When I sold motorcycles in the mid 90s(hon,kaw,suz)we always had demos. They were hondas mostly. We would do a wing a sport bike and a cruiser. We also let people try any used bike thay wanted. All they needed was a valid drivers license and a dealership employee to go with you on a different bike. This was a small town in northern ny. We also demoed the ski-doo sleds.
One of the major reasons why I buy BMW in my arear is that they are the only dealer who allows test rides in my area. Not only that the saleperson actually new his product. When I purchased my bike last year, I went to several dealerships who sold Japanese products to examine their bikes. They might as well have been selling washing machines for what they knew about them. They didn't know service intervals, where to check the oil, etc. Much like as Sears where the salesperson can tell the washers will get my clothes clean, they did know which bike would "go fast." . The exception was HD and Buell where they where knowledgable and allowed test rides. But I just didn't care for HD's image they sell with their bikes. As for Buell nothing suited my usasge. I have heard that this is just the opposite in some areas but not Louisiana.
My Honda, Yamaha, Victory, Ducati dealer used to offer test rides. Many of the bikes I've owned from his shop, both new and used were because the test ride allowed the bike to get into my dreams then into my garage.
I went to him earlier this year to ride a Monster (thanks Buzglyd for getting me thinking about Ducs) and found he could no longer offer them. Seems he had offered a ride to one of his customers who he knew to be an exceptional rider. She was a rider for many years and an MSF instructor so he didn't even give it much thought. He got the copy of her DL and had her sign the waver and off she went.
Three blocks from his shop, she was riding in the number one lane of a six lane city street and a young guy hit the gas to cross the street and head the opposite direction she was traveling. They crashed. Witnesses said they couldn't believe he pulled out. She was right there. She hit the left side of his car which broke some of her bones, dented some metal on his old Chevy Impala and trashed the new bike.
He was charged with failure to yield and she went to the hospital. This however isn't why the shop stopped allowing test rides.
It seems the driver had no insurance but he did have a sue happy attorney. This nut ball sued both the rider and the dealer. Forgive me for not recalling the actual details of the suit but by the time the owner got to this part of the story I was picking my chin up from the floor as I was aghast at insanity of what I was hearing. The suit against the dealer had something to do with not making sure the rider had sufficient experience to handle the bike.
The case was settled out of court for a rather large sum but the real cost came in the form of higher insurance costs for the dealership if they continued to allow test rides. I'm talking $130,000/year. Without offering test rides it is $36,000/yr to insure his business.
His policy now is buy it, insure it and ride it home. You don't like it? Bring it back with in ten business days and he'll cancel the deal without question. Is it a hassle? Yes. I thank the legal system. It sure has reduced the number of bikes I get though.
What's really amazing about this story is that they settled out of court. Why not take it to trial? If the driver was at fault, go to trial. The only reason some of these lawsuits exist is the hope of settling out of trial. If the facts are on your side, Fight 'em!
Welcome to the reality of Insurance costs. Most small dealers have explained to me that the cost of insurance for demo rides (damage to bike, liability to other vehicles, theft etc) is too expensive. Many riders are under experienced or inexperienced and the dealer has no way to validate your skill level unless you have had a relationship with them in the past.
Simple answer... our current Tort system is basically a form of extortion by lawyers. Not thinking about the insurance costs, it was probably cheaper to make this case "go away" than to hire attorneys, take the time to go to court, and still be at the mercy of an uncertain jury.
I had a similar situation a few years ago when I was hit while driving a rental car. I was stopped in traffic on the freeway in L.A. and was pummeled by a catering truck that hit me from behind at 35 mph. No, the Roach Coach company didn't sue me, the guy who was in front of me sued me, my employer (I was on a business trip) and the rental car agency. Seems that the catering company didn't have insurance and their driver didn't even have a license... National Rental Car and my employer had deep pockets.
Everyone in the case agreed that I wasn't at fault... remember, I was stopped at the time... but it never went to court. The rental agency who was left holding the bag because the rental agreement included an insurance waiver paid the schmuck and his lawyers $20k to go away. I got squat except for a bad back and bunch of medical insurance deductibles to pay. The guy who sued didn't get hurt and his car damage amounted to about $1,500 for a new bumper for his SUV. The rental car was totalled.
