If you live in the DC area, you might have noticed a new trend in rideshare: electric scooters. The scooter sharing programs saw their fair share of roadblocks, but the scooters are here now on the city streets. You can rent a motorized scooter to get around the city and avoid the rush-hour demands of traffic. But before doing so, you need to consider what coverage you will get if you are injured while using one of them.
Scooter sharing has been here since February 2018. The goal of the initial program was to stop traffic congestion and encourage people to find alternative ways to get around the city. The bikeshare program has been a success, but motorized scooters were one that city dwellers equally desired.
The company offering the scooter share has jumped through numerous hurdles, including the illegal parking controversy and safety of the program.
If you want to rent a scooter, it is not like a bikeshare. Bikeshare programs usually lock up the bikes in a docking station then you use your app or credit card to unlock that unit for a length of time. Electric scooters cannot be docked efficiently. Therefore, the program allows the scooter to park, but the operator is responsible for parking them out of the way of vehicles.
These scooters operate at only 15 miles per hour maximum, and they have a GPS connection so that the company keeps tabs on their units.
When a new rider is ready to take the scooter, they will use their app to find one parked closest to them. It takes $1 to unlock the scooter and use it at a rate of $0.15 per minute afterward. Riders cannot always find an available scooter. Other cities utilizing such services have required that the company stock a specific number to ensure riders have access.
The pilot program in DC is still underway, and there are only so many scooters allowed in the program – 400 currently compared to thousands in other cities. The chances of sniping one are low but still worthwhile for those who can.
Also, Washington instilled a policy that requires all riders to agree to a digital contract. The contract states that the rider agrees he or she will not ride on sidewalks, must follow all bike lanes, and park their scooters along correctly marked curbs.
Just like bikeshare programs, there are serious safety concerns when it comes to scooter share. Because the bikes are not docked in specific docking locations – and instead left on city streets – there is no way to tell if the bike has been damaged or if it is in safe working order at the time a new rider picks it up. Riders would have to rely on the company to locate their scooter, maintain them, and check for repairs every so often.
Also, there is no way to tell how the former rider used the scooter. Scooters travel up to 15 miles per hour. This is more than enough speed to cause severe injuries if a person were to be involved in an accident due to a defective scooter.
The liability is complicated in these situations. When riders take a scooter, they typically sign a liability waiver like with bikeshare programs.
Accidents, however, are more likely on a scooter because of the speed. In addition, scooters must ride on the street with vehicles, increasing the chances of a scooter and vehicle collision. In one program in Nashville, two women were injured in hit-and-run accidents on scooters. They were struck by a vehicle in an intersection, and neither was wearing a helmet. Helmets are not required or provided by the companies issuing the scooters either. This means that unless the rider brings his or her personal helmet, they are at risk for traumatic brain injuries if an accident occurs.
Some companies in other cities are issuing helmets with their scooters to prevent this type of issue from occurring.
Another issue is registration. Some cities do not require that motorized scooters are registered. Take California for example. The state does not require registration but does expect that the operator be at least 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license to use the scooter.
In Washington, D.C., you must have a valid driver’s license to use a motor-driven scooter and insurance is required for them to operate on city streets.
The state does require that the scooter is inspected every two years for emissions as well.
Depending on the situation, the scooter might not require the use of a helmet, either.
Liability is tricky. In most cases, it would be the company that owns and maintains the bikes that would be responsible, but only if they were grossly negligent or malicious. If you sign a liability waiver, then the company might not be responsible if you choose not to wear a helmet (and one was provided to you), and you are in an accident.
Also, if the accident were caused by another vehicle, then it would be the driver of that vehicle who might be responsible for your injuries.
If you have been injured in an accident while riding on a scooter rented from a scooter-sharing program, then you need to speak with an attorney right away. The attorneys at Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, LLP, can help determine who might be liable for your injuries. We will also aggressively seek compensation on your behalf so that you receive coverage for losses like medical bills, wages, and more.
Schedule a free consultation today by calling one of our three office locations or by contacting us online with your questions.