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Ask Our Lawyer - October 2007

A.B.A.T.E. “Eating its own?”

Q: Our A.B.A.T.E. Chapter has been ripped off by one of our own. I have heard of other instances where an officer “borrows” A.B.A.T.E. monies and can’t pay it back. How can an A.B.A.T.E. chapter protect itself? Should we sue? Can we collect? Do we prosecute? What do we do? Jack Stephenson, Westgate A.B.A.T.E.

A: Here is what we should do. All money handlers in any A.B.A.T.E. organization should be bonded. It is simple and cost effective. Here is how it works: a bonding company [like an insurance company] agrees to write a bond [insurance policy] up to a certain amount of theft [or “borrowing”]. I recommend that at least 75% of the amount a chapter/region will be handling.
If we have one of our own who “borrows” the money, we simply turn it over to the bonding company. They pay us for the loss just like an insurance company does when you have a fire or theft loss. It is the bonding company that will go after [our hopefully] ex-A.B.A.T.E. member. In that way, A.B.A.T.E. is made whole and we do not have to eat our own.
P.S. Jack Stephenson, through efforts above and beyond the call of duty, collected monies “borrowed” from his chapter. Without Jack’s clever intervention, Westgate Chapter would have been out thousands of dollars. In the next issue, I will tell you how Jack did it.

Helmet laws Really Suck in Georgia

Q: I got a ticket in Georgia for a violation of their helmet law [standards]. I think I have a federal case against the judge or the state. I think that Georgia has added safety equipment requirements above and beyond what the federal safety requirements are. Do I have a case?

A: You have asked a great and complicated question. As you may know, when the Federales issue regulation, they pre-empt those areas so that different states or localities can’t have differing standards. Normally, State issues as to health and safety requirements are given a wide berth. I suspect that the locals are looking for fine money from the out of towners. In the case of Georgia, there are some significant questions as to whether the statute and regulations are constitutional, especially since it appears that the State has not produced a list of approved equipment [helmets] as the statute requires. In order to fight this you are looking at appearances in a Georgia Court. STAY TUNED ON THIS ONE.

Motorcycling, an alternative to increasing congestion - here and abroad?

The Federation of European Motorcyclists' Associations has suggested that motorcycling may be a partial answer to complaints of traffic congestion and pollution. They note that motorcycling offers major advantages to the transport mix as an inexpensive, environmentally friendly and effective mean of transport, especially in congested urban areas. They note that:
* Motorcycles occupy far less space on the road and do not contribute to traffic congestion. Motorcycling substantially increases vehicle capacity on congested urban roads;
* Motorcycles easily double-up in a lane or filter through congested areas. They contribute to alleviating gridlock on high volume roads;
* In congested areas, motorcycles take approximately 16 to 48 % less time to cover the same urban trip as a car;
* Average motorcycles consume between 55% and 81% less fuel than cars on the same journey and require fewer resources to manufacture;
* Three or more motorcycles can park in the same space normally used by a car.
* Motorcycles cause a fraction of the damage to roads compared to other motorized transport, and thus are responsible for only a tiny percentage of the maintenance costs.
They conclude that it would be a mistake if urban transport policies focused only on public transport or non-motorized vehicles, neglecting other valuable alternatives to cars such as powered two wheelers.
We as motorcyclists need to take these lessons to heart and let everyone else know what we have always known: motorcycles provide efficient, effective and economical transportation. And, they’re damned fun!

Mortgage Pirates

Q: I have a mortgage on the home that I live in. I have paid my own taxes and insurance for the duration of the loan up to now. I have never had an escrow account. I paid my property taxes a few months late that I owed from last November in May of this year. My loan company paid them again in July. The problem started when I paid my house payment one or two days late for the first time. The next month I was charged a late fee which I paid with the next payment. Then I was charged another late fee and then charged for the tax payment which I already paid. The loan company wanted proof of payment of the taxes. I sent them a copy of the canceled check and the receipt from the county clerk stating I paid the taxes and a payment was made also that was not owed which the mortgage company made. Now the mortgage company is trying to force me to pay the money which they made in error by setting up an escrow account. The taxes they are charging me are more than I owe. They are taking the numbers from the amount owed with the late fee added and wanting me to pay the whole year’s amount instead of the half payment they made. I have never had an escrow account, nor do I want one. Can they force me to pay all the money that they paid in error by making me pay escrow money?

A: These mortgage pirates usually have the power of God in the mortgage agreement. Review your agreement and see if it says what they say it does. If you can’t find it, have them show you – if they can. Normally, a lender has the right to protect itself when the borrower fails to pay a tax installment. But does your lender have the right to pay more than is owed? Common sense says they do not. If they have a local office, make an appointment to get this straightened out. If they don’t, make a telephone appointment with the decision maker at the mortgage company to check your options. Put everything in writing. Set forth your arguments in writing and keep a copy. Email works best. Show a cc to me – your lawyer – it might help get the attention you need.


Maura Donahue of Orland Park IL, the winner of this year’s A.B.A.T.E. LEGAL SERVICES scholarship! Her essay, entitled “Why A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois is Important to Me,” was selected as the winner of this year’s contest in Illinois. Here is some of what she has to say:

A.B.A.T.E. stands for A BROTHERHOOD AIMED TOWARDS EDUCATION. I truly believe that this is one organization that stays true to its principles which promotes the right to ride free. Through the efforts of its members, A.B.A.T.E. truly educates the public and makes them aware. A.B.A.T.E. chapters also reach out to the community by holding benefits for people like sick children and their families who are struggling with medical expenses. I think any organization that helps themselves by helping others is truly special and deserves great respect. The compassion they show both for what they believe in but also for the things they do to help society.

... My dad has told me that the people he has met through riding and through A.B.A.T.E. are some of the best people he has ever met. I believe that if A.B.A.T.E. continues with its mission that one day motorcyclists will have the “freedom of the road” that they truly deserve, and hopefully that day will come very soon.

Maura Donahue is the daughter of Illinois Lawyer and A.B.A.T.E. member, Mark Donahue. Congratulations, Maura, we’re glad you are one of us!

Rod Taylor, Charter Member of MRF, Member of A.B.A.T.E. OF OHIO, INDIANA AND ILLINOIS

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

Remember, injured A.B.A.T.E. 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 ?%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. And, A.B.A.T.E. 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, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206_2850, or email rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2005, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services