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Ask Our Lawyer - August 2009

If You Are Insured with Farm Bureau Insurance Company, You Are Not in Good Hands !

Beware of Farm Bureau Insurance Company! I have been a loyal insured of Farm Bureau for decades. I have had no real claims. All I do is send them money. They insured everything I own up till now. I trusted them – until now. I just fired them and here is why.

Over the years I have developed a bad case of truck, car, motorcycle and stuff buildup. My wife says it is a Kentucky thing. I am also down to my last child at home – kind of sort of. I guess they really never leave. When the others come home, I always felt that the full limits of my vehicle coverage would protect them if they were involved in a serious accident while driving my cars or riding my motorcycles – especially for the uninsured drivers out there that drive drunk.

I carry a significant single limit coverage policy, just in case someone borrows my vehicles and gets severely injured by the drunk with no insurance or the ne’er-do-well with state minimum coverage. That way my Farm Bureau policy would step into the shoes of the drunk and provide full coverage for lost income, disability, medical bills and the other losses to the person that borrowed my vehicle, or so I thought.

Guess what? I was wrong. When my adult kids come for a visit and borrow one of my vehicles/motorcycles, Farm Bureau treats them as substandard and reduces my high limits coverage to the state minimums. Their buzz term is "drop down coverage." What is truly sad is that I am a lawyer and have just discovered this. Shame on me. I trusted them to take care of my needs. Now I am wondering about all of the other Farm Bureau insureds out there who will discover what I discovered the hard way.

The Farm Bureau Insurance Company that I know did not start out that way. Somewhere along they way they slipped it to me in the fine print. By any definition I am the perfect insured. I and others like me deserve better. TIP OF THE DAY: CHECK YOUR INSURANCE POLICY TO SEE IF THEY HAVE A DROP DOWN PROVISION IN YOUR POLICY. If they do – fire them. I know that Allstate and most other "good insurers" do not. I will publish a list of those that don't so you can make an informed choice. It looks like I am going with Allstate. Maybe I am in good hands at last, and at least my Agent Robert Bell rides and understands what we need. As you can tell I am on a campaign to eliminate this provision in all insurance policies. I will keep you informed as this matter develops. If you have been the victim of this provision call me – I have some ideas about what we can do.

Special Investigation Unit guy from Cincinnati Insurance Company loves Kim and Jeff Bartlett, and the ABATE RIDER EDUCATION teaching unit in Ft. Wayne.

By definition, Larry Wicker is a tough, no-nonsense kind of guy. After all, he is in charge of catching arsonists and other bad people who cheat insurance companies that cause higher premiums for the rest of us. Here is his story.

He rode back in the 60's and had a couple of great bikes – a Harley Sportster and a Honda Dream. (Well, at least one of them was a great bike.) After getting married to Betty and raising a family, there was no time nor money for the two-wheeler thing – until now. With the family raised and Father Time looking over his shoulder, Larry bought a Harley – actually two of them.

But before venturing out on his own, he prudently signed up for the Beginning and Advanced ABATE courses in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He called to tell me how impressed he was with the enthusiasm, professionalism, and dedication that Kim and Jeff Bartlett bring to the ABATE classroom. I knew that first hand, but it is sure nice to hear others brag about them, too.

Now Larry and Betty have found a new passion together, the passion of motorcycling. I am so proud to be part of an organization that does such wonderful things for motorcyclists.

P.S. Even riding a Honda Dream had to be wonderful.


Last issue, we reviewed a question about changes being made to an employee handbook and how that affects our rights. We recently heard from the ABATE member that send in that question. Here are his comments:

I recently wrote you a letter about my employer having us sign release forms pertaining to our personal information. I wish to thank you for publishing it in the July "Hoosier Motorcyclist." Although I was hoping for a "Sue The Bastards" answer, it makes me feel a bit better to read your answer. I imagine my co-workers will rest easier also.

