May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month–BKM is here to help bikers enjoy the open road…

It’s no accident that May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month because as the weather gets nicer and riders hit the streets the number of wrecks involving bikes and other vehicles skyrockets.
To help keep the open road safe for bikers BKM will post tips and videos from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), AAA, law enforcement, and the National Highway Safety Foundation during the month and throughout the summer. Check out this informative video from the MSF:  https://vimeo.com/543457795 
We’re leading off with the MSF’s Five Tips for car and truck drivers because statistics show they are at fault in 60% of the accidents involving a bike and another vehicle.
Here are the tips, please utilize them when you’re behind the wheel:
1. Take an extra moment to look for motorcycles. Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spots, so check — then check again — before changing lanes or making a turn.
2. Predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks. A motorcycle may look farther away than it is because of its small size, and it may be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, predict a motorcycle is closer than it appears.
3. Keep a safe distance. Motorcyclists often slow by rolling off the throttle or downshifting, thus not activating the brake light, so allow more following distance, about 3 to 4 seconds.
4. Understand lane shifting. Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.
5. See the person. When a motorcycle is in motion, see more than the motorcycle, see the person under the helmet, who could be your friend, neighbor, or relative.
Bikers enjoy the open road and remember, if you or someone you know is involved in a motorcycle accident, contact the local lawyers who will fight to win the settlement you need and deserve: Betras, Kopp & Markota.

Ohio Supreme Court says hijacking law firm names to drive Google results is a deceptive practice…

Attorney David BetrasI am the managing partner of this law firm which means I am a businessman, which means I am an advertiser. I understand that some people are appalled and offended by attorneys who market their services and are fond of referring to personal injury attorneys as ambulance chasers.”

That is ironic for two reasons: first, because the term was coined in the days when attorneys were forced to contact potential clients and their families directly because the bar was barred from advertising and, second because the pejorative is used regularly by the folks who run or work for mammoth insurance companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year on marketing.

Talk about hypocrites. I guess it is ok for Allstate to spend $500 million annually to convince accident victims that they are in good hands, but I am a ghoul for spending less than one-two thousandth of that to tell them the company is using those hands to pick their pockets.

Go figure.

But I digress. What I really want to discuss in this column is the way marketing in my profession has evolved since 1977, the year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that lawyer advertising was commercial speech entitled to protection under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Immediately after the decision in Bates v. Arizona was announced law firms began using every available advertising medium to contact clients including television, radio, billboards, direct mail, and the Yellow Pages. For readers too young to remember, the Yellow Pages were the business directory section of something known as a phone book—a thick printed directory that listed every phone number and address in a community. Think of it as a printed version of Google, only much more difficult to use.

Anyway, because the phone book was the way most people obtained phone numbers for businesses, competition for the highly visible and easily accessible parts of the directory including the covers was fierce. Attorneys often paid tens of thousands of dollars for the coveted spots which explains why every Yellow Pages sales rep back in the day drove a Porsche, Cadillac, or Corvette.

Today, the Yellow Pages have been replaced by Google, Yahoo, Bing, and YouTube. The bidding wars for frequently searched keywords like “accident attorney” are every bit as fierce as the battles that raged for prime placement in the phone book with one major difference: the competitors cheat by doing things like purchasing the names of other law firms.

Here is how it works: a person who has been injured wants to contact my firm. They search for Betras, Kopp & Harshman. The result comes back in a millisecond, but the phone number and website that pops up belong to the law firm that is paying the most for our name on that day. So instead of calling us, the potential client calls one of our competitors.

I think the practice is dishonest. The Ohio Supreme Court agrees and recently issued an opinion that said using another firm’s name to drive traffic to a law firm’s own site “may constitute conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation,” and is an act “…designed to deceive an Internet user.”

I applaud the Court’s ruling. Now, if we could just get the justices to force Nationwide to admit they are not on our side…