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Ask Our Lawyer - November 2006

Lincoln Circuit Ride

Q.Why does A.B.A.T.E. do the Lincoln Circuit Ride?  We are a motorcycle rights organization.  We dedicate ourselves to the preservation of motorcycle rights in Springfield and Washington D.C.  Doesn't this take away from our core purposes?
 
A. Your question is well taken.  Unless this ride supports the core values of what A.B.A.T.E. stands for, then this ride should not continue.  We need all hands on deck and the last thing A.B.A.T.E. should do is waste our precious manpower on yet another motorcycle ride.  We have plenty of those now. 

There are good reasons to spend some of those precious resources on the Lincoln Circuit Ride.  This ride involved most of the counties of central Illinois celebrating the heritage of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln--probably the greatest national heritage of all.  Everywhere we rode, the citizens were there to greet us with banners, speeches, presentations and in some cases food and drink.  This Ride gives A.B.A.T.E. a singular opportunity to reach out to  non-bikers.  We even managed to get Circuit Court Judges to come out on a Sunday to address us – a group of bikers.  One Judge even brought his mom to give us a presentation.  I would say that that has never happened in the history of A.B.A.T.E. 

I can honestly not think of a single instance where an organization can combine a motorcycle ride with activities in which non-bikers can participate so well in their communities, but which support our A.B.A.T.E. beliefs. I believe all of the folks in these communities appreciate what we have done.  A.B.A.T.E. made the papers and local radio stations throughout the area of the ride, and even made the headlines of Paris, Illinois three times.  A.B.A.T.E. could never buy positive PR like that.  I am sure that the little old ladies and the little old men of Paris are still talking about when the A.B.A.T.E. bikers came to their town on the Lincoln Circuit Ride.

Is this good for A.B.A.T.E. ?  It is good for A.B.A.T.E. only if this ride will reach voters, future riders, mayors, cops, judges, state representatives, state senators and maybe even a governor, and they are left with the belief that when A.B.A.T.E.  speaks, they should listen and support.  If this ride continues, A.B.A.T.E. has a spectacular opportunity to involve itself in the communities of this state in celebrating our heritage and motorcycling all wrapped into one event.  The Daughters of the American Revolution  support what we do.  The University of Illinois supports what we do.  The Illinois Historical Preservation Agency and Illinois Bureau of Tourism support what we do.  The counties of Central Illinois support what we do.  Every elected official that we met on this ride overwhelmingly supported what we do.  The State of Illinois is issuing an official Lincoln Circuit Ride map supporting what we do--AND WE HAVE ONLY JUST STARTED!  At the 2006 Meeting of the Minds, there was a presentation dedicated to ride organization and history.  Our ride takes that concept to a new level.  They were talking only of a ride and history and fun.  We are talking of a ride and influence and votes!

The lasting legacy should be that A.B.A.T.E. gets the recognition and support for the efforts on this ride that it deserves.  I predict that people throughout the country will recognize that what A.B.A.T.E. has done is a good thing and that will only enhance our prestige in Springfield and Washington.  If that occurs, the Ride should continue, and we should be proud of what we have done.

Q:I was in an 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.  What should I do about all of these bills?

A:There are several things you can do to protect your credit rating while you convalesce, negotiate with the insurance company and try to maintain your household (or better yet, let your A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services team deal with the insurance company for you!).  The first thing you should do is notify your insurance carrier of the accident, and ask if you have medical payments coverage.  This coverage, on your policy, provides payments to your medical provider if you are injured in an accident, regardless of who was at fault.  Also, you should notify your medical insurance carrier, so that they can be sent the bills for your care.

Many people are reluctant to have their own medical insurance cover the bills, especially when it was the other person’s fault.  Don’t let that stop you!  Medical insurance companies have their own methods of insuring that they get compensated for bills they paid out that resulted from someone else’s negligence.  If you are involved in an accident, your medical insurance carrier will send you a letter asserting their “right of subrogation.”  This is lawyer language for their right to be repaid.  Basically, they 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.  Most insurance companies and juries understand that the amount of the medical bills is a reflection, however imperfect, of the severity of the injury and the necessary recuperation time, and factor settlements and judgment accordingly.  However, most insurance companies have 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, the insurance company may have only paid $6,000.  In that case, all you are obligated to pay back to your health insurance company is the amount they actually paid out.


And A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services can help there, as well.  We have had great success in negotiating with insurance carriers to minimize or eliminate subrogation repayments, so that $6,000 subrogation obligation described above may be only $4,000 or $3,000.  You can see that having your health insurance company cover your medical bills can actually work to your benefit, even when the other guy was at fault.
Don’t forget, you can always call the A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services team if you have any questions about your legal rights.

HELMETS - IN THROUGH THE BACK DOOR?

Q:Our town in Ohio has enacted its own helmet law.  I thought that this was the state’s job.  Can they do this?

A:While these laws don’t directly affect motorcyclists, there is potential here for the do-gooders to make a lot of mischief.  Helmet laws for bicyclists are becoming extremely common, even for adults.  Even more concerning is the tendency for local communities (towns and counties) to have their own laws separate from or in addition to state laws.  For example, Ohio has 21 cities and towns that have their own bicycle helmet laws, with requirements varying from under 18 to all persons over 5.  Missouri and Illinois have 5 areas, with laws requiring helmets for those under 16 , under 17, or all ages, depending on where you ride.  In all, there are 21 state laws (including the District of Columbia) and at least 149 local laws. Only 14 states have no state or local helmet laws at all.

This is a worrisome development in the evergreen helmet battle for two reasons.  First, it provides a bad precedent for individual local communities enacting helmet laws for motorcyclists, especially since some of the bicycle laws apply not only to children, but to adults, as well. Second, having these types of mandates being made by local authorities would make it difficult, if not impossible, for riders to determine where helmets are required and where they are not, or for whom they are required.  The Preemption Doctrine normally says that cities cannot pass laws in areas regulated by the state.  Keep an eye on these issues and let us know if they show up in your town – they may be unconstitutional.

GOOD SAMARITAN RELIEF

The Illinois legislature has recently enacted some protections for good samaritans who assist those in need.  The amendment provides liability protection to individuals who have current first aid certifications from the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association and who provide first aid to someone in distress.  The protections apply only if the certification is current and the first aid is rendered without fee to any person.  The protections do not include willful or wanton misconduct.  Indiana and Ohio have similar laws.

JUSTICE MOVES FORWARD

As regular readers of this column well know, one of my biggest concerns is the failure of local law enforcement to consider crimes against bikers as serious issues.  The AMA has also been concerned about this, and has had some recent legislative success.  The AMA has recently reported that California has enacted a law supporting the goals of the AMA's "Justice for All" campaign.

While it’s not enough, the California law imposes additional fines when a motorist is convicted of a traffic offense that causes "bodily injury" or "serious bodily injury" to another person. The new law also mandates that the driver's handbook include information about "respecting the right-of-way of others, particularly pedestrians, bicycle riders, and motorcycle riders."

The AMA recognized the activism of A.B.A.T.E. of California in getting the law passed. California joins 15 other states in passing legislation that supports the goals of Justice for All: Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Let’s work toward getting our states on that list, too

Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor

A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: Ask Our Lawyer, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206_2850, or email rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2005, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services

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