Auto accidents are a major cause of personal injury lawsuits, and medical chart review is an important process to help determine the seriousness of the injury. Apart from cars, trucks, motorbikes and other vehicles causing accidents and injuries on U.S. roads, now a major accident risk is posed by electric scooters that are becoming immensely popular among the American public. Companies such as Bird, Lime and Spin are introducing their motorized two-wheeled vehicles to help people travel short distances. At present, these companies operate in 25 cities including San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, and Washington DC. They charge users from 15 cents to $1 per minute to rent the devices. These scooters are environment-friendly, plug-in vehicles that operate on electricity and batteries and can travel up to 15 miles per hour. The most convenient thing about these vehicles is that they can be picked up, paid for, and dropped off anywhere. The company Bird claims that since launching in September 2017, they have offered more than 1 million rides in the United States.
What the Law Says
Electric scooter riders must be at least 18 years old and hold a valid driver’s license though this may not be explicitly stated in the rental agreement. Other requirements include:
- Wear a helmet as required by law
- Be cautious about weather conditions that may make it dangerous to operate the scooter
- Ride only in metropolitan areas
- Park only in a legal spot
- Riders must not carry any backpack, bag, briefcase or other item if it hinders safe operating of the scooter
- They must not carry a second person or a child on the vehicle
- They must not drink and ride
- They must not operate the scooter on unpaved roads, water, or in locations that are prohibited, illegal and/or a nuisance to others
- Electric scooters must not be used for mountain vehicle riding, racing, stunt or trick riding
- Riders must not tamper with the locking mechanism on the scooter
Electric scooters come with their own share of risks for accidents and injuries that could lead to personal injury litigation. The above-mentioned electric scooter companies regularly update their safety guidelines and require the use of helmets, but many people fail to follow the rules and travel at high speeds alongside other motor vehicles on the road without appropriate protection. According to ABC News, 3,300 scooter injuries were reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2016, and 25% of scooter-related injuries occur to the face and head.
What are the risks involved when using electric scooters? Often, riders are injured when the brakes fail; or pedestrians could be injured when they are hit by a careless rider. Injuries include those sustained to the head and fractured bones.
- Defects on the roadway: Objects on the road such as fallen cargo and debris, poorly maintained premises, potholes and so on could cause accidents.
- Single-scooter accidents: A certain amount of skill and familiarity are necessary to ride these scooters. If scooter riders don’t possess this, accidents could happen. Defective parts and malfunctioning of some part can also lead to accidents and injuries. If the scooters are not regularly inspected and maintained properly, they could pose considerable risk to users.
- Scooters that are abandoned: Users are supposed to return the scooters to a designated kiosk, but many renters don’t do so and leave them abandoned around walkways and other areas. When left like that, the scooters could pose tripping hazards.
- Bicycle/pedestrian accidents: Scooter riders share footpaths, intersections, and other areas on the road with people traveling on foot. This may lead to pedestrian and bicycle accidents.
- Not using helmets: The electric scooter companies require users to wear helmets but many riders do not. This often leads to serious brain injuries for riders involved in accidents.
- Car accidents: One of the most dangerous hazards scooter riders face are motor vehicles. Riders often get struck in intersections, they may run into open car doors, or crash into vehicles while they back up, swerve, or make turns.
- Danger posed by riding on sidewalks: Being motorized scooters, riders are not supposed to use them on sidewalks. This poses the danger of hitting pedestrians and getting involved in motor vehicle accidents.
The Question of Liability
Personal injury claims related to electric scooters focus on negligence. The liability will depend on who was negligent in causing the accident.
- The scooter riders themselves may be liable for causing accidents that injure other people on the road. Negligent riders violate traffic laws and collide into bicyclists or pedestrians. They may over speed or abandon the scooters in public roadways or walkways. When a rider is found negligent and held liable for injuries and damages suffered by victims, compensation may be provided through his/her homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
- The company responsible for producing and making the scooter available to the public could be held liable for accidents and injuries that originate from problems with their scooters. For instance, these scooters may be defective or have parts that malfunction or fail and cause the riders to crash. The company could be held responsible also for abandoned scooters that cause trip and fall accidents to pedestrians.
- The drivers of motor vehicles may be liable for electric scooter accidents. Scooter riders injured by drivers who fail to yield, run stop signs and red lights, or are otherwise negligent in being aware of their surroundings can be held at fault in personal injury cases.
- Bicyclists and pedestrians who cause scooter riders to crash could also be found liable.
- Companies, homeowners, businesses and premises owners that create hazards or fail to address them and cause injuries and accidents are other parties that could be held liable in a personal injury case.
In any personal injury case, medical review services provided by a medical claims review firm are a major support for lawyers handling such litigation and facilitate the understanding of complex medical facts. A good personal injury lawyer helps an injured victim evaluate the scooter accident to determine whether the victim has a case, who can be held liable for the injury and damages, and how the victim could fight for the compensation he/she deserves. That said, electric scooter companies visualize these vehicles as the logical next step to the transportation revolution kicked off by Lyft and Uber. There are many investors involved who believe that scooters will become a lasting feature of urban America.