THE RIGHTS MOVEMENT
reprint from "On The Road"
During the June 1995 Board meeting in Lexington, the KMA/KBA Board of Directors decided that it was no longer in the best interest of the organization to continue its relationship with the personal injury law firm of Christopher & Taylor (also known as Legal Services). The topic came about because of a memo sent to the KMA by a representative of the law firm. The memo complained that Christopher & Taylor was not getting enough "business" from Kentucky.
Simply translated, this polite message means that our members aren't getting killed and maimed fast enough to suit the personal injury lawyers who get fat off of their blood. Needless to say, a few Directors were pretty outraged.
In addition to their dissatisfaction with our low accident rate, the State Office has had a number of complaints that Legal Serviceshad refused to help our people with anything other than open and shut personal injury cases. The decision to terminate our endorsement of this firm was unanimous. The Board then charged the V.P. of Legislation with the task of investigating other law firms such as A.I.M. AND B.A.M. and reporting back his findings at the next Board meeting.
During the two months that followed, a very interesting history of what personal injury lawyers have meant to the motorcycle rights movement began to unfold. It is not a pretty picture. Apparently, it didn't take these ambulance chasers long to figure out that there was money to be made in our blood. During the 1970's and 1980's they began to promise the motorcycling community the moon and the stars. They attached themselves to geographic areas like old fashioned land barons. They carved the country up into their own personal spheres of influence, each promissing to do more for freedom than the last. They pitted one group against the other and splintered the then embryonic rights movement. And why? What was the motive? Was it to destroy the rights movement? No, it wasn't even that calculated. It was simple greed. They wanted money; money came from increasing the pool of accident victims who were aligned to them, and they broadened these numbers through any and every divisive measure available.
Sure, all of their sales pitches, all of their adds, show them in leathers claiming to be just like us. They even recruit the weaker among us to act as "Judas goats" and lead the unsuspecting into their fold. But don't trust them, not for a moment. They care nothing about motorcyclists or our fight for freedom. They care only for money.
There is a bright side to this; knowledge is power. We now know who and what they are. We can see through their tricks and lies. When they try to gain influence in our organizations by insisting that they be the only personal injury lawyer allowed to advertise in our publications, we will be ready for them.
Freedom doesn't end with the open road-surely every member of our organization is fully capable of deciding who if anyone should "represent" them should the need arise.
Response from BOLT
Having been involved in the biker's rights movement for over 20 years, much of what KMA/KBA says about lawyers is true. In all fairness though, there were and are a lot of lawyers out there that have helped us over the years. Some were personal injury attorneys, some were criminal defense attorneys. Some rode bikes, others didn't. The fact that an attorney rides a motorcycle means nothing about his ability to achieve success for his client. If I were a construction worker, I would not seek out an attorney that worked on a road crew. If I drove a cement truck for a living, I would not look for an attorney that also drove a cement truck. That is all part of the hype some attorneys use to deceive clients into thinking they are one of us.
Amublance chasers? Yeah, they're out there too. The only defense against this is to try and check with your state bar to see if a particular attorney had any complaints against him, or was suspended in the past. Another point made in the article was that during the research for the newsletter, three of the well known law firms were scrutinized, and it was found that they were after the personal injury cases, period. They didn't want to be bothered with mundane questions about other legal problems. And they put on a display of being there to help in the rights movement. But in fact, they do very little positive work. Some more than others, but in reality, very little other than report what others have done under the guise that they were somehow involved or responsible for the success. Using bikers as promoters of their firms is also a widespread phenomenon. Of course, legitimate, well meaning firms also do this. So it's hard to separate the good from the bad.
Let me speak from personal experience. First of all, I'm not a lawyer. I co-founded my ABATE chapter in 1974, and worked as a biker's rights advocate for two years prior to that. I have devoted my entire adult life to motorcycling and motorcyclist's rights. I just happen to be employed as an accident investigator for Jacobson & Hupy, S.C. at the current time. Over the years I developed business relationships with a number of attorneys, all of whom helped us in our state struggle for freedom from helmet laws and other motorcycle related issues. Our firm has been actively trying to convince certain states that the "exclusive advertising" agreements demanded by Taylor & Associates (Legal Services) is just the opposite from what we as bikers should be doing. It seems funny that we fight for our members to have a choice in personal decision making, and then turn around and choose for them who will be allowed to advertise in the organizations newsletter. This control is carried out for the benefit of the members, to protect them from the ambulance chasers and bad attorneys that only want the injured and maimed to contact them. Yet by this very decree, the best attorneys in the state could not advertise in the newsletter. If Abraham Lincoln were alive and living in Illinois, he could not advertise in the ABATE newsletter. Something is very wrong with this picture.
In their rightous crusade to protect the membership, leadership in these organizations bought into the hpye of just one more attorney presenting a package of control and exclusiveness. In otherwords, the adult members of these organizations are not capable of making a wise decision for themselves about legal representation, so ABATE (big brothernism) will guide them and protect them. A noble but short sighted endeavor.
I have personal opinions about the legal referral firms mentioned above, and I will keep them personal. I can say that at least where I work, we do not demand exclusive rights to an organization, or ask that the organization do commercial mailings (requested numerous times by A.I.M.), and we talk to people who call about other legal problems. We refer them to other attorneys if we can't help them. We even give the names of other "good attorneys" to handle a personal injury case if the caller does not want to use us. I don't know of any other firm that does that. Ask Taylor, or Richar Lester or Russ Brown to refer you to someone other than one of their associates and see what the response is. The point is, not everyone is out there to help us. I've been to numerous hearings, testified in several states, traveled to Washington D.C. twice, conducted seminars on insurance, vehicle confiscations, and many other topics, all at my firms expense, because we are here to help bikers, not just talk about helping them.
Do not judge all attorneys and law firms by the negative actions of some. We need lawyers on our side despite what you think about them in general. Think about what John Q citizen thinks about bikers. Do we all fit into the picture that is painted of the American Biker? Think about it. Get away from lawyers who demand something in return for their association with us. Look at their record, check their educational background, what schools they graduated from, etc. Make a wise and personal decision. Don't let someone make it for you.