While many love the idea of being able to scoot around on an affordable, accessible, app-driven electric vehicle, the question of the e-scooter’s place in major urban centers has been thoroughly debated. Not only do these scooters present potential dangers to their riders, but riders have injured pedestrians, cyclists, and other riders on sidewalks and bike lanes.
Part of the problem with these scooters is that they move much faster than the average person can walk. And the rideshare model has allowed them to be left just about anywhere, creating potential obstructions on sidewalks where people can trip or fall. Careless riders have injured passersby and caused traffic accidents.
This raises the question: Who is liable for electric scooter injuries? To learn more about e-scooter accident liability and what you should do after an accident, speak to an Orange County Electric Scooter Injury Attorney at Russell & Lazarus APC today.
Electric scooters were the very definition of a disruptive technology. While some people loved them, others loathed them. For that reason, city legislatures began to regulate the quantity of e-scooters on their streets. They passed laws prohibiting e-scooters riders from riding on sidewalks. These laws, however, are not statewide.
In response to the e-scooter problem, the California State Legislature passed its own package of laws regarding e-scooters. These can be found in the California Vehicle Code (CVC) 407.5(a). The law outlines a number of provisions for those riding electric scooters. These include the following. The e-scooter rider:
Additionally, Bird electric scooters now requires that all riders be over the age of 18.
One of the major problems with electric scooters is that these can go up to 15 mph while those on foot travel at an average of 5 mph. For this reason, it is no longer legal to ride electric scooters on sidewalks. Nevertheless, e-scooter accidents do happen and largely because the e-scooters themselves are intrinsically dangerous.
E-scooters have a less-than-advanced system of shocks that fare poorly when riding over potholes and other uneven surfaces that are commonly found in the road. This is largely because the wheelbase of the scooters is very small and the scooters end up having a very high center of gravity. Even a minor bump can send a passenger flying through the air.
In cases where a rider stops suddenly, the front wheel can lock, causing the rider to hurtle forward. And since there is widespread hatred for e-scooters, some vindictive third parties have taken to vandalizing them by tampering with their brakes.
Bird and Lime both make their riders sign a liability waiver as part of the agreement to use the scooters. The liability waiver reads something like this: “No matter what happens, it’s your fault.” The liability waiver is meant to be intimidating and discourage the filing of a lawsuit against the e-scooter companies if you’re injured or you injure someone else.
On the other hand, a company is responsible for the products that it puts out onto the road to be used by the public and the government has a vested interest in ensuring that the products available to the public are safe to use. In other words, their end user license agreement probably wouldn’t hold up in court. This is because it violates public policy and allows the companies special dispensation to put dangerous vehicles into the stream of commerce.
In the same way in which a car company cannot be held liable every time that a driver breaks a traffic law, e-scooter companies cannot be held liable for reckless riders that violate the terms presented in the user license agreement. In those cases, the individual riding the scooter is responsible for their own injuries or injuries they cause to another person. One unfortunate problem, however, is that e-scooter riders do not carry e-scooter rider insurance that pays out claims in the event they cause an accident. If someone is injured by another person on an e-scooter, they are forced to sue that person directly against their assets.
However, if the e-scooter itself is faulty, then a company like Bird or Lime can be held liable for the injuries since it is their scooter which is to blame for the accident. This would be true even if the individual on the scooter was not the person who was injured. In this case, it would fall under the general realm of a product liability lawsuit.
Let’s say, for instance, that a Bird scooter rider is riding their scooter along and they attempt to brake. Unfortunately, the brakes don’t work and they crash into a passerby. Both themselves and the passerby are injured and both require medical attention. In this case, Bird or Lime or whoever rented out the scooter is responsible for the injuries of both the scooter rider and the passerby.
However, this situation is fairly cut and dry. What happens if Bird then blames the scooter rider for causing the brakes to fail by riding unsafely? In this case, they would pass the blame back to the individual on the scooter.
To sum up, in order to sue Lime or Bird for a scooter accident, you must show that their scooter was defective and contributed to your injuries.
Manufacturers of products that are used by the general public have an implied duty of care to ensure that all the devices they make are safe to use. In these cases, those who are injured by such devices do not need to prove that the company that manufactured the device was negligent. They only need to prove that it caused their injury. While the manufacturer can claim that the individual was not using the device safely, properly, or in a way that they could anticipate, if the device malfunctions, the company is usually liable for an injured party’s medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
Product liability lawsuits are filed under three theories:
A defect design lawsuit alleges that product (or its app) has a design flaw that makes injury inevitable. An example would be a scooter make that, through normal wear and tear, ends up with a critical defect that makes injury inevitable.
In cases where there is a critical defect that is caused during the manufacturing process, the company that rented or made the scooter could be held liable for damages.
In some cases, a manufacturer can be held liable for failing to warn consumers about a dangerous use of their product. Lime and Bird have themselves covered pretty well here.
However, the rideshare scooter industry does have one serious problem. It’s very difficult for them to keep up on the maintenance of their scooters. In cases where they rent a damaged or defective scooter and this causes a serious injury to one of their customers, they can be held liable for that. It is their job to ensure that every scooter that is available for public use is operating properly and safely.
As mentioned earlier, there is no scooter rider insurance like there is car insurance. However, if someone injures you on a scooter, you can sue them directly for damages related to your medical expenses, pain and suffering, or lost wages. That is, assuming you can find them and they don’t scoot away. Given that the app should record that information, your attorney may be able to find the individual who caused your injuries.
If it can be shown that a defective scooter contributed to your accident, you can also sue the scooter company for your injuries. In these cases, the scooter company may be held partly liable along with the rider and even the person injured.
If you have sustained Bird Scooter injuries or other e-scooter injuries, speak to the Orange County accident attorneys at Russell & Lazarus APC. We understand the complex liability issues involved and can help make sure you receive just compensation for your injuries.