The Rise of Electric Scooters and How They are Creating Real Safety Concerns
It’s hard to spend time in a major city now without seeing someone ride past on an electric scooter. This new form of shared transportation is more environmentally friendly option to cars. It is also a more stress-free option compared to driving, because who doesn’t want to skip city traffic? Not to mention they are fun and convenient. However, electric scooters leave one big question on the table: who is responsible if someone gets injured? The e-scooter company? The city, the driver who hit you, the scooter manufacturer? These questions leave personal injury attorneys wondering what will happen next.
If you were injured while using an e-scooter and you believe that someone else was at fault, contact Viles & Beckman to discuss your case today.
The Rise of E-scooters in Florida and across the US
E-scooters began as early as 2007, although they didn’t begin to gain their notoriety until around a decade later with the launch of start-up companies like Lime and Bird. These companies have become the most recognizable of the e-scooter brands, but there are plenty more: Bird, Bolt, Jump (owned by Uber), Lime, Skip, and Spin (owned by Ford). These are just a few of the many companies all hopping on the e-scooter trend and hoping to kick ahead of the competition.
These companies have provided communities with a new form of transportation that allows citizens to have new and different options to get around — seemingly overnight. Even the ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft have introduced e-scooters as part of their line up.
An e-scooter is a convenient and fun experience to share with others, which helps explain their sudden presence in both major cities and on college campuses. Whether you’re visiting Miami or Nashville, UCLA or Duke, these scooters are readily available and so is the quick decision of whether or not to ride.
Do e-scooter companies have any safety guidelines in place?
To begin your ride, all you have to do is download the scooter’s app and click through a brief guide on the how-to and the safety of the scooter. Some companies require a photo of a driver’s license to prove the rider is 18 years or older. The app introduction also includes a terms of agreement page that notes the risks involved with riding an e-scooter.
After completing the setup through the app, you pay the fee (Bird’s fee is $1 in addition to the 15 cents for each minute the scooter is being used) and begin your ride.
Although helmets are not provided and proof of one isn’t required by the e-scooter companies to begin your ride, the companies stress to follow helmet laws for the area. Once your ride is complete, you are encouraged to park the scooter in an easily accessible place while still keeping it out of walking paths. Some companies even require you to take a picture of your parked scooter as proof of ride completion.
All in all, the process is fairly simple, and like the decision to ride an e-scooter, it’s quick. Even though they are promoted as alternatives for that last mile of the drive or for shorter commutes, they are by and large a spur of the moment choice. This hasty decision to ride an e-scooter is part of what makes them dangerous. Riders often don’t know what they are doing, don’t have a helmet, and aren’t familiar with local laws that keep riders safe.
The Dangers of Electric Scooter
Due to the brisk set up through the phone app, it can be easy to not pay close attention to all that is being presented to you. However, in a recent bid to provide their services to Portland, Lime and Bird provided the Portland Bureau of Transportation with information regarding a summary of incident reports for the markets the companies are already operating in (Lime at approximately 60 and Bird at 22).
At the time of the 2018 company proposals, Bird reported 411 injuries and Lime reported 59. It’s worth noting that Lime had even previously admitted some of their models have malfunctioned to the point of fire and breaking while being ridden.
Ashanti Jordan, a Florida resident, was hit by a car while riding a Lime scooter on her way home from work in December of last year. According to the Broward Palm Beach Times, Jordan has severe brain injury and rib fractures as a result of the accident. As of February 2019, she remains at Broward Health Medical Center where she appears to be in a vegetative state.
Mark Sands, an Irish exchange student, was riding a Lime scooter in Austin when he was killed, making him the third person (as of February 2019) to be killed in Lime scooter related accidents.
In the January 2019 study “Injuries Associated With Standing Electric Scooter Use” presented by JAMA, it was found that in the case study of 249 patients taken to the emergency room with electric scooter related injuries, only 4.4% of them were wearing a helmet.
“Injuries associated with electric scooter use during a 1-year period, with 10.8% of patients younger than 18 years and only 4.4% of riders documented to be wearing a helmet. The most common injuries were fractures (31.7%), head injuries (40.2%), and soft-tissue injuries (27.7%).”
The study concluded that the results indicated a low rate of adhering to the regulations of rider age and the use of a helmet.
How to stay safe and prevent injury while using an e-scooter
The safety of the rider and others on the streets must remain of utmost importance for anyone who decides to use an e-scooter. Here are a few simple steps you can take in order to ensure you get the most out of your ride:
- Wear a helmet
- Protect your eyes from bugs, wind, etc. (sunglasses are a great way to do this)
- Avoid darker colors when riding at night
- Don’t ride after drinking
- Be aware of pedestrians and slow your scooter’s speed when necessary
- Treat the ride with the same amount of safety as when you drive a car
Florida Laws Regarding Electric Scooters
As the app’s introduction points out, it is necessary to be familiar with the traffic laws of the area you are riding in. Florida state laws for electric scooters are the same as motor scooter laws since they are seen as one and the same in the state.
- You must be 16 years or older to ride an electric scooter
- You must have a valid driver’s license
- You must stay on the sidewalk as the scooters do not have seats or saddles (such as a moped)
- You must adhere to standard traffic laws (e.g. obeying traffic signs/lights and signaling when turning by using arm motions that bicyclists use)
It is necessary to review and familiarize yourself with all traffic laws for the area you will be riding your e-scooter, especially if you are not from the area. If on a college campus, observe the laws laid out by the campus security and be mindful of passers-by.
Liability regarding Electric Scooter Accidents in Florida
When a rider hops on an e-scooter, who is responsible if something goes wrong? And a lot can go wrong.
To start with, the scooter’s rider can get injured, either by a malfunctioning scooter, from a crash due to a lack of skill, or by getting hit by a car. Then, the scooter rider could injure another person, like a pedestrian or driver.
These are just a handful of the things that could go wrong; these examples also make clear a big point: liability for e-scooters is a mess.
If a person is injured while riding an electric scooter, their private health insurance (if they even have any) could start to help offset the cost of their own medical bills.
But if a scooter rider injures a pedestrian, causes a car accident, or damages someone’s property, the rider may be responsible. The problem is, their car insurance probably won’t cover it.
Do the scooter companies have their own insurance policies?
Bird and Lime, two of the biggest players in the scooter game, both make riders release them from any liability in their initial rental agreements. You know, the one’s people blow right past.
But what happens if the scooters themself malfunction; say their brakes fail or they catch on fire.
Well to start, most of these companies more than likely have some type of insurance to protect themselves and their investors. For example, Lime says it carries an insurance policy for $1 million in liability coverage.
Despite these companies carrying liability insurance, they are unlikely to fork over money to cover damages and instead will likely hide behind their terms and conditions to get out of paying an injured rider.
This is where an experienced personal injury attorney can really make all the difference in leveling the playing field. A proper legal team can help a person injured by a negligent driver, be them in a car or on a scooter, get the compensation they need to rebuild their lives.
Were you injured in a Florida e-scooter accident?
If you have been injured by an e-scooter, as either a rider, a pedestrian or car driver, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Viles & Beckman as soon as possible. We will help you to understand your rights and options and help to get you on your way to financial compensation. Let us worry about your case why you worry about getting better.