E-Scooters: The Law, Liability and Lessons

Photo Credit: Curbed Atlanta

Electric scooters or “e-scooters” have been a hot topic since they started hitting our streets in 2017. They are all the rage … the positive definition but also the “angry rage” around their safety and how they have taken over our sidewalks and streets. They’ve provided challenges since the day they launched.

Increased scooter use has meant more accidents, injuries and even several deaths in metro Atlanta. Cities are changing the way they look at the for-hire electric scooter. The rise in e-scooter use is raising questions about the safety of our roads including how cars and other means of travel can work together.

We’ve been working with several clients who’ve suffered losses due to e-scooter accidents. The laws and regulations surrounding them are changing quickly, requiring us to monitor local legal rulings on an almost daily basis.

The Rise of Sidewalk Rage

The e-scooters have created a new term, “sidewalk rage,” instead of road rage. Some colleges have banned them, calling the scooters a danger to walkers on their crowded sidewalks and thoroughfares. According to Consumer Reports, more than 1,500 scooter-related accidents have occurred this year in the United States, some deadly. Locally, Grady Memorial Hospital sees 80 to 100 scooter-related injuries per month, ranging from head injuries to broken limbs.

Municipalities have put restrictions in place after injuries and deaths occurred. Some banned them after riders rode them on sidewalks and then left the scooters piled on street corners, putting pedestrians in danger. The City of Atlanta has put a Nighttime Riding Restriction in place that bans devices from being rented between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. due to the large number of after-dark accidents.

Atlanta has also put stickers around the city reminding riders not to ride on sidewalks and others that say “park here” to avoid scooters being piled at crosswalks, doorways and wheelchair ramps. Marietta and Alpharetta have banned the dockless scooter completely. Many metro cities have put a temporary moratorium on e-scooters until a decision is made. Other areas are in the process of drafting regulations.

Injuries to e-scooter renters raise the question of liability. Riders sign the user agreement before they even create an account to rent a scooter or bike. Read the fine print. Every rental company has its own user agreement and lists specific guidelines for helmet use and scooter inspection.

Bird and Lime are the two largest rental scooter companies in the U.S. Both companies require a waiver to be signed before riders can rent a scooter. The waivers vary and while the terms of both agreements insure the clients, they remove most of the liability from the company. Bird renters are covered if anything happens as a result of a faulty Bird scooter. Lime offers $1M in liability coverage for each covered claim but the coverage is on a claim by claim basis.

There are steps renters can take to protect themselves:
  • Make sure the scooter is properly maintained. Look for rust, damage and most importantly, check the brakes.
  • More than half of all scooter riders do not wear helmets, yet when riders sign the user agreement, most have agreed not to hold the rental company liable if they fail to wear a helmet while riding.
  • Be aware of the guidelines and rules in the city where you plan to ride. Some cities, like Atlanta, have curfews for operating scooters.
  • Many municipalities also have limits on where the scooters can be used.
Here are 5 things riders should do when renting a scooter:
  • Before you ride, check the scooter’s brakes and put on a helmet.
  • Practice. Learn to ride safely before venturing out into busy areas.
  • Since scooters are so new, assume pedestrians, bikers, and drivers aren’t aware of you.
  • Ride slower than the scooter’s “speed limit,” particularly if you’re in a busy area.
  • If you’re injured, don’t sign away your rights before speaking with an attorney.

Reporting any injuries or malfunctions to the rental company as soon as possible is very important. In busy areas, leaving the scooter while dealing with a minor injury or accident can mean that someone might rent that damaged scooter. If you feel you were injured by a faulty e-scooter, it is important to call an attorney immediately.

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