April 2011 Archives

Are Insurance Companies Evil? Billion Dollar Company Wants Settlement From Paralyzed 7 Year Old Child

It might seem like an inflammatory question to some, and may seem like a rhetorical question to others, but to me, it is a question we should all ask. I write that because of the following story by KPHO Channel 5.  According to the story, a billion dollar company wants money from the settlement a paralyzed child received in a car accident.  

The child, Shaun Doss, was in an accident- he was 3 at the time- when his seat belt broke on impact and he suffered a head and spine injury, which left him paralyzed from the chest down. Shaun's father, Robert Doss, was working for Service Corporation International at the time and paying his health insurance premiums diligently.  The insurance company covered his son's medical expenses, and Mr. Doss was able to settle the case and received a confidential settlement on behalf of his son.  

Now Service Corporation International, a $3 billion company, wants Shaun Doss to pay them back for the medical coverage they provided as health insurance.  According to the Doss' attorney, the money Service Corporation International is seeking would "all but wipe out" Shaun's settlement.   Keep in mind this is not someone who did not have health insurance and received treatment at taxpayer expense.  This is someone who had a health insurance and was paying his premiums on time.   

That point led Mr. Doss to ask "What is the point of having insurance? I would never have had insurance if I knew they were going to take it back".  

The worst part of this story is that just when things were getting better for the now 7 year old child and his family, they received the notice in the mail from SCI's insurance company. It said the company intended to recoup the money it paid for Shaun's hospital stay. While SCI claims it is entitled to reimbursement under ERISA law, let's all hope SCI changes its mind and Shaun can enjoy at least a part of his childhood. 

Police Using Dogs to Catch Loud Motorcycles

This is a first for me.  I can understand why police officers would use dogs to catch drug dealers; after all, dogs have a much better sense of smell than humans, but loud pipes?  Yes it's true. According to Clutch and Chrome, police will soon be using trained dogs used to sniff out motorcycles with loud pipes.  

After ten years of perfecting training techniques, Kanine Kings, a company in Phoenix Arizona that supplies drug-sniffing dogs to law agencies all over the world has announced today it can effectively produce four legged friends that will react to specific loud noises such as those produced by what many call 'loud pipes'.

It seems the real police are interested in these dogs is the same reason police were posting traffic cameras:  to make money. 

Other cash strapped cities and towns are eyeing this latest training technique as an opportunity to help with struggling budgets in dire need of balancing. 'Depending on the cost of the trained canines this could prove a cost effective method of bringing in much needed revenues,' said a mayor from a small New Hampshire town who asked not to be identified.

The fact the police need to use dogs to catch "loud motorcycles" raises an interesting question: if the police need the heightened senses of a dog, how loud could the motorcycle possibly be? Or as a Ed commented on the site: "If the cop can't detect the loud pipes with his own ears he/she shouldn't be on the job."  That sounds like a reasonable suggestion to me. 

Riding Motorcycles is More Dangerous Than War for Young Marines

This past weekend there was very sad news from Seattle, Washington. A 24 year old Navy Officer died in a motorcycle wreck.  According to the local paper Sky Valley Chronicle:  

The motorcycle driver, a 24-year-old active duty naval officer from Silverdale, died at the scene according to the state patrol and his stepdaughter was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with what were believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.

The reason I think this article is important is because it goes to show the most dangerous thing our young men and women in the military might not be going to war, but might be riding a motorcycle in the civilian world.   According to a 2008 story in CNN: 

Motorcycle accidents have killed more Marines in the past 12 months than enemy fire in Iraq, a rate that's so alarming, it has prompted top brass to call a meeting to address the issue, officials say.Twenty-five Marines have died in motorcycle crashes since November -- all but one of them involving sport bikes that can reach speeds of well over 100 mph, according to Marine officials. In that same period, 20  Marines have been killed in action in Iraq.

I do not literally believe that riding a motorcycle is necessarily more dangerous than war. These statistics are a reflection of total numbers of fatalities, not fatalities per time on motorcycle versus per time in combat.   But they do remind all of us to be careful.   The thing to keep in mind though, sometimes even if you do everything that you should to stay safe, it could be someone's else fault, like a rear end accident, that gets you hurt. 

Despite the dangers that others create for motorcycle riders, motorcycle riding is so dangerous that there are even some in the Marine Corp who suggest the right of Marines to ride motorcycles should be limited or outright banned.  From Ban the Bike

More Marines were killed in fiscal year 2008 (FY08) by motorcycles than by insurgent groups in Iraq. Statistically, motorcycles posed a deadlier threat to Marines than did insurgents. To reduce fatalities, the Marine Corps should place a temporary restriction on the use of sport bikes to older, more experienced riders while expanding training and education on motorcycle safety throughout the force.

So what do you all of you think?  The Marine Corp certainly has the right and power to restrict motorcycles, but should they even if it's good for the country? 

Times Are a Changing: LAPD Motorcycle Officers Admit Traffic Ticket Quota is No Fantasy

Police officers will deny it until they are blue in the face. If they are on their death bed they will say the exact same thing as 1 million times before. "We do not have quotas for making traffic stops."  Well, it turns out there may be a chink in the thin blue line.LAPD_Motorcycle_Police.jpg

Andrew Blankstein and Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times report of a recent lawsuit where LAPD motorcycle officers who complained about ticket quotas were awarded $2 million.  According to the article: 

The veteran motorcycle officers alleged in a lawsuit that they were punished with bogus performance reviews, threats of reassignment and other forms of harassment after objecting to demands from commanding officers that they write a certain number of tickets each day.  A jury awarded a pair of Los Angeles police officers $2 million Monday after determining that LAPD supervisors had retaliated against the officers for complaining about alleged traffic ticket quotas.

