In 2017, rows of electric scooters began to appear on city sidewalks and college campuses across the United States. For just a few dollars, anyone could rent a scooter for a fun, fast way to get where they needed to go.
Bird and Lime were the first companies to rent e-scooters, but startups like Skip, Bolt, Spin, and others quickly followed. Electric scooters became the latest addition to the “micro-mobility” movement, a modern attempt at solving parking and traffic issues, especially for people traveling short distances.
Renting an e-scooter is easy for anyone with a smartphone. Customers download an app, enter their credit card information, and use a code from the app to unlock a scooter anytime they need one—no license or training required.
Public response to this new mode of transportation has been mixed. Fans enjoy scooters as a convenient way to get to class or to work, while critics believe they are a safety hazard. Inexperienced riders pull out in front of traffic or zoom past pedestrians because they don’t know the rules of the road. Are they supposed to ride on the sidewalk or the street? Do they use the same hand signals that bicyclists use? What’s the best way to pass someone?
State and local governments are trying to provide answers to these questions, but it’s a slow process. Some cities, like New York, have banned e-scooters outright due to safety concerns and already overcrowded streets. Other places allow scooters but require renters to be at least 16 or 18 to ride.
For pedestrian safety, most states prohibit riding scooters on sidewalks. This seems like a logical solution, but it leaves riders at risk on the road where there are potholes, debris, and much larger vehicles moving two or three times as fast. Very few states require the use of helmets, and no state requires headlights or prohibits riding after dark.
Common Electric Scooter Injuries
With little regulation in effect, it’s no surprise that hundreds of people have been involved in scooter-related accidents resulting in injuries ranging from minor scrapes to broken bones. A recent study published in JAMA Surgery found that injuries from electric scooter accidents have increased by 222% between 2014 and 2018. During that time, more than 39,000 people went to the emergency room for broken bones and other issues, and 11 people have died.
Why are there so many injuries from electric scooters? Not wearing a helmet is a large factor. Scooters can travel at speeds up to 15 mph, giving a rider little time to respond in an accident before their head hits the pavement. In fact, about one-third of the ER visits from the study were for head injuries, making a good case for helmet use whether the law requires it or not.
Visibility is another factor. Without safety lighting, riders are at risk of running into obstacles they can’t see. Inexperienced riders also cause accidents.
Falling from a scooter leaves people with broken noses, legs, arms, wrists, hands and ribs. It can also cause torn ligaments and torn rotator cuffs, which often require surgery. Many people who suffer injuries also face expensive hospital bills and miss work as they recover.
Lime and Bird Scooter Lawsuits
In 2018, attorneys in California filed a class-action suit against the original scooter companies, Lime and Bird, for gross negligence. The lawsuit states the businesses are “endangering the health, safety, and welfare of riders, pedestrians, and the general public.” Other cases are likely to follow.
It’s difficult to predict whether electric scooters are a trend or here to stay. Lime has scooters in 100 cities around the world, but in January the company pulled out of 12 cities and laid off 100 people. If electric scooters become part of everyday transportation, companies need to make sure they are safe for both riders and the people around them.
If you have been injured in an accident involving an electric scooter, contact our office for a free consultation. Our firm has helped many people find answers and demand justice from negligent companies. You can see results of our legal work in wrongful death and serious injury cases and in consumer protection suits.
Our experienced legal team will gather all available information through public records requests, witness interviews, and other sources. We dig into the details so you can focus on getting your life back on track after an accident. If your situation does not result in a claim, you won’t have to pay for our services.
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The outcome of any client’s case will depend on the particular legal and factual circumstances.