Easy rider-- Law firm helps develop an app for motorcyclists

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

When the Michigan motorcycle helmet law was repealed last April, the Southfield law firm of Buckfire & Buckfire--specializing in car accidents, medical malpractice and personal injury, including Michigan motorcycle accident cases--did a survey of helmet laws around the U.S., and found they varied greatly from state to state. The firm created a State by State Motorcycle Helmet Laws Infographic--the brainchild of attorney and partner Larry Buckfire and the firm's marketing department--to visually depict the laws in every state, and attracted a huge number of Internet views from all over the country.

"Larry then decided to put this on a plastic wallet card that bikers could keep with them when they went on road trips across state lines, and several thousand bikers requested the cards," says George Burke III, a trial attorney with the firm. "That led to the idea of creating a mobile Helmet Laws app with some great other features that bikers could refer to when riding in the United States, Canada, and even in Europe and Australia. We expect at least 50,000 motorcyclists will download the app within the next year and have our contact information on their mobile phones."

The app, for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android, is available at http://bit.ly/MIMotorcycleAccidentLawyers, and at iTunes and the Google Play Store. Motorcyclists can submit images of their helmet to the "Cool Helmet Gallery"; utilize the accident checklist - what to do after a motorcycle accident; take and save photographs of motorcycle damage and accident scene; receive discounts at some bike shops around the country; connect with fellow bikers and read informational blog entries with the social media feature; access the Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. law firm website motorcycle resource center; and contact the best motorcycle accident lawyers to discuss your legal rights and options. A GPS Bike Finder allows users to place a GPS pin for their bike's location and set a time for when the user needs to return, as well allowing bike riders to e-mail their current location to friends and family.

Buckfire & Buckfire has also published eight books on different personal injury and medical malpractice practice areas and distributed more than 25,000 free to the public; and provides free guides on buying the proper type of insurance coverage for cars and motorcycles.

The firm's website notes that most motorcycle accident injuries in Michigan are caused by negligence of other drivers--rear-ending motorcycles; failing to signal before changing lanes; making a right turn from the center lane and failing to see a motorcycle to their right; forcing motorcycles into a guard rail; or running a red light or stop sign without seeing a motorcycle.

Due to the severity of injuries often suffered in a motorcycle accident, cases often involve complex liability issues and Michigan no-fault insurance issues, Burke explains.

"Many motorcycle accident victims suffer life-changing, catastrophic injuries and it's necessary that any attorney handling these cases have a thorough understanding of the no-fault insurance laws and catastrophic injury fund."

Burke found many other attorneys handling motorcycle accident cases were settling the third part liability claims and then leaving clients in the dark to handle their own no-fault insurance claims.

"I found this unconscionable," he says. "At our firm, we always believed we had a moral and ethical obligation to assist our clients with all of their claims so I decided I needed to be an expert on this area of law. I've enjoyed great success in handling these cases and helping our catastrophically injured clients."

A career in law was a natural fit for Burke, who grew up in a family of lawyers--including his father, an aunt and four cousins. His father, District Attorney for Norfolk County, Mass., was politically active, served as regional campaign manager for John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign, and was a personal friend of Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. With this family background in politics and law, Burke earned his undergrad degree in political science, cum laude, from Syracuse University, and his J.D. from Boston College Law School.

His own enjoyment of riding motorcycles and off-road vehicles gives Burke a great appreciation for clients who have a passion for motorbikes and riding on the open roads, and he finds it gratifying to help his clients and their families through difficult times.

"I'm very competitive by nature and really enjoy the challenges and strategies related to litigation," he says. "It's interesting to learn about a variety of non-legal matters, like accident reconstruction and medical conditions, and then using the facts of a case and the law to advocate for my clients."

Burke currently has a case on appeal that he successfully tried in the Monroe County Circuit Court in March 2011 for four motorcycle accident victims. Grange Insurance filing a declaratory action against several motorcyclists requesting that the court declare Grange was not responsible for the motorcyclists' first party Michigan no-fault benefits.

According to Burke, Grange's insured had stopped his motor vehicle on the roadway, waiting for a vehicle in front to take a left turn.

"It's believed Grange's insured placed his vehicle into park while waiting," Burke explains. "One of the motorcyclists did not observe brake or tail lights and thought the Grange insured vehicle was moving, but when he realized the vehicle had stopped it was too late--he laid down his bike, slid under the bumper of the Grange insured vehicle and the motorcycle bounced into an oncoming motorcyclist traveling the opposite direction."

Grange claimed their insured's vehicle was not involved with the accident despite police photos showing damage to the vehicle's bumper; their insured making a property damage claim against the motorcyclist's insurance company; and a recorded statement of their insured where he stated he believed his vehicle was hit by the motorcycle.

"At the close of Grange's proofs, I moved for directed verdict which was granted," Burke says. "The issue of whether there was an unreasonable delay in payment of the benefits, pursuant to MCL 500.3142, was submitted to the jury who awarded in excess of $51,000 in penalty interest."

A 3rd Degree Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Burke is active in his church and community. In January he worked with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) fund-raising "Lock Up" program; and also donates to other worthy charitable organizations such as The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW).

He and his wife live in South Lyon, with their four children, ages 9 through 16.

"My hobbies are keeping up with my children and all their activities--volleyball, basketball, lacrosse and cross country," he says.

Published: Thu, Mar 7, 2013

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