The streets in many cities and college towns are teeming with electric scooters. Start-up companies with colorful names like Bird, Lime, and Spin have placed two-wheeled, motorized scooters around towns across America, so that users with a smartphone app can rent them for a small fee.
What happens if drivers of rented scooters crash and injure themselves or others? As with other new technologies such as ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft, it will take the law some time to catch up with the novel issues raised by electric scooter sharing accidents.
Electric Scooter Sharing Accidents and Insurance Issues
E-scooters are certainly not the safest form of transportation. Although their top speed is only about 15 or 20 miles per hour, that's fast enough for a driver to hit a pothole and lose control. The reported number of scooter accidents are already beginning to accumulate.
While car or motorcycle operators are legally mandated to have insurance coverage, most places don't require this for e-scooter users. What happens if your rented scooter sideswipes an elderly pedestrian, who breaks a hip in a fall and then sues you? Will your automobile insurance or homeowner's/renter's insurance provide coverage? It's at least worth checking any existing policies you have. Your liability risks with an e-scooter are similar to a bicycle.
Of course, an e-scooter renter is not the only one who may need insurance. A local business might be sued for leaving debris outside that causes a scooter to skid into oncoming traffic. Businesses and others should verify that they have adequate insurance coverage to address this new travel trend.
Waivers in User Agreements
To shield themselves from lawsuits, scooter-sharing firms often put waivers in their online user agreements to make it clear that they're not responsible for any wrecks or injuries that occur. Will these liability waivers hold up in court? What if an accident is caused by the company's poor maintenance of a scooter? These are some questions that courts are considering as they weigh the liability exposure of scooter-sharing businesses.
One class-action lawsuit in Los Angeles takes an end-run around any negligence waivers by claiming gross negligence on the part of e-scooter businesses. The lawsuit alleges the scooter companies knew or should have known that the scooters were dangerous and nonetheless continued to operate them knowing that injuries would result.
New Liability Issues, Old Principles
While slow to adapt to technological changes, the law has centuries of experience assigning responsibility for vehicle accidents, from horse-and-buggy mishaps onward. In confronting the issues raised by electric scooter accidents, the courts will rely on traditional negligence principles, under which the liability belongs to the one at fault for causing the accident. Situations of shared fault are also familiar to the law. Liability waivers and government regulations can affect the outcome of personal injury cases, too.
Lawmakers, the insurance industry, and the courts are in the process of sorting out the safety and other issues raised by the proliferation of e-scooters. Some cities have responded to the emergence of scooter rentals by banning them. However, e-scooter sharing potentially offers an environmentally friendly, traffic-reducing way to zip around town. For this reason, many cities have encouraged the start-up businesses, while sometimes also taking the precaution of subjecting them to regulation.
Have Questions About Electric Scooter Sharing Accidents? Ask a Lawyer
If you've been injured by an electric scooter accident or have been sued for causing one, it may be worthwhile to consult with an experienced attorney, who will advise you about the legal options and advocate for your best interests. Contact a qualified personal injury attorney near you today.