When Can an E-Scooter Company Be Liable for Injuries?

By Peter DePaolis

Electric scooters, or e-scooters, have exploded into the limelight with rentable scooter companies such as Lime, Bird, Spin and Scoot depositing hundreds of thousands of the vehicles in major metropolitan locations around the world. With many e-scooter riders hopping on for the very first time, however, these vehicles can prove dangerous. Inexperienced riders and careless motor vehicle drivers could lead to serious e-scooter accidents. Yet many accidents have traced back to negligence on the e-scooter company’s part, such as creating defective scooters. After collisions, victims may be able to hold e-scooter companies responsible for damages.

Defective or Dangerous E-Scooters

Since fall 2017, eight people in the U.S. have lost their lives in e-scooter accidents. Hundreds of others have visited emergency rooms with injuries such as lacerations, broken bones and concussions. Although many electric scooter accidents involve motor vehicles, others happen due to e-scooter malfunctions. E-scooters may experience equipment breakdowns such as dead batteries mid-ride, resulting in accidents. The company that manufactured the defective scooter could be liable for related accidents.

For example, the e-scooter company Lime was recently at the center of a product liability issue when its scooters braked unexpectedly during rides. Sudden excessive braking during use sent some riders to hospitals after falling off stopped e-scooters. The braking problem could cause injuries ranging from bone fractures to broken teeth. In cases involving defective or dangerously designed e-scooters, product liability laws could make the e-scooter company liable.

Strict liability laws in most states hold product manufacturers or distributors liable for injuries their defective products cause regardless of fault or negligence. An injured e-scooter rider after a vehicle defect, therefore, may not have to prove the company’s negligence to be eligible for a financial award. The e-scooter company may owe the injured victim compensation even it did not negligently cause the incident.

Broken E-Scooters

As time passes, more users are discovering rentable e-scooters that have fallen into serious states of disrepair. People misusing and abusing the e-scooters contribute to malfunctions, but some have simply gotten so much daily use they have reached the ends of their lifespans. Broken e-scooters may have detached handlebars, brakes that lock up or collapsing handlebar posts. Issues with broken e-scooters are part of what has led to the backlash e-scooter companies have faced from cities over the past few years.

It is the e-scooter company’s responsibility to reasonably ensure the safety of its vehicles. While renting an e-scooter comes with some assumed risks the company may not be responsible for, riders do not assume the risk of renting a broken or failing electric scooter. If an e-scooter needs repairs and the company fails to remedy the issue in a reasonable amount of time, the company could be liable for a related accident or rider injury. The injured victim would have to prove, however, that a prudent company would have repaired or retired the scooter before the accident happened to obtain compensation.

E-Scooter Trip-and-Fall Accidents

Another common hazard associated with rentable e-scooters is the risk of tripping and falling. Since users can deposit e-scooters virtually anywhere when they finish riding, many communities have discovered discarded scooters in dangerous locations – such as laying across sidewalks. A pedestrian or bicyclist may not see an e-scooter in time to avoid a fall accident. Many cities have tried to hold e-scooter companies accountable by fining them for each e-scooter found in an unsafe location. If someone trips, falls and suffers a serious injury, that victim may be able to bring a claim with the e-scooter company’s insurance provider.

Find out if an e-scooter company could be liable for your recent accident or injury with a consultation with an attorney. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to name other defendants in your case, such as a vehicle driver or the city government. If the e-scooter company is legally responsible, it could pay for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses related to your accident.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.