Motorcycling as an Analogy for the Practice of Law… Or Vice Versa

motorcycle legal case

Those who know me know that I love motorcycling. My 2000 Honda Goldwing “Blue Mistress” and I ride about 15,000 miles/year. To be fair, these are always working trips. I take the laptop. I take the Android. I spend a few hours each evening in the motel du jour catching up on calls and emails and briefs and memos.

motorcycle parked
The Blue Mistress at repose, Lincoln, Maine, 9/20/2017

In an odd way, I see my thousands of miles of riding; be it to the Keys in Spring or the Outer Banks in Summertime or New England or the Rockies in the Fall as an analogy to the practice of law. Follow me here. So many legal cases are a long and winding road. Civil litigation, divorces, custody battles can be a long haul, like riding to Key West or Bar Harbor, Maine. Conversely, criminal cases and some bankruptcies come and go pretty quickly; like a nice one-day 300-mile ride around Southeastern Ohio.

mark key west ballast
Mark and bike at the Key West Ballast, March 4, 2014

All cases have their risks, as does riding a motorcycle. Yet like riding my beloved 900-pound Goldwing, I see many folks gain satisfaction through the legal process. There can be bumps and obstacles in the pursuit of justice, like a closed road, a rainstorm, or a slug of bad gasoline on a ride. But in both cases, its often the pursuit of justice or the ride itself that provides the satisfaction, not just getting to the end.

For clients, they want positive outcomes, which of course is reasonable. However, I have been in this line of work long enough now to see that not all cases end in success. Don’t get me wrong. We win far more than we lose. Indeed, getting to a successful destination on a motorcycle, say Duval Street on Key West or Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks or Cabot’s Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia is really gratifying, just as helping our clients complete an equitable divorce, a successful discharge of debts in a bankruptcy, or a reduced charge and no jail time in criminal defense.

motorcycle legal case
Mark and The Blue Mistress riding on Daytona Beach, Florida, March 2015

Aside from joys with my family, nothing beats the feel of a long motorcycle trip when the weather is wonderful and the bike feels like an appendage of my body. Likewise, nothing beats victory in court; seeing the tears of joy in a client’s eye when they realize they can move forward in his or her life. Keep moving forward!

mark bamberger riding
Picture was taken on Cabot’s Trail, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, 9/22/2017

The Law and Crashing your Harley

Lawyer motorcycle accident legal representation

Mark J. Bamberger, Esq., Owner/Attorney at Law

THE MARK BAMBERGER CO., LLC*

*Offices in Tipp City, West Chester, Enon, and Spring Valley, Ohio

 

It had just rained as I piloted my beloved, rebuilt 1990 Harley Sportster 886 between Mason and Spring Valley, Ohio.  After more than a decade and 25,000 some odd miles of riding without one mishap, I was truly comfortable with my motorcycling skills. I dare say I felt more comfortable on my bike seat than on my couch that wet Sunday afternoon.  That all changed in an instant.

 

As I slowed (far too slowly as I came to realize too late) to take a wet sharp turn, the rear tire was out from under me before I knew what was happening.  I would like to braggingly recount that as I fell I examined the various legal ramifications of my on-going mishap.  So often, as people have realized for themselves, when suffering through an accident, time slows down.  Yet here, as I fell to the pavement, I distinctly remember myself thinking “Gee, why am I falling to the pavement?”  There was nothing more and nothing less.  That’s all that was there; nothing philosophical, nothing legally engaging, just the simple fact that from one second to the next, I was contemplating blacktop hitting my body like a hammer.

 

As motorcycle accidents go, this was relatively minor.  There were no broken bones; x-rays confirmed that the next morning.  A month on, my shoulder is still sore and movement is restricted and the road rash on my knee is still heeling.  However, the legal implications are becoming clearer to my mind.  No police officer was there that day to cite me for “Failing to Control”.  One of the three kind onlookers who came running to help me asked if I had insurance. ‘If not, you better get going”, was his apparently experienced advice.  I did have insurance, so was not concerned as I got assistance righting the bike and starting her back up.  All my motorcycles and cars are “hers”; don’t ask – it’s a guy thing.  Yes, I did then  ride the bike home.  In fact, at first I only saw a bloody knee as the prize for my erroneous actions.  “I could hide this from my family and save them the concern”, I honestly thought.  Only later that evening did an ever-more throbbing shoulder and side signal otherwise.

 

Later, I was asked if there was a potential civil action against the tire manufacturer?  I responded “No, but there should be one against its operator for negligence”.  Indeed the accident was almost entirely my own fault.  Due to rushing to get home in the rain; perhaps?  Due to failure to identify a wet turn fast enough; almost certainly.  Due to letting my tires get low on air; maybe.  Due to a deficient bike wheel; not so much.

 

There are attorneys who sue anyone about anything at the drop of a hat.  But the attitude at The Mark Bamberger Company is that our society gets the lawyers (and politicians and doctors) they deserve.  If people weren’t so litigious, there would not be a legal bar to cater to them.  Law suits serve a valuable purpose in society and we pursue many of them at the law firm.  Yet in many cases, seeing the inside of a courtroom is an indication for an attorney of failure; a sign that he or she was not able to settle a dispute reasonably, equitably, and also inexpensively.  In the case at bar, there was no one to sue, although my family members were undoubtedly considering an action against me for negligence and infliction of emotional distress on them for my stupidity.  The bubble of security in which my family members lived while I rode all those thousands of miles had been pierced and might never inflate fully again.  For those who consider themselves serious motorcycle riders; it is a fever that gets into your soul and bones.  The meditation of a quiet ride on an empty country road; smelling the smells, feeling the micro-climatic changes, feeling the freedom of speed and the road, the vibration of power between your knees – hard to explain to the non-rider.  Like all failures, this was a learning experience for me.  I think I lost about eight years of riding confidence that Sunday afternoon and am gaining it back very slowly.  A little fear is a good thing, right?  I took to the bike the very next weekend for a 175 mile ride with my motorcycle club.  I wanted to get back on the horse before my mind went to work on my actions.  Most importantly, the damage to the Harley was minimal and quickly repaired, sans a few new scratches I keep as battle scars.

 

They say that there are two types of riders; those who have laid down their bike and those who will.  A dear friend and far-more experienced rider told me afterwards that all of his motorcycle accidents were largely his own fault.  I then asked myself if I should taking advice from someone who speaks about “motorcycle accidents” in the plural!  The takeaway – from a legal perspective, sometimes you just own the event and your actions therein – and move on.

 

MJB  8/13/12