Bob Karney

Written by Ellen Gurley

an Interview by Ellen Gurley 6.25.2012

bob-karneyE: Are you from Charlotte?
BOB: I am originally from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

E: Bob, I’ve heard you referred to as Charlotte’s Biker Lawyer and as Carolina’s Biker Lawyer. Does this mean you take cases outside of Charlotte or North Carolina?
BOB: I take cases throughout North Carolina, primarily, and I have several lawyers that I associate throughout South Carolina. I recently took a case in Key Largo, Florida and one in New York. For some more tragic, significant cases (larger), I will go longer distances.

E: Would you say that no matter where a tragedy occurs, the motorcycle community, on a national level, feels a loss?
BOB: Absolutely. Above all, bikers get the ‘short end of the stick’ and I have decided that I am just tired of seeing that happen. My career began with no specialty, I did criminal, domestic, personal injury, and medical malpractice. But I said ‘goodbye’ to my building with three floors of lawyers and I am only ‘here’ for the biker. I have seen too many people in the biker community lacking representation.

E: Is this an issue that you would say directly relates to the ‘perception’ of the biker?
BOB: Oh, sure, there IS a misconception about the biker community. People see the leather (and tattoos) and hear the loud motorcycle. There is then a judgment passed that is based on that perception, and they never get to know that ’individual’.

E: You take cases that involve motorcyclists? Are you always on the side of the motorcyclist or have you taken cases where you had to defend the motorist against a motorcyclist’s errors?
BOB: I don’t just take bikers, if it’s a case I can emotionally ‘wrap my arms around’, then I will take a severe car accident or a plane crash (one recently in New York with a US airplane). But never a motorist against a biker. Again, ‘short end of the stick’; there is nothing you can do for a biker if he contributes (to his negligence), by law, even by 1%. But here’s the ‘thing’; it is rarely the biker’s fault, which is why I got into this. Bikers will go to great lengths to NOT GET HIT. They take classes, wear protective gear, they do not want to be in accidents. Period.

E: Educating people about motorcycle safety is one of the things you do, including, but not limited to, the way to dress yourself in proper gear. Not just a helmet, but eye protection, jackets and pants, gloves and boots PLUS hearing protection.
BOB: Yep, but the BEST thing you can do to protect yourself, as a biker, is by driving defensively! You have to look; ‘which way are his wheels turned’, in regards to the motorist. For a biker, even a minor accident, you are significantly injured. Watch the motorist; texting (young people), this is (has become) a really bad thing. Laws will be passed / have started to be passed addressing this problem (on a US congressional level) and highway funds will be cut-off, for states that don’t adhere.

E: With all of the mayhem, for lack of a better word, that a motorcyclist faces on his ride (including motorists, truckers, other riders, and roadway defects) which would you cite as the biggest menace present for potentially ruining a biker‘s ’happy ride‘?
BOB: Motorists. Hands down. Truckers tend to watch out for bikers, as a vast majority of truck drivers ride bikes, making them our ally on the road, so to speak.

E: I know you deal with a lot of people who have survived a bike crash and are dealing with injuries but you also deal with those who have lost a loved one to an unfortunate accident. Sometimes a memorial ride is put into place for someone (to send them off with respect or earn money for their loved ones or a charity). What was one of the most memorable you’ve attended?
BOB: All of them are moving, it would be impossible to pick one. There are memorial rides all the time. Unfortunately, I went on one just yesterday.

E: Have you ever had to sue, on behalf of the biker, due to an accident caused by roadway defects?
BOB: What happens there is that you sue the Department of Transportation in Raleigh, North Carolina. Just this week, I have a case of this very specificity; wherein tar, not having been put on properly, became loose, and resulted in the biker (upon taking a turn), ‘biting the dust‘. He survived, but he is beat up. The highway patrol present made the DOT come and scrape it all up right then and there.

E: What’s the most common motorcycle accident you see?
BOB: 83% of accidents happens directly in front of the biker; meaning something in front of them caused it. What’s really frustrating is when someone causes an accident, downs a biker, and then takes off. Unfortunately for the offender, the biker usually is riding with someone and they usually will follow the person who causes the accident. Happens a lot.

E: Would you say, than in cases (accidents) that you’ve dealt with, they have ended in fatality; most of the time, some of the time or few times?
BOB: Few.
E: Good!

E: What season brings on the highest rate of accidents? I would assume that it‘s the fall (slick leaves).
BOB: The summertime, simply because is when the majority of bikers are out on the road.

E: What’s the best shop in Charlotte to get a bike?
BOB: That depends, of course on what you are looking for. 23% of new Harley buyers are female. And the even younger person is into the ‘metric’ (a lighter, less ‘touring’ type of bike) a just get-around-town type of bike and Harley is addressing this demand by producing bikes that will please that demographic.

E: I still say Harleys are the coolest.
BOB: (nods)

E: So you can’t have motorcycles or hot rods without babes. Let’s talk pin-ups. You’ve got a Karney Biker Calendar that you put out. 2006 being the first, all complete with models and bikes.
BOB: Yes, we printed 5,000 at the start in 2006 and we printed 30,000 for the 2012 one.

E: I love how the Blue Star Mothers of America (Midlands Chapter), mothers of past or present military, contacted you to put the calendar in care packages for troops. How nostalgic. That’s pretty much how the pin-up girl calendar gained popularity; calendars of the starlets of the ‘30’s were sent to men serving. Do you plan to team up with them for that effort in the future?
BOB: Sure thing.

E: Let’s talk charity. It should be better-known that the biker community does a lot of charity in our area (and nationally). Tell me a little about this.
BOB: Yes, bikers are contributing members of society that donate their time, their money, their skills and get enthusiastic about (things such as) toy runs for Christmas (all year-’round). Asheville will have thousands of bikers with teddy bears all over their bikes. It’s a sight. I am pleased to see the perception (beginning to) change. I am helping to contribute to that effort with “Bulldog Hero Awards”. Go to and type in the keyword “bulldog”. Essentially, it’s a program recognizing bikers all over the state for doing charity. They are nominated by the community and upon winning they receive money towards the charity of their choice.

E: What is your favorite ride destination.
BOB: The mountains.

E: Your dream motorcycle?
BOB: I own it.

E: Your dream destination?
BOB: Next year might be just that. To the Pacific coast highway. I just received a new helmet cam, as a gift from a friend, and I can’t wait to give it a test-run.

E: Your favorite local biker bar?
BOB: That would be between Easy Eddie’s and McKoy’s Smokehouse & Saloon.

E: Are you a member of any local biker associations? CBA (Concerned Biker Association) one of them?
BOB: Yes and the Hog Chapter (Harley Owners Group), all for biker awareness.

E: Any local biker churches out there?
BOB: Yes, the Freedom Biker Church.

E: No, kidding?
BOB: Nope.

E: Your favorite annual event in the region?
BOB: My own. This year it will be on Saturday, August 25th at the Charlotte Harley Davidson in Matthews.

E: Do you prefer; beer or liquor?
BOB: Wine.

E: Steak or chicken?
BOB: Steak.

E: Mountains or beach?
BOB: Both.


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