One of the first venues for an electric scooter sharing service was in 2017 in Santa Monica, right down the road from our law firm in Beverly Hills. Scooters as an ingredient in the soup of public transportation are positive from convenience, cost and air-quality viewpoints.
However, introducing an unfamiliar mode of travel into famously heavy California traffic in which the driver’s body is unprotected — think bicycles and motorcycles — opens up scooter drivers to collisions with larger vehicles, standing objects and pedestrians as well as to other kinds of mishaps, all of which can potentially cause serious injury to vulnerable scooter drivers.
Los Angeles-area medical researchers looked at 249 emergency room admissions at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in the year from Sept. 1, 2017, to Aug. 31, 2018, because of scooter accidents. The most common injury types recorded in the study published in JAMA in January were:
- Head injury (40%)
- Bone fractures (32%)
- Bruising, sprains or cuts without fracture (28%)
Of the 249, 15 people required hospitalization, two of them in intensive care.
Characteristics of mishaps causing harm
The study found these common kinds of scooter accidents:
- Falls (74%)
- Collisions with objects (10%)
- Moving vehicles like bicycles, cars or other scooters striking scooters (8%)
Riders made up 92% of the ER patients with the remaining 8% either having been struck by scooters or having tripped on scooters (which renters may leave anywhere).
Approximately 4% of riders were using helmets, even though the applicable rental agreements “require or recommend them.” California law does not require helmets for electric scooters, but of course their use is an important safety practice.
Potential legal remedies
According to ABC News, in November, Lime, one of the major players in the industry, recalled a scooter model “after it concluded they could break apart while in use.” If someone is injured because of a defective or dangerous product, the manufacturer, seller, rental company or distributor may be subject to a claim for damages for product liability.
ABC News also reports that Lime has a new e-scooter model that comes with $1 million liability insurance coverage. In any accident involving a scooter, all potentially liable insurers should be considered such those providing insurance purchased by the company offering the scooter for rent, insurance on any other vehicles involved and insurance on vehicles owned by the victim.
Of course, as in any kind of motor vehicle accident, negligent, reckless or illegal driving conduct by other drivers open them up to liability in a personal injury claim if that behavior caused injury to the scooter driver.