he got with a group of boys that got slightly off the rail. Back where I come from we had the Elm River Boys (where I belonged) , the Geff Boys (they were the toughest) and the Mt. Erie Boys, among others. Today they would be called gangs by our local cops. Chase's sin was criminal trespass and painting the side of a grain bin. The law decided that he and his ilk were the end of civilization in Pontiac, so the legal system threw the book at him and nailed him with a felony and some misdemeanors. He had a public defender so you can draw your own conclusions as to whether his was a fair fight or a community overreacting. Remember there is nothing more dangerous than a cop with very little to do in a community prone to overreacting. Here is what Chase needs: In order to advance in the U.S. Army (and be all that he can be) he needs to have that felony expunged from his record. I say he has earned that with his service for his country. We are going to do all in our power to help that community correct an overreaching decision by a judge long gone, for a lesson well learned. Stay tuned on this one.

As an aside, at age 10, the son of ABATE lawyer George Tinkham asked George if he could still go to jail for all the things he had done as a kid. George’s response was, “Only if they catch me!” Brent Tinkham is now a lawyer in the Chicago area. The point is: Youthful offenders need not be marked for life, especially those who serve our country.

Motorcyclists and Redistricting – Is it Time for Change?

As we motorcyclists know, the U.S. Congress and all of the State Legislatures are elected from districts that are established once per decade. We motorcyclists are one of the most informed voter groups in the country. These district lines are redone precinct by precinct by the legislators in most states. Critics say this is “politicians choosing their voters.” Obviously, the way a district is drawn can effect the outcome of an election. What are our rights as voters and motorcyclists as it relates to redistricting? How should the voting lines be drawn and do we MOTORCYCLISTS/VOTERS have any say in the matter? What about the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment? Should there be rules for the legislators to follow? Would an independent organization charged with the redistricting responsibilities work any better? Let us know your thoughts and we will follow up with a summary of your views in a future article. How we do this is critical to good government.

Problem When Riding: Wife Has 100 Mile Back; Husband Has 800 Mile Ass – solution??

The solution is to put a motorcycle lift on the back of your RV and head off to see America, especially for those of us that are snow bound and froze in. Go to where you like; park it and do your 100 mile jaunts. The three leading lifts for full size bikes seem to be Hydra Lift, Blue Ox and Cruiser Lift. All are great lifts and are made in America. The first is hydraulically operated and works perfectly. The Blue Ox and Cruiser Lifts are cable driven and a little cheaper and lighter. Other lifts are available for bikes weighing less that 500 pounds, but if you want to haul the dresser around you need one of the three above. As to those lifts, the Hydralift is the heaviest, so if you want to take it on and off, you need to do some modifications. I suggest putting a quick couple for the hydraulics and a 4 way connection for the electrics that controls the pump. Because that lift weighs about 300 pounds, you need some hefty friends or a hydraulic table (which works perfectly and costs around $100.00). With that, you can install and remove the Hydra Lift in less that 5 minutes. The cable lifts are easier to manhandle, but need more attention during installation with existing hitches. The hitch measurements are fixed so if your RV hitch is the same; no problem. If your hitch measurement is different, then you are starting over on your hitch. If there are others out there with experience with these lifts, let us hear from you.

Tykes on Bikes

Q. I am a member of ABATE of Ohio and got your contact information from the monthly ABATE magazine. I have a question for you which will hopefully be an easy one to answer. I have a son whom I share joint custody with their father. This past summer, my son developed an interest in riding on motorcycles. As a single mom, I struggle in keeping him interested in activities that we can honestly share. He is fully equipped for rider safety. I am a very skilled and well trained motorcyclist and usually only allow him to ride with me. His father found out that he was riding and was very upset. He is very anti‑motorcycle. He forbids our son from riding, and advised me that I was not allowed to let him ride. The father claims that he can get a court decree to prohibit the son from riding. Can he get such a decree from the court?

