What isn’t safe is the potential for injury on scooters in Austin. Already we have received inquiries from scooter riders who have been injured at the hands of negligent drivers. And we’ve seen on the news stories about drivers who have had property damage from a scooter rider who fled the scene.
It’s our job as attorneys to help our clients sort through injury claims from scooter accident cases. The answers to every case are not always clear. Here are some of the most common questions related to scooter accident law.
What is a Personal Injury Dockless Scooter Accident?
Riders, pedestrians, or drivers are all impacted by scooters. A personal injury scooter claim could be made by a rider hit by a vehicle, a pedestrian struck by a scooter, or a bicyclist who was hit by a scooter.
A scooter rider is expected to wear a helmet, be over the age of 18, to never operate while impaired by drugs or alcohol, among other rules.
An improperly parked scooter could cause hazards to pedestrians, but a scooter operated on sidewalks could be a serious danger to those on the sidewalk. Auto operators may not yet be used to looking for scooters on busy city streets. And then, even when everyone follows the rules, there have been situations in which possible scooter malfunctions caused riders serious injury.
Pedestrian Crash or Bicycle Injury
Scooters are intended to ride on bike lanes. They can often travel at speeds of 15 mph, faster than many bicyclists and a dangerous rate of speed when next to pedestrians.
A class action lawsuit has been named (Oct 20) against two scooter companies for “gross negligence” and “abetting assault.” In the California lawsuit, Bird and Lime must answer to claims made by pedestrians that scooter riders caused them injuries such as broken wrists, toes, fingers, torn ligaments, face lacerations, and damaged teeth.
Two of the plaintiffs were injured by tripping over scooters left in right of way. Another plaintiff said that scooters were parked in a way that blocked access to disabled parking spaces.
City Officials Address Safety Concerns of Pedestrians
In the interest of the safety of pedestrians, dockless scooters in Austin are required to be parked out of traffic. In April, city officials released a set of rules that state that dockless scooters must have lock-to technology. This would require that the scooter be capable of being locked to a bike rack or be equipped with technology that shows whether scooters are parked in a designated, geo-fenced parking area.
These requirements were created out of caution for pedestrians – especially the elderly, blind, or those with disabilities who would not be able to move the vehicles safely or see the scooters in their path. The city outlined that these capabilities are required of scooter companies by August 1 2018 if they want to operate in the Austin area.
On August 6, 2018 reports indicated that a woman in South Austin sustained serious injuries when she tumbled over the front of the scooter.
A personal injury attorney across the country says that calls have been made to her law firm in single-rider accidents in which the brakes locked or the rider lost control of the e scooter. A rider could experience malfunctioning tires, encounter road hazards.
Both Lime and Bird have began requiring riders to wear helmets. Lime has limited its own liability to $100, but that doesn’t rule out claims for gross negligence.
In the city of Austin, electric scooter companies are required to have insurance of at least $500,000 for bodily injury or property damage. The insurance must list the city as an additional insured party.
Car Crash and Dockless Scooter Accident
In the event of a car and electric scooter accident, it will be important to establish fault in the case. Was the accident caused because of reckless driving of the car or reckless riding of the scooter? Scooter riders who are injured at the hands of a driver will be able to make a claim with the drivers insurance company if they carry insurance. According to city policy, the scooter company should carry $500,000 insurance policy for bodily injury or property damage.
In September of 2018, a 20-year-old man was killed on a Lime scooter in Washington D.C. when he was dragged about 20 yards by an SUV. Sources indicate that this was the first fatality to occur involving an e-scooter.
In the event of an accident, a scooter accident lawyer will be able to assist victims facing injury to sort out the best options.
What’s likely to result in litigation? (and what isn’t?)
At this time it’s hard to tell which cases will result in litigation. Unfortunately for those that are injured, litigation is more likely when there is a clear insurance policy that covers the at-fault. That’s why experts say that claims are more likely to result in litigation include those in which a driver injures a scooter rider (who was riding legally.) These cases will likely have one or more insurance policy that could cover injuries.
Most rental agreements for e scooters make it clear that the rider is responsible for personal injury damages. It’s possible you could fall back on an auto insurance policy, but it is not something you should count on. The best thing to do before an accident – is call your insurance company and see if they will cover personal injury damages in a scooter crash.
Only time, and more scooter rides will tell. In the future insurance companies may begin offering e scooter injury protection. Let us know on our Facebook page if you have predictions for what’s next in scooter accident cases.
What happens if an electric scooter hits a car?
Other claims may include those in which a pedestrian gets hit by a scooter. However those claims could be limited because it’s possible that a scooter will zoom off, or have limited resources for the injured pedestrian to draw from in a lawsuit.
Unfortunately, so far when scooters hit vehicles, the driver of the vehicle has had to pay for their own car repairs. Statesman reported that an Austinite filed claims in small claims court after a scooter rider caused about $1500 in damages to his vehicle. Lime, the electric scooter company used by the rider, said that they were not liable for what happens while the scooter is being operated.
In Austin, someone who flees the scene of the accident can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor for less than $200 of damage, and a Class B misdemeanor for more than $200 in damage. If someone is injured and the driver or rider flees, the offense is punishable up to two to 10 years in jail.
What Laws Exist Around Electric Scooters?
New laws established by city council may help drivers in unfortunate situations. In April, city council approved an ordinance that makes it illegal to leave scooters on walkways, streets, or alleys.
It also outlines a licensing process required for electric scooter companies operating in Austin. Those companies that aren’t licensed could have the vehicles impounded, and recovered again for $200 each.
Additional proposed regulations in Austin include:
Require dockless bike and scooter companies to enable technology that prevents parking scooters in sidewalks using “lock-to” technology.
Reporting requirements: Data that shows usage of each bike at least two times per day.
Insurance requirements for the vehicles, including $500,000 for bodily injury or property damage.
E scooter Laws for Consumers
It could be difficult to file a case with a sharable scooter company. Laws and insurance policies haven’t kept up with the innovation or how quickly it’s spread across cities. Most sharable scooter companies have policies that place all liability in the hands of the user. That could prohibit many users from being able to file a claim with an e-scooter company.
Hiring a lawyer in case of injury will put your claim in the hands of a professional experienced in negotiations with insurance companies. If you do plan to file a claim consult a lawyer for advice.
Should I hire a lawyer to handle my case? How much will it cost?
Talking to an attorney about your potential case is one of the first things to do after getting medical treatment. It won’t cost anything to meet with a lawyer to see if they may take your case.
Especially in e scooter cases, in which proving coverage can be tricky, hiring a lawyer is important for negotiating with insurance companies. Unfortunately, because scooters are such a new form of transportation there may be no coverage in the event of a scooter accident.