Bird & Lime Electric Scooter Accident Risks - Who Is Liable?

Bird & Lime Electric Scooter Accident Risks – Who Is Liable?

Andrew Mendlin Blog

The e-scooter (Electric Scooter) revolution is about to hit Sacramento and the Central Valley.  If you have recently visited cities, such as Washington D.C. or San Jose, CA, then you know about this new phenomenon.  From your smartphone, you can locate and electronically pay for a motorized scooter, which you will find in various city locations provided by Electric Scooter Rental Companies such as Lime and Bird. You hop on one of these electric scooters and off you go through the city streets. You can stop for some coffee and then scoot to your next destination.  

When you are finished riding, you can simply drop off the scooter at any location where it won’t create a hazard for pedestrians and other vehicles.  The City of Sacramento allows e-scooters but requires that parking racks be provided by the electric scooter rental companies. These companies are working to get the motorized scooters on the streets.  Some cities don’t require racks, and patrons simply drop off the scooter in the middle of sidewalks leaving a hazard in the walkway. This leaves many people wondering who is liable in an electric scooter accident.

There are some other limits to your operation of these scooters.  You cannot drive these scooters on roads with speed limits over 25 mph unless ridden within a class II bicycle lane.  Also, some cities and States require that e-scooter drivers be of a certain minimum age.  California requires that the driver be 16 years of age. However, Los Angeles requires that the driver be at least 18 years of age.  In fact, the drivers are required to have a motor vehicle driver license or permit, however, the smartphone app does not require users to verify having a valid drivers license.

Interestingly, California recently changed the helmet laws affecting scooter operators.  Adults are no longer required to wear a helmet but persons 17 years of age are and younger are required to do so.

So who is liable when a scooter driver runs down a pedestrian or leaves a scooter in the middle of a sidewalk hindering safe passage? Who will pay for the scooter driver’s mistakes when the scooter driver injures someone?  If the scooter rider is injured while appropriately riding the electric scooter, who is at fault?  The e-scooter company may bear liability if it fails to comply with the municipal law by, for example, failing to install parking racks. Yet, the scooter driver will likely be the one held most responsible for mistakes parking and/or operating a scooter.  

Automobile insurance pays for accidents involving cars so automobile insurance is not likely to ensure the scooter driver.  A homeowners’ policy or renters’ insurance policy may provide liability coverage for such incidents so long as there are no exclusions.   It is not clear whether these policies will pay for damage to the scooter.

Parents of minors need to be especially aware of this e-scooter phenomenon.  After all, parents of minors are responsible for a minor’s negligent conduct that injures or damages another person pursuant to California Civil Code section 1714.1.  These damages are limited to hospital, medical and dental expenses totaling $42,100.00.

We here at Curtis Legal Group want you to be safe. Even though adults are not required to wear a helmet when operating a motorized scooter, adults should, nevertheless, wear a helmet.  Also, you should check your homeowners’ policy and renters’ insurance policy to ensure that you have liability coverage in case you make a mistake and injure another person. Medical bills, wage loss and pain and suffering damages can be expensive.  You will want to have insurance when you pick up that motorized scooter and scoot your way to the nearest coffee shop.