A. You have asked a good question. The court has considerable discretion in its ruling on this issue, but the judge should know that this activity is permitted by law, as is football, soccer, cheerleading, gymnastics, climbing and many adventure sports. First, I would make every effort to educate your ex with statistics demonstrating that motorcycle incidents involving minors are almost non-existent. I believe this is so because of the extreme care most parents and others take when riding with a minor child. You will be able to show that the incidents of injuries to minors from a motorcycle crash are less than with football, gymnastics and other school sports with significant injury statistics. You could argue that riding as a passenger on a motorcycle is safer than being a cheerleader. As we know, injuries from that activity are eye opening. Tell him about the riding skills of others who may take your son riding. And let him know that those skills learned while riding will improve your son's skills when he starts driving. If you do wind up in court, then you must go through the same education process for the judge. Find out if the judge rides, and be prepared to prove the riding experience of all of those involved. Bring in your driving and insurance records demonstrating your safe nature. Bring your son's safety equipment to court and show the judge. Check with your local motorcycle safety instructors who may provide helpful expertise to the court. In short, educate the judge that your parental decision is within the norm of American life and that riding is part of that norm. If the judge rides – HE ALREADY KNOWS THIS. If you get into a jam or need statistics for the above, call me.

What kind of coverage do you get for a John Deere? Bad in Illinois, so look out in Ohio and Indiana

Q: I got a letter from my insurance company that stated that due to a new statute, a motor vehicle which is operated in a highway right-of-way must be covered by liability insurance. A highway right‑of–way is 25 feet from the center of the lane on “most” rural roads. This means no dirt bikes, ATV or snow mobile riding down property lines or fence rows along roads. It also means checking my mail on my ATV and parking at the edge of my drive could result in a ticket. Even mowing grass along the road in your front yard could get you an insurance ticket on your lawn mower. I don’t recall hearing of this proposal before.

A: ABATE lawyer George Tinkham provided us with an explanation for this one. On 8/11/09, the Governor of Illinois signed Public Act 96‑0279 (former HB 2455) into law. This Act did not amend §7‑601 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC) (625 ILCS 5/7‑601) which excludes vehicles not designed for use on public highways from the mandatory liability insurance requirement. It did, however, amend §11‑1426.1 of the IVC by adding subsection (g), which reads:

(g) Any person who operates a non‑highway vehicle on a street, highway, or roadway shall be subject to the mandatory insurance requirements under Article VI of Chapter 7 of this Code.

PA 96‑0279 also requires the operator of such vehicle to have a driver’s license. Whether that license has to have the proper motorcycle endorsement is unclear.

Even though the Vehicle Code now has contradictory language, the language in §11‑1426.1 which requires insurance (and a driver’s license) will prevail. This means that your letter is correct: off‑road vehicles must be covered by liability insurance when on the right‑of‑way of a public highway. This requirement takes effect January 1, 2010.

It is not uncommon to see a twelve year old riding a dirt bike or ATV along the right‑of‑way fence on the public highway side traveling between his home and a favorite off‑road riding area. This new change to the IVC means that his off‑road vehicle must now be insured. A more absurd consequence of PA 96‑0279 is what happens when a landowner uses a riding mower to cut grass on the right‑of‑way by his home or farm. Silly as it seems, it looks like the mower must have insurance!

License to serve liquor?

Q: Our chapter is going to sponsor a function in the near future, and we plan on letting the bar hosting the event sell beer. What do we need to do to protect us from liability in case some has too much to drink and someone gets hurt?

A: Waivers are a must with those attending the function. If the event is held at a bar and ABATE does not serve the alcohol, ABATE should have no responsibility. The key is that ABATE should not have anything to do with alcohol if we want to avoid that potential liability. We need to make every effort to direct that this responsibility go to entities that are properly licensed and insured. In most instances, ABATE can be named as an additional named insured on the bar's or provider's liability insurance policy. Ride Safe and thanks for all you do for ABATE.

Ride Safe and Free,
Rod Taylor
ABATE Legal Services

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 _ %, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. And, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to ASK OUR LAWYER, at rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2010, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services