Ever since dockless electric scooters first rolled onto American city streets last year, they’ve been hailed as a solution to everything from traffic congestion to pollution. Unfortunately, these shareable “micro-mobility vehicles” pose safety risks for scooter riders and drivers alike. According to a recent study performed at the Austin Public Health Department, more than 20 individuals may be injured for every 100,000 e-scooter trips.
Electric scooters are relatively new to public roads, which means that researchers are still studying the safety risks and ramifications of using these miniature vehicles. The law also has yet to fully catch up with electric scooters – so if you’re involved in an e-scooter accident, you’ll need to work with an experienced attorney to find out who is liable for your injuries.
Understanding the Risks of E-Scooters
Although electric scooters and similar vehicles have been around for years now, companies like Bird, Lime, Skip, and Spin have only recently seized on the opportunity to pair them with technology. By using a smartphone app, users can easily locate and rent one of these shareable electric scooters, which are scattered throughout city streets. So far, e-scooter companies have continued to enjoy incredible popularity with consumers who appreciate the low prices, quick speeds, and convenience of these vehicles.
The electric scooters have proved to be less popular with local and city authorities, however, as well as public health experts who caution about injuries. It’s estimated that more than 1,500 people have been injured and 8 people have been killed because of e-scooters since the fall of 2017. When you combine the injury risks with the steady stream of complaints about dockless scooters left on sidewalks, it’s little wonder that many city governments have either banned or temporarily suspended the use of e-scooters on public property.
Here are a few reasons that public health experts remain skeptical about e-scooters:
- The companies do not provide safety gear. A study at the University of California Los Angeles found that only 4.4% of all injured e-scooter riders were wearing a helmet at the time of their accident. This is likely because the rental electric scooters do not come with helmets or safety gear of any kind – and few riders think to bring their own.
- Scooters are difficult for drivers to see. Moving at speeds up to 20 mph, electric scooters may seem like regular vehicles in some respects. But the small and compact design often makes it hard for drivers to see scooter riders, especially when the riders are not obeying the law and staying in designated areas.
- The scooter companies deny liability. Before hopping onto a Bird or Lime scooter, users must sign a liability waiver. While signing a waiver doesn’t automatically mean that the company will avoid liability, it does make things harder for scooter riders who are injured in accidents.
Why Is E-Scooter Liability So Complicated?
Motor vehicle accidents are governed by complex laws on fault so that those who become seriously injured will have a legal recourse to compensation. These fault laws vary from state to state. In addition to differing liability laws, vehicles may be subject to different regulations in different states. For example, motorcyclists in Maryland are legally required to wear helmets, while only motorcyclists under the age of 21 are required to wear a helmet in South Carolina.
The laws on electric scooters are still constantly evolving, which can make it complicated to pinpoint liability for these accidents. Your lawyer will need to have a clear understanding of local and state laws on e-scooters, as well as experience with the motor vehicle laws in your state.
Because of this complexity, any of the following parties may be liable for an e-scooter accident:
- Scooter riders
- The e-scooter rental company
- The city or local government
- The scooter manufacturer
At Simeone & Miller, LLP, our accident lawyers have helped thousands of injury victims across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. – and we stay abreast of the changing laws in these jurisdictions. If you are seriously injured in an e-scooter accident, we can guide you through the process of filing a claim.
For more information about our legal services, contact us today and request a free consultation.