Electronic Scooters Are More Dangerous Than You Think

March 22, 2019

Are Scooters Dangerous?

Electronic scooters are a hot new way to get around town, but they also are a way to wind up in the hospital. Injuries from scooter accidents are often serious, and some have even led to death.

Dockless electric scooters are useful because they can be picked up and discarded almost anywhere in a city. Users locate and ‘unlock’ available scooters and pay for them with a smartphone app.

Safely used scooters can help alleviate vehicle traffic and gridlock, reduce emissions and provide transportation in areas where none exists. As a result, leading scooter companies, like Bird and Lime, are aggressively expanding in many cities, attempting to usher in a new, environmentally friendly era of micro transportation.

However, the rapid rise of scooters has been plagued by controversy. Scooter companies require little training for first-time riders. And scooters can travel surprisingly fast, taking both riders and pedestrians in their path by surprise. Crashes have resulted in injuries that include concussions, brain bleeds and other head and neck injuries, broken bones, lacerations, fractures, internal bleeding, and broken jaws.

Problems with scooters

Scooters cause head or brain injuries for reasons that range from manufacturing defects to user carelessness. Examples include:

  • Lack of training. New scooter users are not aware of the danger potential and receive little training. Bird’s app, for example, just shows graphics that tell riders to do things such as “bring your own helmet” and “ride in bike lanes.” Lime offers a “How to Lime” instructional video, but doesn’t require riders to watch it before riding. Without training, the scooters, which travel up to 15 miles per hour or more, can be difficult to control. In addition to scooter riders, 129,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms for crash-related injuries in 2015, according to the CDC.
  • Lack of protective equipment. People pick up scooters wearing their ordinary clothes and don’t use protective equipment such as helmets and knee and elbow pads.
  • Design of scooters. Scooters are less stable than bicycles because they have a shorter wheelbase and smaller wheels, so they will be affected by any defects in the pavement. They accelerate rapidly, which may leave the user unprepared.
  • Manufacturing defects. Defects in the scooter itself — such as brake failure or sticking throttles — may cause the scooter to malfunction.
  • Confusion about laws. There is no uniform set of rules right now that governs the use of scooters in local jurisdictions. In some cities, such as Denver, electric scooters must be ridden on sidewalks; but in California, riders can travel only in bike lanes or on city streets.

Pennsylvania Motor Scooter Law

Concerned with possibility of injuries, Pennsylvania has decided that motorized scooters are not street legal. A 2017 fact sheet published by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation makes it clear that electric scooters “cannot be operated on Pennsylvania roadways or sidewalks.”

Philadelphia passed an ordinance that regulates fleets of dockless two-wheeled vehicles, which includes bike-share programs and, theoretically, dockless e-scooters. However, for e-scooters to be recognized as street-legal transport, state vehicle codes would have to be changed through legislation. Philadelphia transit officials are reluctant to do this because of problems that have been seen in other major cities.

Who is Responsible?

Pennsylvania law requires motor vehicle drivers to have insurance, but scooter riders are not required to carry liability insurance; and most insurance will not cover scooter claims. However, in cases where an accident was caused by another vehicle’s hitting a scooter, the vehicle driver’s insurance company would be responsible for injuries.  If the driver leaves the scene of the accident and is not found, injured scooter riders might be able to obtain compensation from their own insurance company.

If an accident is due to malfunctioning or a defect in the scooter, the company who manufactured, sold or rented the scooter may be liable. However, rental companies take steps to protect themselves from liability.  Bird requires signed user agreements, stating that the rider is responsible for injuries caused by the scooter. And Lime’s contract requires users to acknowledge that “the products are machines that may malfunction, even if the products are properly maintained, and that such malfunction may cause injury.”

Personal injury attorneys may be able to defeat user agreements by arguing that the user agreements are not enforceable because the scooter companies have been grossly negligent. Nine people who were injured by electric scooters filed a class-action suit in October 2018 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accusing Bird and Lime and their manufacturers, Xiaomi Corp. and Segway Inc., of gross negligence. The suit claims the companies knew the scooters were dangerous and deployed them in a way that was certain to cause injuries.

Contact Us for Help and Guidance

If you or a loved one is involved in a electronic scooter crash that was caused by someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or wrongdoing, you may be entitled to seek damages in a lawsuit that will hold the responsible party accountable.  While scooters are so new that laws relating to scooter accidents are not always clear, an experienced personal injury attorney can advise you and guide your case.