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Ask Our Lawyer - September 2004


Q: Before I found out about ABATE LEGAL, I hired an out-of-state firm to handle my motorcycle case. They are charging me 1/3 if they settle, 40% is they file my case, and 50% if they appeal, and I don't think they are doing a good job. Can ABATE LEGAL take over my case from those out-of-state lawyers?

A. Yes, ABATE LEGAL Services can and will take your case. As we explained, because you are an ABATE Member, you are entitled to use ABATE LEGAL. At ABATE LEGAL, we only charge 28-1/2% and we never charge for recovery of property damage to your motorcycle. Those out-of-state lawyers, most likely, will file an attorney's lien against your settlement. We will help you deal with that issue and make sure that your total fees do not exceed 28-1/2%. Next time, call us first-you will save yourself a lot of heartache, time, and money.


Q: I just bought a hardtail custom - can I legally hang the license plate vertically?
- A concerned owner in Ohio

A: The success of shows like American Chopper has fueled the custom market in recent years, and you see more and more custom bikes on the road. Customs have always raised questions with the local cops and we get several calls about issues involving customs. One which seems to recur is whether it's legal to mount a license plate sideways. Many customs have adopted a sideways mounting, and potential owners should know whether their new ride will be legal or not.

Unfortunately, it appears that the law is not consistent. For example, Indiana Code 9-18-2-26 states that license plates shall be displayed upon the rear of the vehicle, and be securely fastened in a horizontal position. Illinois requires that the plate be securely fastened in a horizontal position. (625 ILCS 5/3-413). Ohio, however, makes no mention of the direction of the plate and only requires that the plate be securely fastened so as not to swing.

The upshot is that what may be legal in some states is not in others. What is riding legally in Ohio is civil disobedience in Indiana or Illinois. This issue recommends itself to our legislative action teams to attempt to provide some consistency for customs and homebuilts. Until then, those custom riders will be engaging in a campaign of civil disobedience. If I ever get my custom, I will be, too.


Q: The AMA has created the "Justice For All" program. Is this program worthwhile, and can we regular bikers count on the AMA to make a difference?

A: The AMA has put its money where its mouth is-Terry Cook of the AMA says it's so-and if Terry Cook says it's so, you can take it to the bank. Because of that, I fully support "Justice For All" initiated by the AMA to address unequal sentencing for those who commit crimes against bikers. We are there to help and stand side-by-side with AMA on this issue. I intend to address this issue at the Meeting of the Minds. Last month, I discussed my concerns about situations where cagers appear to get off easier when they injure or kill bikers. According to the AMA, the goal of Justice for All is tougher sentences for felony traffic cases that arise from a fatality or serious injury. AMA officials are in the process of gathering and evaluating information from all 50 states. AMA efforts will focus on states and state laws that don't allow judges to consider driving histories at sentencing and concentrate on legislation to address such problems. The AMA plans to work in cooperation with motorcycling groups from those states. The Web site is www.amadirectlink.com/ justice/. The SMROs have a duty to our brethren who have not received justice and a duty to insure that our brethren will receive justice in the future.


Q: I was at a party sponsored by my office and noticed a lot of my coworkers really overindulged. What was worse was that the owner of the business knew about it and kept pouring them drinks. At one point, he was playing quarters with them. When the party was over, he let them all drive home. Thankfully, no one got hurt, but I wondered whether the company would be liable for an accident caused by one of these partygoers. All of the employees are shareholders, and I'd hate to lose the company due to something like this.

A: Although I hate to be a killjoy, and everyone knows I enjoy a game of quarters as much as the next guy, you are right to be concerned. Courts may recognize the liability of hosts who allow overindulgence when the guest then injures a third party. Potentially, your boss is exposing the company to a high degree of liability. A word to the wise would not be out of line. Our recommendation is that there should be no alcohol at company parties on company property if the employees have to drive home. A better recommendation is to have the party at a restaurant and let them be the watchdog and assume the liability.

Ride Safe and Free,
Rod Taylor

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.