Fort Myers Scooter Accident FAQ
A 21-year-old man died recently on the Cape Coral Bridge when a vehicle struck him while he was riding a motor scooter. The vehicle was following closely behind the scooter as it traveled westbound in the inside lane across the bridge. The left front of the vehicle hit the back of the scooter, causing it to crash. The driver of the vehicle then fled the scene, leaving the scooter rider to die of his injuries. As of the publication of the report, the Florida Highway Patrol was still searching for the driver.
With the rising popularity of scooters in Florida and around the nation—and companies who are happy to rent them—there has also been an increase in accidents, including those involving serious injuries and even death. If you were injured while riding a scooter due to the negligence or recklessness of another person, you should seek compensation for your injuries through a personal injury claim. Here are some of the questions that we frequently hear regarding scooter accidents.
What types of vehicles qualify as “scooters?”
The word “scooter” has a few different meanings.
- First, scooter may refer to a child’s toy (though sometimes also used by adults for city transportation), consisting of a footbed resting on two in-line skate-style wheels and a handlebar. Riders propel these scooters by pushing the ground with their feet.
- Next, scooter can also mean a souped-up version of the kids’ toy powered by a rechargeable electric motor, sometimes called an e-scooter. Sooter-share companies, like Bird and Lime, have popularized the use of these types of scooters in urban areas.
- Finally, scooter may refer to the type of vehicle involved in the accident described above, which is a gas-powered, two-wheeled vehicle with a saddle seat, sometimes called a moped.
Are there benefits to having rentable scooters in cities?
Shared scooters, which are offered for rent by several companies through a smartphone app in a similar way as rideshares and are often referred to as e-scooters, have been touted as an environmentally-friendly and affordable means of transportation within a city that can relieve traffic congestion. Along with dockless bicycles, scooters are considered a micro-mobility option.
Micro-mobility, as explained by Deloitte Insights, involves single-rider vehicles designed to:
- Shrink the physical footprint involved in moving people across short distances
- Can allow people to easily connect with public transit
- Reduce reliance on private cars
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
What are some of the problems with shared scooters?
Along with the aforementioned benefits, scooters also come with problems, the biggest of which is the injuries that they cause.
Other issues with this form of transportation, and specifically the shared scooter business, include:
- Vandalism and theft
- Retrieving, recharging, and balancing the fleet each night
- Ensuring user compliance with helmet laws, parking, and whether the scooters can be legally operated on the streets or sidewalks of a particular municipality
- A design that still resembles scooters used for recreational use and doesn’t always hold up to commercial demands
- The design is not suitable for many people, including those with disabilities, meaning that the potential pool of riders is limited.
- States and local governments scrambling to regulate the industry, with some even banning the use of scooters on sidewalks or streets
- Riders leaving the scooters parked on sidewalks, which pose a tripping hazard for pedestrians
What injuries are possible in a scooter accident?
The biggest issue facing scooter enthusiasts and the companies who offer shared scooters is the injuries that have been caused to riders and pedestrians. According to a recent study, the injuries involved in scooter accidents have tripled in the past four years, with 40,000 emergency department visits, and resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen people in the United States. The riders most likely to be injured in a scooter accident are those between the ages of 18 and 34. While most of the injuries have not required hospitalization, a number of them have, leading researchers to recommend improved rider safety measures and regulation.
Among the most common injuries sustained in scooter accidents are:
- Head injuries. Traumatic brain injuries are one of the most serious types of injuries to sustain, as they may result in death or permanent disability. As many as 2 million people in the U.S. suffer traumatic brain injuries each year. Traumatic brain injuries can be mild, causing brief confusion, dizziness, pain, or nausea, and may resolve within a few days, or these injuries may prove severe. Some complications of brain injuries include loss of memory, inability to coordinate movements or balance, loss of vision or hearing, inability to control emotions, difficulty speaking or understanding language, and difficulty starting or completing tasks.
- Fractures. While broken bones are often considered a relatively minor injury, they may prove severe, depending on the circumstances. Some of the complications that may occur include splintering of the bone, failure of the bone to heal properly, soft tissue damage, chronic pain, and potentially fatal bone infections. Fractured ribs are particularly dangerous, as they can result in damage to internal organs.
- Road rash. Road rash is caused when the skin slides along a rough surface, such as a roadway. This contact may scrape off a significant amount of skin, and it may also lead to complications, such as infection and scarring. Of particular concern are road rash cases in which the injury covers a large part of the body or is located in a sensitive area, such as joints, the palms of the hands, or the face.
- Lacerations. Deep cuts can cause significant blood loss, nerve damage, scarring, and disfigurement.
Some examples of injuries and deaths caused by scooter accidents in Florida include:
- A tourist in Miami was airlifted to the hospital with critical injuries after being involved in a scooter accident in Key West, on the island’s main thoroughfare. The 50-year-old woman was riding the scooter near a hotel when she collided with a vehicle. The accident resulted in the closure of two lanes of the roadway for several hours while authorities conducted their investigation.
