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Ask Our Lawyer - May 2011

Imre Szauter - a Voice for the Modern American Motorcyclist

From time to time I will write about those individuals who make a difference in our right to ride. This month we write about Imre Szauter. Even though his name is not Taylor, Brown, Jones or Smith, he and his parents epitomize America. After getting to know him, no name says America more than Imre Szauter. To know him is to learn where he and his came from.

His parents emigrated to the United States just after WW 2. Their story could not be more classic American. Shipping over from Austria and passing the Statute of Liberty, they came to America to have what we all want- a good, wonderful and free life - and they have. Goodness knows that his parents did not experience that in a Hitler-dominated Austria. And what a legacy they gave us. In Imre, they gave us a voice for the modern American motorcyclist. Imre is not your usual gear head engineer rambling on about motorcycles and rights. He comes to us from a different plane as he has a two degrees in Electrical Engineering from Ohio State. They only hand those degrees out to our very brightest.

Fortunately for us, Imre chose to leave the comforts of big time corporate engineering for the hard scrabble life of a motorcycle activist -as head of the AMA governmental affairs unit. He has been in that role for a little over ten years, but what a ten years! In that time he has been a featured speaker at literally every SMRO in this country and has headlined the MRF Meeting of the Minds more times that I care to count. He is kind, considerate, well thought and well spoken. His mastery of reducing the hard to wonderfully simple is intriguing to witness. I never tire of listening to his point of view and usually agree with just about everything he has to stay, often wishing I could say it the way Imre says it. He gives new meaning to credibility.

It was Imre who took on just about every significant issue for us in the last decade - like the Chicago Skyway battle, riding unimpaired, manufacturers issues and those of us who don't follow good rules. He has tackled Congress, State Legislatures, cities, towns and others who take a swing at us - and he convinces them. We are blessed to have Imre as a leader of our band.

Swear to God – They Backed out in Back of Me and Claimed I Was at Fault

What to Do When Your Own Insurance Carrier Backs Away from You

Ol'e Abe Lincoln said it best. When you represent yourself, you have a fool for a client. That be me. By example, here is what happened. I am in a parking lot looking for a spot. I miss one and back up to go back to the missed spot and low and behold a "car backed out in back of me." I say it is their fault. Don't I have the right of way? I decided to represent myself (remember Lincoln's thought about folks that do that). What difference does it make as to which end of the vehicle I am sitting in? I couldn't even convince my Democrat wife that I was right, much less the adverse insurance company.

Even my own insurance company, Farm Bureau, scoffed at my defense. When told of my defense, they did not ask one single question. They said something like "right" or we will get back with you on that one. I can still feel the pain of their silent laughter. Whose side are they on anyway?

Which brings me to the question I received from Dwayne March, an ABATE member from the region. He too suffered from the Lincoln problem. A vehicle passes him on the left and pulls into his lane, but without warning slams on her brakes. That driver claims to see a vehicle in the intersection --hence the reason for the sudden braking. Dwayne had less that two to three car lengths between his vehicle (a dually pulling a trailer) and the braking vehicle. Not enough time to brake under any circumstance when you are running about 50mph. Obviously, he hits the vehicle in the rear end causing property damage to that vehicle and some alleged personal injury. He, like me, calls his insurance company and makes the pitch that while the normal rule is that fault for a rear end collision is with the collider, his case was different. Nothing doing -- his carrier, Illinois Farmers, proclaimed that rear enders usually can't be defended. The carrier discounted the statement of his passenger and there were no other witnesses besides the parties to the crash. Despite his valiant efforts to persuade the folks on his side, he got the same treatment as I did. We made a pact as to how we would have done it differently.

Here is what we would do: Next time he will call me and I will make his pitch to his insurance company. We will get the witness statements and the statement of the investigating police officer. In Dwayne's case, a quick opinion from an accident reconstructionist would have revealed that Dwayne would not have had time to slow within the spacing caused by the adverse vehicle. This would help his carrier in making a decision as to resisting the claim of the passing vehicle. Efforts demonstrating concern get the attention of the claims people of your insurance company. These efforts say you care and want a just result. Be warned however, that your insurance company has the right to make the final decision. Sometimes they need a little help from their friends (insureds).

