Motorcycle Accident Articles

The Case of the Heritage Springer

In 2005, my 2002 Harley Davidson Heritage Springer was stolen from inside a secured garage, (w/ video) locked, and cabled to a cinder block wall. The thief pried the bracket from the wall and then he and 3 accomplices dumped my bike in a van and drove out of the underground "secured" parking garage. Smile for the camera!

Heritage Springer 2002 Harley Davidson

The next morning, in disbelief that my bike was stolen, I called police and my insurance agent, and took the day off from work to deal with it. I now experienced first hand what many of my clients have gone through.

The White Bear Police officers and the assigned detective were great! We viewed the video from the apartment leasing office, and the Detective made a positive ID. Unfortunately, like we see on TV with convenience stores, the quality wasn't the best, but was good enough for the detective to "recognize" the thief, a known criminal with a motorcycle theft record. My own investigation disclosed charges pending all over the Twin Cities and Western Wisconsin! To my amazement, the prosecuting attorneys didn't know the nature and extent of the (alleged) thief's record. I took it upon myself to copy records and charges from all over these counties and sent them to the prosecutors and courts. In my situation, while the police detective filed an Affidavit stating she could positively identify the thief from the video, the County "prosecutor" refused to charge it out against him. I was told in no uncertain terms, (1) it was a property only case (read: not high priority), and (2) "You have insurance don't you? What's the big deal?" Yes that's what I was told by one of my own legal colleagues.

Our justice system doesn't always dispense justice fairly, but I never rested in my crusade to monitor the thief's other cases and look for my bike on every ride. If we couldn't get him for my case?I wanted to make sure he finally got what he deserved.

My next surprise was being told by my own insurance company's claims manager (who I knew and had dealt with on other personal injury cases) that I was the "#1 suspect," but "not to take offense." He assigned an adjuster who proved to be a bigger disappointment than the county prosecutor.

I had to give a statement under oath, provide financial records, credit history, and sign multiple authorizations for my insurance company to obtain BCA records on me. That was fine?the bike was paid for and was inside the garage so the 2 major red flags were not there. They repeatedly "lost" or stated they never "received" documents I had sent multiple times. By law, I knew I had the burden to prove my damages: the value of my bike, the accessories I had put on it, and the value of the work done, etc. Days turned to weeks, and more "never received" documents.

Exasperated, I asked the Harley dealership that performed the work to send receipts directly to the insurance adjuster, as I was told what I had sent wasn't good enough. I even engaged my insurance agent to contact the claims manager for some relief.

After a month wasted on the insurance company I finally got my check and a new bike after threatening to go to the insurance commissioner. Unfortunately, Harley no longer made the Heritage Springer.

Lessons learned:
1) No matter how much you theft-proof your bike - it can be stolen.
2) The legal system doesn't always dispense justice - even in clear cut cases.
3) Make sure you keep a file on your bike and take pictures every year of how it looks - including one of the odometer.
4) Keep a receipt file for all accessories/ work performed.
5) Give a copy of that file to your insurance agent.
6) Make sure your agent is local. Don't buy your bike insurance off the internet! My agent clearly helped me get the final result I did.
7) Know your agent and stay in contact with him/her.
8) Make sure you have extra coverage for your bike's added accessories. Insurance companies are not the same! Some offer more, some less, some it's "included" in the premium. Do not skimp on this coverage. If you do, you will be under compensated when the thief pays a call. And you will be disappointed for not paying a few bucks more for better coverage.
9) Finally, talk to an experienced lawyer who "speaks motorcycle" and has experience in handling these types of claims before contacting the insurance company. Remember, YOU are the first and prime suspect, even if you are a lawyer. Most lawyers who ride should be willing to help with these types of claims pro bono.

Post script: The thief got his justice in the end - 5 years in prison for methamphetamine distribution. Me? I continue to search for my 2002 Heritage Springer. Ride Safe.