- A man in Tampa, anxious to try the city’s e-scooter pilot program, shattered the bones in his left leg when he crashed his e-scooter. He stated that he had been riding the e-scooter for about 12 minutes when he moved his foot and it struck the sidewalk. The scooter was traveling at 20 miles per hour when the incident occurred and caused his leg to twist. The man now has a permanent rod surgically implanted in his leg and medical expenses of around $100,000.
- A Marco Island police officer died of injuries sustained in a scooter accident. The accident occurred when a vehicle pulled out in front of the scooter, causing the off-duty officer to run into the back of it.
Besides the rider, who else might sustain injuries in a scooter accident?
Scooter riders aren’t the only individuals who face a risk of injury. Pedestrians and other people using the sidewalk, bike lane, or multi-use paths also face the risk of injury if involved in an accident with the scooter, as do motorists if a rider leaves the scooter in a roadway or blocking access to a driveway or parking lot.
How can I avoid sustaining an injury in a scooter accident?
While it is impossible to completely avoid scooter accidents and resulting injuries, you can reduce your chance of suffering severe injuries from a scooter accident by following these tips:
- Make sure you know what the laws are and where you are prohibited from riding. If you are supposed to ride in the street instead of on a sidewalk, use the bike lane, if possible. Otherwise, stay as far to the right side of the road as possible. Obey traffic laws when riding on the street, yielding the right-of-way to motorists when required and avoiding risky behavior, such as darting between two lanes of traffic. Never ride in a vehicle’s blind spot, as you risk being hit by a driver who is not looking for you and cannot see you in the rearview or side mirrors.
- If riding on the sidewalk, keep your speed down, and be courteous of other users on the sidewalk to avoid causing an accident with a pedestrian.
- Always wear a helmet when riding a scooter, as well as eye protection. Cover exposed skin with long pants and sleeves to prevent road rash.
- If you rent a scooter, carefully inspect the vehicle before you begin your ride to ensure that it is in safe operating condition. Many companies offering scooter rentals provide training videos that will help you understand how to operate the vehicle and will provide safety tips.
- Avoid riding a scooter at night, as it is difficult for motorists to see you. Even in daylight hours, you should maximize your visibility to motorists as much as possible by wearing bright clothing.
- Avoid distractions while riding, such as music or your cell phone. It is important to remain alert and aware of the traffic around you.
- Just as with any mode of transportation, you should never ride a scooter while impaired by alcohol. Alcohol impairment reduces your ability to respond quickly to hazards and to make good decisions.
- Avoid riding scooters on rough or uneven surfaces, as this could result in an inability to control your vehicle.
What are the state and local scooter laws?
While the state currently prohibits the use of motorized scooters that don’t have a seat or saddle on roadways and sidewalks, it allows municipalities to enact their own ordinances regarding the use of scooters. The Fort Myers City Council considered a ban on scooters in 2019, which was requested by ADA advocates who stated that allowing the scooters on sidewalks around the city poses a hazard to many disabled individuals who live in the downtown area. However, after a discussion in which one of the councilmen stated that he felt like downtown was the perfect place for scooters to be ridden and that proper regulation—rather than a ban—was the answer, the council opted to table the discussion until a later date.
Electric scooter riders are not required to wear a helmet in Florida, though helmets are strongly encouraged to reduce the risk of a serious and permanent brain injury or even death. Riders in Florida are also not required to carry insurance for their scooters.
Which Florida cities have banned electric scooters?
Some Florida cities that have instituted bans on scooters include:
- Fort Lauderdale has banned the use of scooters on the beach, Las Olas, and Riverwalk.
- Panama City Beach has banned the rental of electric scooters.
- Estero has banned the use of scooters on sidewalks or multi-use paths.
- Sanibel has banned both the use of scooters and electric bikes.
- Cape Coral, Naples, and Hollywood also have enacted scooter bans.
Are e-Scooter rental companies liable for accidents?
Most e-scooter rental companies require users to sign a user agreement. This document is generally quite lengthy and filled with legalese, but includes liability waivers, assumption of risk disclaimers, and other clauses that limit the company’s liability for injuries to riders and others. The companies do often provide a liability policy that covers damages caused by the rider to other people. While it’s possible for injured riders to hold rental companies liable, under certain circumstances, for injuries to the rider, never pursue these complex cases without the guidance of an experienced scooter accident attorney.
I was injured in an accident while riding a scooter. What should I do?
The first and most important thing that you should do is seek medical treatment for your injuries. You should also report your accident to the police, and you should obtain the contact information of anyone else involved in the accident, including drivers of vehicles as well as witnesses. If your accident involved a car, you should also obtain the name of the driver’s insurance company and policy number.
If you suffer an injury while riding a scooter, you should seek compensation for your injuries through the personal injury protection (PIP) policy you purchased when you registered your car in Florida. If the driver of a vehicle caused your accident, you should also consider filing a third-party insurance claim on his or her policy for your injuries. Finally, you should determine your eligibility to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver.
Given the vastly different laws from one municipality to the next regarding scooter use, scooter accidents (and resulting legal claims) differ substantially from other types of traffic-related crashes. Let our experienced attorneys help you understand your options.