A couple of years later I was summoned for jury duty. I sat through 3 days of voir dire for an auto-accident related PI case. When they called me up I spouted off the whole story to the judge and the plaintiff's attorney immediatly released me! I later learned that the only damages he had was $1000 in chiropractor bills, no medical records from any MD showing injuries and very limited property damage (which his insurance company paid to fix his car). He was suing for $50k.
also, in the UK, i've seen some of the manufacturers (at least yamaha, i think) offer insurance deals on the their bikes. no doubt a more expensive proposition over here! but i'd bet high insurance rates cost them plenty of sales. in the big cities, it can be tough to find a company even willing to write a policy on an open class sportbike.
I think the system is deplorable, but I wouldn't blame the dealers or the manufacturers. Instead you needd to blame our corrupt legal system that allows a lawsiut to be filed even though the plaintiff was guilty of causing the accident. I am a physician and was involved in a frivolous lawsiut as an expert witness for the defense ( a physician). The laswsiut was won by the defendant physician after 15 minutes - YES, 15 LOUSY MINUTES, of jury deliberation. It cost the physicians's insurance company somewhere between $90,000 and $150,000, by my estimate, to defend the physician. In order to keep the number of lawsiuts down, this physician's malpractice company has a policy of fighting all lawsuits that are not clearly malpractice by the physician. In this particular state, Alabama, lawsuits for malpractice are a dime a dozen. For the 1999 calendar year, the lossses for product liability lawsuits, under which malpractice falls, was greater then the total losses for the same cause in Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi for 1997, 1998 and 1999 combined! The policy of fighting all lawsuits is the only policy to follow, but it is expensive. Multiply the costs in Alabama by the number of states with similar circumstnaces: California, Florida, New York, Massachusetts, Texas and about 10 or so others and the national cost would be at least double the price of a motorcycle in this country.
The real problem is not the number of lawyers or the the unscrupulous lawyers, but it is with the judges that allow such shennanigans, the state legislatures, congress, and the courts (judges again) who rule any tort reform legislation unconstitutional, as was done in Alabama. s
This same problem shut down the small airplane industry who quit mqanufacturing small airplanes for a number of years because they consistently lost lawsuits brought over small airplane crashes. Most of these cases were lost even though the crashes were mostly ruled pilot error or due to poor maintainence. Many of the aircraft involved were well over 20 years old. Small airplane manufacturering only began again in the US a couple of years ago after congress passed a law that any airplane that had flown for 17 years or more was deemed, for purposes of legal liability, to be airworthy and above fault for a crash.
"Houston,", and the rest of the country, "we have a problem". It is the civil courts, their foolish ways and our tort system.
I found a dealer in Murfreesboro, TN (between Nashville and Chattanooga) called sloans cycle they sell the big 4 Jap lines. On the 1st sat of the month they have what they call super saturday. The essentialy do a demo ride fleet as you would have at say the Honda Hoot and free food. A great place. I am loyal to them as a result and buy what I can there, even though they are 100 miles away.
Well, how would you limit the number of lawsuits? I hate the current propensity for suing at the drop of a hat, but I don't see a good way to limit that. More aggressive litigation might put a lid on the numbers, OR forcing the losing party to pay all expenses (e.g. lawyers from both sides, court costs, etc.). Many lawyers take cases on contingency: maybe they should be made liable for the expenses above if the lawsuit fails or is tossed out. Then a lawyer might think twice about suing rather than taking the "let's see if it sticks" attitude. I agree that the current system sucks. Those in the wrong sue anyway, and if they are lucky they even collect.
Sounds like a plan to me... or at least the start of one.
I totally am in favor of "loser pays". You'd better be doggone -sure- you're right before you go throwing down the lawsuit.
The only risk then would be the proverbial 'small guy' who really -was- wronged, trying to take on some large entity with very deep pockets to pay a team of lawyers. Like, no doubt they will try to "OJ their way out of it"...hmmm... 'OJTWOOI', or perhaps 'OJ-TWO-OI' (pronounced: odge-too-oyy).. .ha!.. new term to replace 'bling' as the latest 'hip' term maybe?? (that I'm quite tired of by now).
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