In 2018, e-scooter rental company Bird removed its scooters from Cleveland amid safety concerns and a ban on the Cleveland State University campus. But rental of scooters and electric bikes is alive and well in Columbus–in fact, the city is making way for up to 1,500 new vehicles to hit the streets this summer. Despite the rising number of e-Scooter injuries that appear to be happening, Cleveland City Council is considering new regulations that would allow electric scooters back in the city.
Advocates of e-scooters and electric bikes point to ecological, economic, and practical benefits. Making these small, easily-maneuvered vehicles available on a low-cost rental basis can:
- Cut down on the production of greenhouse gases by reducing car and truck traffic;
- Ease urban congestion, cutting down on travel time for commuters and others driving locally and potentially decreasing the number of automobile accidents;
- Alleviate parking shortages;
- Provide an efficient, affordable alternative for those who don’t own automobiles, including lower-income residents and students;
- Encourage the use of public transportation by connecting those without nearby stations to the network.
For many people, sharing an e-scooter offers an efficient and economical means of travel. Rental is quickly processed through a smart phone app and a 10 -minute ride might cost about $2.50. Scooters are dockless, which means the rider can leave the scooter anywhere.
But there’s a darker side to e-scooters–especially those rented on the streets to people who may have no previous experience with this type of vehicle. The safety of the scooters themselves and the rental programs specifically is hotly disputed, and there isn’t a lot of data to settle the debate. But the few studies that have been conducted suggest that safety concerns are well-founded.
The Latest Data on e-Scooter Injuries
In addition to the specific benefits listed above, many people seem to have a general sense that e-scooters are safer than cars, SUVs, and other passenger vehicles. That idea makes sense: traditional passenger vehicles are much larger and heavier and travel at higher speeds. The Portland Bureau of Transportation concluded that increased scooter usage could cut down on traffic fatalities and serious injuries. However, that conclusion was based on a small sample–data from a single county’s emergency rooms and urgent care facilities over a four-month period.
More extensive studies call the relative safety of electric scooters into question, in particular, the safety of e-scooter sharing programs.
For example, a review of all e-scooter injuries treated in two emergency rooms over a one-year period revealed that 100 people had been treated for e-scooter-related head trauma and 80 for broken bones. While most injuries were to those riding scooters, it is important to note that about 8% of scooter-related injuries were suffered by pedestrians.
Consumer Reports gathered data from a wide range of sources to conclude that at least 1,500 people had been injured in e-scooter crashes since scooter sharing programs gained momentum in late 2017. The publication contacted 110 hospitals and five government agencies in 47 cities where Lime, Bird, or both operated e-scooter sharing programs. A single hospital in Atlanta reported treating about 360 people with scooter-related injuries, and a Nashville hospital added 250 to the tally. Some of the injuries reported by medical facilities included concussions, forearm fractures, and nasal fractures.
Some of the dangers associated with e-scooters are:
- Use by inexperienced riders;
- Low rates of helmet usage;
- Scooters mixing with either higher-speed street traffic or pedestrian traffic;
- Faulty maintenance.
Medical professionals have expressed particular concern about helmet use. Both Bird and Lime–the two largest e-scooter sharing companies–encourage helmet use in their apps and each company says it has distributed tens of thousands of free helmets to riders. But neither requires that riders wear helmets. The practicalities of grabbing an available scooter on an impromptu basis or using a scooter to commute from home to the nearest public transportation stop and then continue on via bus or train make it unlikely that a large percentage of riders will be carrying helmets.
In fact, an article published earlier this year on JAMA Network Open reported that only 4.4% of 249 e-scooter injury victims whose data was reviewed were documented to have been wearing helmets at the time of the accident. Observational data revealed that 94.3% of riders in the community were not wearing helmets. Notably, that data came from California, where e-scooter riders were legally required to wear helmets. Ohio does not have a corresponding requirement.
Legal Responsibility for e-Scooter Injuries
Recovering compensation after an e-scooter injury presents some special challenges.
First, if you are a pedestrian, bicyclist, or other person injured because the operator of an e-scooter was negligent, the legal issue is typically the same as it would be if you’d been hit by a careless driver operating a car, truck, or motorcycle. However, victims of car accident injuries usually receive compensation from the negligent driver’s insurance carrier. An e-scooter operator may not have appropriate insurance coverage–many automobile insurance policies exclude two-wheeled vehicles. Also, the driver himself may not have adequate resources to fairly compensate a victim after a serious injury. Rental providers generally carry insurance, but the terms and limits vary depending not only on the company, but also on governmental requirements.
Riders who use e-scooter sharing services–the people most often injured in e-scooter-related incidents–typically waive claims against the company when they accept the terms of the user agreement. However, a rider who has been injured on a rented e-scooter should never assume that the waiver is valid and covers their situation. Although the user agreement may present a hurdle, in some circumstances, a skilled personal injury attorney will nonetheless be able to help you secure the compensation you deserve.
For example, if the accident occurred because the rented scooter was defective or the company put an e-scooter back out on the street in unsafe condition, the company could be liable for injuries despite the waiver. And there may be other responsible parties. For example, if the injury is caused by faulty road maintenance, the governmental unit responsible for that maintenance may be wholly or partially liable.
The best way to determine your options after an e-scooter injury is to consult an experienced personal injury attorney like Plevin & Gallucci. We put decades of experience to work for every client. Contact us for a no-obligation consultation today.