AMA's Comments on Article about Traffic Activated Signals

Imre read our article on dealing with traffic-actuated signals and gave us this information:

Dear Rod:

Just finished reading your column in the April Hoosier Motorcyclist magazine. To say I appreciate your involvement in the Illinois Supreme Court case on rider education funds is an understatement. Your steadfast support of the riding community and our rights serves as a model for the rest of us to emulate.

I’d like to provide additional information on the issue of traffic-actuated signals in Ohio and how motorcyclists (and bicyclists) can help make intersections safer.

In 2008, we held a meeting with representatives of the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS), the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP), Motorcycle Ohio (MO) and others to review a draft legislative proposal that would allow motorcyclists and bicyclists stuck at traffic-actuated signals to treat them as malfunctioning traffic signals and proceed with caution through the intersection after waiting a certain period of time. Everyone in the meeting (except the legislative aide, the bicycling representative, and me) opposed the proposal. They cited a number of reasons, all of them related to traffic safety.

The representative from the ODOT suggested an alternative. She asked me to work with the ODOT and City of Columbus traffic engineers to evaluate traffic-actuated signals at several central Ohio locations to determine if they could be tuned to recognize motorcycles and bicycles.

On the appointed date, I showed up on my R1100RT and was the (non-crash) test dummy at four intersections, three of which we identified as ‘blind’ to motorcycles and bicycles. Ironically, one of those intersections was located at the ODPS and ODOT headquarters on the west side of Columbus. At the end of the day, we evaluated (and tuned) three traffic-actuated signal-controlled intersections that used buried inductive loop detection systems (wires); the fourth was controlled by a video detection system that consistently recognized my motorcycle.

I wrote a brief report on our experience and sent it to several interested parties. In the meantime, the ODOT representative established a central location for riders to report malfunctioning traffic-actuated signals. I’ve attached a copy of the ODOT announcement, which includes a telephone number and email address. Note that the ODOT takes care of the controllers they’re responsible for and forwards a report to the proper DOT for controllers it doesn’t own. Finally, they contact the originator of the trouble ticket with the actions taken to resolve the problem.

Perhaps in a future column you could highlight the ODOT telephone number and email address for Ohio motorcyclists and bicyclists to report problems. This solution proves that you don’t always need legislation (and more laws) to resolve an issue.

Best regards,
Imre F. Szauter
Government Affairs Manager, American Motorcyclist Association

Contact info:

Ohio Department of Transportation: (614) 387- 0722 or bike.report@dot.state.oh.us

Illinois Department of Transp ortation: (217) 782-7820

Indiana Department of Transportation: (317) 232-5533

The ODOT announcement Imre mentioned can be found on our RoadHazard website. Go to www.roadhazard.org/10/links.

Farm Bureau Weighs in on Bike Restoration Issues

A couple of columns ago, we discussed the problems we can have with insurance coverage regarding motorcycles under restoration. I sent a message to Brad Brees at Farm Bureau Insurance requesting additional information. Here is his response:

Rod – I just realized that I had not got back to you on your question regarding motorcycle restoration and parts. Things have been very busy the last several weeks and I do apologize for dropping the ball.

What I did find out is that as I thought, the parts are covered under your homeowner’s policy so long as they are not attached. Once they are a part of the assembled bike they are no longer covered under the homeowner’s policy as it is excluded in the contract.

Probably the best way to ensure that the parts and the bike are covered at the various stages of restoration is to purchase a policy through a specialty carrier such as Hagerty. They offer coverage for restoration projects that include the unassembled and assembled parts.

I hope this helps and again I truly apologize for failing to get back to you in a reasonable amount of time with this information.

Thanks so much,
Brad Brees, Farm Bureau Insurance

Good information for us to remember.

MIRACLE RIDE Reminder - First Week End in June

Since 1993 this office has been raising money for the kids at Riley. As usual, the Miracle Ride will feature a ride around the world famous Indy 500 Motor Speedway track as well as our trade-mark motorcycle runs. Join us and the Governor in raising much needed funds for Riley Hospital for Children. For more information see our web site, www.miracleride.net. A big thanks to all of our sponsors, volunteers and those who serve on the Board of Directors of the Miracle Ride Foundation, Inc. See you at the Miracle Ride. Rod

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 ⅓%, 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.

Call us at (800) 25-RIDER

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