Electric scooters are showing up in cities across the nation, and the trend seems to have momentum. As NPR reported in August 2018, nearly 70 percent of people in a recent survey said they viewed dockless scooters positively. Part of their appeal could be that scooters are frequently thought to be cheap (they typically cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute to use) and fun to ride (they go up to 15 miles per hour).
Scooters are most common in urban areas with higher traffic density, and many drivers and pedestrians are still adjusting to the presence of scooters on local streets and sidewalks. With the increase in scooter usage, accidents are also becoming more common.
Because many cities have no rules regulating scooter use, there is some debate about whether they are more ideal for sidewalks or streets. While riding on the sidewalk would keep the scooter rider from having to share the road with cars and trucks, it would also require them to share the sidewalks with pedestrians.
Powered scooters – a rising trend
In August 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that multiple scooter-sharing companies had begun delivering scooters to cities before municipalities had established regulations for them. According to the Journal, at least seven cities impounded scooters and others such as Miami and Indianapolis sent cease and desist letters to the companies.
One major city that has seen recent battles over scooters is San Francisco, which granted scooter permits to small start-up businesses Scoot and Skip, but shut out major companies such as Uber, Bird, Lime, and Lyft.
Popular scooter companies
Some of the biggest scooter companies include:
- Lime — Lime partnered with Segway in May 2018 to launch a new electric scooter line.
- Bird – Bird was founded by former Uber and Lyft executive Travis VanderZanden in 2017.
- Skip Scooters — Skip was launched in May 2018 by the founders of skateboard manufacturer Boosted Boards.
- Spin — Spin launched scooter sharing in San Francisco in February 2018.
- Scoot — Scoot Networks was launched in Barcelona and plans to enter cities across Western Europe and the Americas.
Liability for Scooter Accidents
Liability for a scooter accident can be extremely complex and depends on the specific circumstances surrounding the accident.
Motor vehicle collisions
Collisions involving scooters and passenger or commercial vehicles could be particularly devastating for the rider, and the driver of the car or truck could be held liable for injuries and property damage they cause.
Because most cities do not have scooter laws in place yet, it may be difficult for a motorist to prove that a scooter operator acted negligently. Still, there may be some situations in which the scooter rider could be held liable if they behaved recklessly.
Another common scenario is scooter accidents involving pedestrians. In such cases, pedestrians may suffer serious injuries. Pedestrians may be able to obtain information about a scooter operator’s insurance, but the scooter driver will not necessarily be covered for liability under the terms of their automobile insurance policy.
Defective scooters can also cause accidents, and it can be challenging for victims to file injury claims in these circumstances. Private rental companies, as well as manufacturers, often claim these accidents are the result of misuse or negligence on the part of the rider.
If it can be proven that the injuries are the result of a defective scooter, the manufacturer could be held liable through a product liability action. Rental companies may be responsible for failure to properly inspect and maintain the scooters in their fleet.
When a person rents a scooter from a private company, they may be asked to sign a liability waiver as a condition of the rental. The validity of such waivers is rarely ironclad.
What to do if you’re injured in a scooter accident
Scooter laws vary by state and jurisdiction, which can make claims in some areas more difficult than others. Greater uniformity will hopefully be established as more locations begin to unveil scooter-specific regulations to keep riders and others safe on our roads and sidewalks.
If you’ve been hurt while riding a scooter, it’s best to reach out to an attorney to discuss your options.