I am completely shocked by this jury verdict.  To be clear, I am not shocked that police officers have quotas for traffic stops. I am shocked that any officers would be willing to admit it and then sue as a result.  

I also do a lot criminal and DUI defense in Arizona. I have interviewed and cross-examined dozens, if not hundreds of police officers. And every time I have implied the existence of traffic quotas, judges, police officers, prosecutors, and even juries have dismissed the notion.  But as Bob Dylan sang, maybe times are a changing. 

Oregon's Motorcycle Helmet Law Update

One of the things I like to keep up to date on is motorcycle helmet laws. For no other reason, I think which states have motorcycle helmet laws tells us quite a bit about that state's political and cultural atmosphere.  As such, it is perfectly appropriate that Arizona, a bastion of libertarianism, allows anyone over the age of 18, assuming they have the motorcycle endorsement, to ride a motorcycle without a helmet. 

So what about a state like Oregon?  Oregon is one of the most liberal states in America, and without getting into the details of which political or economic ideology works best, one would think such a state would permit riders to chose for themselves if they want to wear a helmet or not.  But, sadly that is not the case.  

Oregon requires riders to wear a helmet.  There was, however, as Philip Heneghan of Bikers of America mentions a push to repeal the motorcycle helmet law.  Unfortunately, the proposed law change has stalled: 

Under the proposed law, other riders who choose not to wear a helmet would have to carry $25,000 in personal injury protection in their vehicle insurance policy. Oregon is one of 20 states that require all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet. Twenty-seven states have motorcycle helmet laws that only require younger riders to do so, and three others do not have any helmet laws. But apparently the bill became mired in the House Transportation Committee and doesn't appear to moving forward with needed 'work sessions' to allow continued consideration of the legislation.

So it seems for the time being at least, if you plan on taking a trip up to the Great Northwest, pack your helmet. 

When in Vegas... Nevada's Motorcycle Laws

A lot of Arizonans love to take trips on their motorcycle to Nevada and of course, Las Vegas. Arizona riders love Nevada for good reason too, considering the wide open roads and fun one can find in Sin City. In fact, Las Vegas has annual bike fest that is one of the biggest in the nation. But there are a couple of things you must consider before your next trip to Nevada.

First, Nevada, unlike Arizona, requires all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet and eye protection. That is found under Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 486.231. That means you must wear a helmet, and if you motorcycle does not a windshield, you must wear eye protection as well. Also, you must have a valid motorcycle license. And just like Arizona and every other state in the United States other than California, lane splitting is not permitted in Nevada (NRS 486.351 ).

As far as liability insurance, it is very similar to Arizona's law. You must have a $15,000/$30,000 bodily injury liability protection, but in addition, and unlike Arizona, you must also have $10,000 liability insurance for property damage as well.

One final point about Nevada: Arizona is a comparative fault state, while Nevada is a contributory negligence state. That means in Arizona, even if you mostly, even 99% percent at fault for an accident, you can still make a claim for the 1% for which you are not at fault. In Nevada, to have a claim for any accident, you cannot be more than 50% at fault. By way of example, let's say someone gets into an accident and the motorcycle rider is considered, for whatever reason, 60% at fault. In Arizona, that rider would get approximately 40% of his total case value because he was 60% at fault. In Nevada, how much would the same rider get under the exact same circumstances? Nothing, maybe Nevada is not so wonderful after all.

Continue reading "When in Vegas... Nevada's Motorcycle Laws" »

Michigan Might Drop Motorcycle Helmet Law

Allison Hillaker writes that the Michigan legislature may change Michigan's motorcycle helmet law and no longer riders to wear a helmet.  The motorcycle helmet law may soon be thrown out the window, as two bills are pending in Michigan legislation.  

Michigan is deciding between two different bills, one from the state house and another from the state senate.  House bill would allow a motorcycle rider to forgo a helmet if they have insurance of at least $20,000.  Apparently, the theory behind the house version of the bill is that if you are able to take care of your own medical expenses as a result of your decision, then why should we stop you from doing what you want? The senate bill is a little different in that it requires any rider who does not want to wear a helmet to have taken a motorcycle safety course and be at least 21 years old.  There is no requirement of any sort of insurance to forgo a motorcycle helmet in the Michigan Senate bill.    The current law in Michigan is that all motorcycle riders must wear a helmet.

Arizona, in conformity with its Iron Horse image, does not require a helmet and that is unconditional.  In Arizona, if you have the right to ride a motorcycle, you can do it without a helmet.   And unlike the proposed Michigan law changes, Arizona's motorcycle helmet law is unconditional, meaning there is no age or insurance requirement other than if you are 17 and younger you must wear a helmet.  For a comprehensive list of state motorcycle helmet laws, see this list.

Of course, there is also a debate about how effective motorcycle helmet laws really are.  A number of motorcycle riders wear helmets that are nothing more than eggshells.  My personal feeling is that it should be up to the individual rider to decide whether or not to wear a helmet.  So as you are informed of the consequences and no one else should suffer from those consequences, then why shouldn't it be your own decision?