Once again, thank you, and keep the rubber side down.

It’s always nice to hear from the readers about my answers, even if it wasn’t quite what they wanted to hear.

Remember Richard Gibbs and the Fake Harley He Was Sold? Good News! The Other Side Does the Right Thing – finally.

Several weeks ago, Richard called our office and was in a bind. He had bought a Harley Softail, or so he thought. What he really bought was an assembled motorcycle that looked exactly like a Harley Softail. He did not discover that he had an assembled bike until he got home and had the local mechanic service the bike. This assembled bike was so good that it could be mistaken to be a factory Harley by all but the trained eye.

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of wonderful assembled motorcycles for sale out there that offer a "Harley" look for a lot less money. Those "assembled" bikes fulfill a need in the motorcycle market. Biker's Choice owned by the Andre Lacy family has one of the best selections of "assembled motorcycles," and their bikes are awesome.

None the less, Richard wanted a factory Harley and that is what he thought he bought. When he demanded his money back, the seller told him to take a hike. That is where ABATE LEGAL came in. We made a call to the seller and suggested that there was a failure in the meeting of the minds and that this deal should be rescinded. The seller advised that we should take a hike. We sued them instead. Out comes the white flag and I am happy to report that the seller is giving Richard every penny of his money back. Now they can sell this bike to someone who wants an "assembled" motorcycle.

P.S. Richard is now the proud owner of a "factory Harley."

What to do when asked to give a recorded statement after an accident

Todd Bonham is and ABATE member from Ohio. He got a request for a recorded statement from the insurance carrier for the guy that ran over him.. The police report puts fault on the other guy. Todd is in as good a shape as he can be. Our advise to him is say – “I agree with the police report.” Nothing good can come out of a statement given to the other guy’s insurance carrier.

Unhappy with his lawyer

Q: My son and I were in an accident in May of last year. My son suffered a fractured femur, and I fractured my pelvis, along with some other injuries. The other driver only received a citation for failure to yield when he made a left turn in front of me. The case went to a local law firm and I just don’t think their handling my case efficiently. I need someone that really handles these types of cases.

A: It’s important to remember that the lawyer you hired works for you, and that you have the authority to direct the conduct of your case. In some cases, the lawyer and the client don’t agree as to the conduct of the case, or simply have a falling out. And while you have the absolute right to fire your lawyer and hire another, it can be problematic. The fired lawyer generally has the right to file a lien against the proceeds for the case and get paid for their work and expenses incurred. In some cases, that lien may make the case economically unviable for another lawyer to pick up. That’s why it’s important to make sure you pick the right lawyer the first time. Take time to interview the lawyer, talk about the process they use to resolve cases, find out what kind of legal experience the firm has, and how they assess their fees and expenses. Remember, ABATE Legal Services is always available to answer your questions.

Hanging on the Handlebars

Q: A friend of mine was pulled over for his handle bar height and the officer threatened to give him a ticket, impound the bike and take him to jail. Can they impound the bike and arrest you for the handle bar height?

A: It depends on how the statute is written. Most statutes include the handlebar heights in the minimum requirements for a vehicle section. If the vehicle doesn’t meet those specifications, it cannot be legally operated on the road. If a non-conforming vehicle is found on the road, it could be impounded. Arresting the driver would depend on how the violation is classified. Here’s a handy reference on handlebar heights:

Maximum of 15 Inches above Seat

Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia

Handgrips must Be below Shoulder Height

Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, Wyoming

Maximum of 15 Inches above Handlebar Fastening Point


Maximum of 30 Inches above Seat

Washington, Wisconsin

Handlebars May Not Be Higher than Operator's Eye Level


Handlebars must Be Positioned So That Operator's Hands on Grips Are Not More than 6 Inches above Shoulder Height When Seated


No Restrictions on Handlebar Height

Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia

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.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to ASK OUR LAWYER, at rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2009, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services