E-Scooters and Avoidable Dangers
Visit any cosmopolitan area in the United States and you are bound to encounter “e-scooters” or electric scooters. Typically, the scooters are found accumulating in plazas, common areas, or zipping down roadways and sidewalks. Companies such as Bird, Spin and Lime lead the e-scooter market and their scooters can be rented for use in nearly any city, including San Francisco, Baltimore, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Scooters are maintained and electrically charged by local individuals who simply sign up to maintain and charge them for use.
E-scooters and Waivers of Liability
E-scooters are available for “rent” to anyone who has registered. Most companies include a waiver of liability in the registration contract. By registering to rent an e-scooter, the rider/ renter consents to a waiver which releases the company from any liability claim. Known as an exculpatory clause, the contract typically also provides that a renter will indemnify and hold the company harmless in the event of an accident. This means that by renting an e-scooter, an individual releases the company for any claims for injuries he may have had because of negligent maintenance or product defect. Depending on the jurisdiction, this may also mean that the renter agrees to pay the e-scooter company for damages resulting from a rental injury.
E-scooter Injuries On The Rise
As the popularity of e-scooters has increased over the last year, so have injuries to both riders and pedestrians. Most of the complaints about e-scooters surround their visibility. Some claim that they are more difficult to see than bicycles. Others claim that speed of the devices and their easy maneuverability from roadway to sidewalks leads to injuries.
Injured riders sometimes find they are uninsured for injuries that occur while using an e-scooter. Insurers often disagree on what policy covers injuries from the devices. Health insurers assert that automobile policies should cover injuries that relate to the operation of the scooters. Automobile insurers claim that health insurance coverage applies. Often it is the injured rider who is left with the problem of resolving the claims.
Insurance Issues in E-Scooter Accidents
When an innocent pedestrian or non-rider is injured by an e-scooter, the insurance issue becomes more problematic. For example, imagine a scenario that evolves from a scooter that is uncontrollable due to a design defect and veers into a crowd of people crossing a street. If the rider is injured, he has no recourse against the company for his injuries because he signed the exculpatory waiver. He must hope that his health or auto insurance will cover his medical expenses. But what happens to the injured people crossing the street? If they are injured, where is their recourse?
Protecting Yourself From E-Scooter Accidents
As the popularity of e-scooters grows, we can expect that municipalities and cities will enact ordinances designed to protect the public. In the meantime, to protect yourself, you may want to consider the following before renting an e-scooter:
1) Read the registration contract carefully to discern whether you are waiving your legal rights to proceed against the rental company in the event of an accident;
2) Research whether any of your insurance policies covers injuries arising from the operation of an e-scooter;
3) Understand that by riding on an e-scooter you are less visible; consider wearing reflective or bright colored clothing to become more visible;
4) Know where you can ride, how fast you can ride, and when you can ride, as per local ordinance; and
5) Always defer to pedestrians who have the right of way.