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Ask Our Lawyer - September 2009

Notice to All Motorcyclists

If you have a motorcycle, trike, or any other vehicle equipped with a P4070 electric fuel pump, please call us toll free at (800) 257-4337. We are concerned as to the possibility of excessive fuel pressure that could result in a fire.


Q: I just got my only DUI ever. I have two motorcycles and one old vehicle. The court will not let me put a BAIID on my motorcycle. They say I have to put it on my old truck that barely runs. This is not right! What can I do? – ABATE of Illinois member

A: While BAIID (Breach Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices) are available for motorcycles, they are not allowed by Illinois regulations (an interesting dilemma, when that is your only vehicle). We will look into this further and advise as to your rights. George Tinkham (former counsel to Illinois Department of Transportation) will help us weigh in on this one.

More on Step Downs and Other Insurance Company Shenanigans

I have gotten a lot of comments on the last column, especially about my disturbing discovery about my insurance. Here are some of the comments. The first comes from a good ABATE member who also works in the insurance industry. He writes:

I submitted an inquiry to one of my professional associations. These are people who, like me, work for policyholders only and do not sell insurance. They report similar complaints in other states, as well.

It looks like step down provisions are permitted in several states. With yours at $25,000, it’s probably because that amount is the minimum that is required to satisfy the Indiana financial responsibility law. Think about that: without that dang law they would have been able to exclude your boy altogether!

The insurers will probably contend that they are doing it to provide insurance at affordable cost – Progressive advertises that they will build you a custom policy at the price you want to pay – like ordering a pizza. By stepping down limits for anyone other than the named insureds they can charge a lower premium. The thing is, they need to make sure the policyholder understands what he/she is buying and agrees to the reduced coverage.

I just read a new Florida case where the insurer added an endorsement limiting the medical payments coverage on a personal auto policy to the “named insured” and “relatives.” The case involved a man and woman who had lived together for many years but had never gotten married. The man bought the car for his significant other to use but kept the car in his name and the policy was just in his name. The lady was injured driving the car and the court upheld that there were no medical payments. Before the endorsement, the policy would have covered any permissive users.

On a personal note, you probably need to pull all of your policies and look at them. I’ll hazard a guess that there are some other surprises in store.

That’s good advice for everyone. Check those policies and see what’s in them. Here’s another comment:

In the newest issue of the ABATE newsletter in your column there is an article about Farm Bureau Insurance. Is this your writing or a letter written in to you? I just wanted to make sure before I start shopping for a new insurance company. I have been paying more for Farm Bureau since having worked in a law office a few years ago as they seemed to be the ones who paid their own customers better than anyone else (i.e., clients suing their own insurance company). When I called my agent, he said I had drop down coverage. He tried to tell me it was no big deal but I had to disagree with him. Thank you for your continued support and help to ABATE.

Yes, indeed, it was my own experience, not a writer to us. Be sure to check your policy to see what coverages you have. And let me know what find out. Also, I have to agree that Farm Bureau has a wonderful reputation in handling its claims. My dispute is with the terms of the policy and not the fine people who work there.

Dangerous Roads in Illinois

Westgate ABATE in Illinois informed me of a dangerous situation in northern Illinois. On June 14, a motorcyclist was killed on Illinois 2 in Ogle County. The local newspaper reported that the motorcyclist, Kenneth Olsen, was killed when he lost control of the bike and struck a van. Members of Westgate ABATE say that he hit a pothole on the road, causing the loss of control. That section of Illinois 2 is known to be a “nightmare” of unfilled holes and deteriorating roadway.

In this day of shrinking highway budgets and maintenance cutbacks, I’m afraid that we are going to see more reports of problem roadways and serious injuries. Don’t forget about RoadHazard.org, our hazard reporting project. Once we receive notice of the hazard, we inform the local officials of the problem and request they get it fixed. Often, that notice is the spur needed for the local highway officials to get moving on the problem. Hopefully, we can help prevent future tragedies. Check out www.roadhazard.org, and call us at ABATE Legal Services if you have any questions.

Good Deeds, Unpunished!

If you’ll recall, I had a couple of items recently about an ABATE member who was sold a look-alike bike that was represented as an authentic Harley. After ABATE Legal Services got involved, we were able to get the sale unwound and get the member’s money back. He recently wrote us to let us know that he appreciated our efforts and that he just got back from Michigan, where he just did a road trip on his 2009 Harley Heritage Softail Classic – a real one!

Loud Pipes in Illinois

Here’s an update on a problem riders were seeing in Illinois. George Tinkham sends this report:

Representatives (including Mick Eddington, chapter president) of Southern Illinois Chapter 27 and ABATE lawyer George Tinkham attended a meeting with the mayor of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, as well as the police chief and city manager. At the meeting, it was established that the city had issued 13 tickets during the past 2 months for exhaust noise in Mt. Vernon. The Chief has caused one ticket to be tossed and will review the remainder to determine whether any should not be enforced.

The city manager was not conciliatory and the Chief was clearly determined to continue ticketing as has been done in the past. We expect the review process to reduce the total number prosecuted. The chapter representatives were satisfied that bikers were not being harassed and that the Chief was acting appropriately. We left the meeting with the understanding that this matter is now closed.

The standard set by the Illinois General Assembly for noise from a vehicle is that the vehicle cannot be allowed to emit "excessive or unusual" noise. This language gives the arresting officer tremendous, virtually unguided discretion in determining whether a particular exhaust note is acceptable. The policeman could even ticket the driver of a brand new, unaltered vehicle because he did not like the sound of the exhaust noise. Although the Illinois Supreme Court conceivably could find this language to be unconstitutionally vague, it has not seen fit to do so yet.

Another provision of this section of the Illinois Vehicle Code prohibits the installation of exhaust components that would cause the exhaust note to be louder than how the vehicle would have sounded when it left the factory. This is a somewhat objective standard that may be constitutional, but would be difficult to enforce.

Frankly, I would expect the local traffic court to convict a motorcyclist if the arresting officer testified that the biker caused or allowed the exhaust noise from his motorcycle to be excessive or unusual. If a noise ticket is to be defeated, it would be the appellate or the Supreme Court that strikes it down.

Listening for Trouble?

We recently heard about an ABATE member who was stopped by state police after leaving Spikes Harley-Davidson dealership, host of the Juvenile Diabetes poker run. She was tested 2 times at the scene, all of which showed her to be legal. She was tested another 2 times at Frankfort, which also showed her legal. Her bike was impounded and she was taken back to the dealership and left to her own devices. Now, after the fact of testing, the police claim they had probable cause – failure to stop at an intersection, speeding (doing 70 in a 60) and that she had loud pipes. Interestingly, she had stopped at the intersection, was not speeding, and she had pulled off the road and shut off her engine by the time the cops pulled along side her. It appears that they never heard the pipes, they just observed that she had no baffles when she was taken to Frankfort.

We’ll keep an eye on this situation.

Hail to Jay Jackson

They were all there: Willie G, Hardtail (head of the MRF), Gary Sellers of Ohio, Gary Williams and Tina McCormack from Indiana, me, and hundreds of others, to see Jay Jackson inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. It was a proud moment for us midwesterners! Congratulations, Jay!

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