Car Accident Commuting Work Responsible

Car Accident Commuting to Work, Who’s Responsible?

Ralph Curtis Blog

What time of day do you suppose accounts for more auto accidents than any other?  When are Sacramento streets most congested?  When are people in Stockton or Modesto most likely hurrying to get somewhere?   Right: The daily commute to and from work. 

Because more people are out on the roads in the early morning or evening hours, car crashes are more likely to happen.   When they do happen, and car accident injuries result, we at Curtis Legal Group work hard to obtain all the compensation our clients deserve.   One way we do that is to make sure we have located all the insurance policies that may provide coverage for the negligent party that caused the accident. 

Frequently, drivers, these days have small auto insurance policies (if they have a policy at all.)  The minimum coverage required by California law is $15,000 for any one person injured in an accident and $30,000 for all persons injured, no matter how many.  These limits are way too low these days when the cost of an emergency room visit alone might be more.  So, one of our jobs for our clients is to look for other coverage. 

One source of additional coverage sometimes is the negligent driver’s employer.  If that driver was on an errand for their employer at the time of the accident, they may be found to be in the “course and scope” of their employment.  If so, the employer’s insurance coverage will apply as well as the employee’s policy.  

What if the employee was just on their way to work or on their way home?  Will the employer’s insurance apply?  The answer is generally no, because during their commute, the employee is not providing any service for the employer.  However, there are exceptions and determining if any of those exceptions applies requires some legal work.  The following situations should be addressed.

One exception that may apply is based on whether the employer required the employee’s vehicle to be available to use for the employer’s purposes during the workday.  For example, if the employer required the employee to have his or her car on the job so that the employee could run errands for the employer from time to time, the employer’s insurance policy could apply to an accident caused by the employee during the commute.  Some courts have narrowed this exception by saying that the employee’s car had to actually be used for job duties on the day of the accident, not just generally available.  This is an area that should be investigated. 

Another exception that could apply would be if the employee was required to perform work away from the usual workplace and then was driving home after doing so.  For example, if the employer required an employee to attend an off-site meeting and the employee then caused an accident while going home from the meeting, the employer’s insurance would likely come into play. 

Another situation where an employee could be said to be “on the job” at the time of the accident, triggering the employer’s insurance coverage, would be where the employee was on the way to work but actively engaged in a work-related phone call at the time he or she caused the accident.  In that situation, it could be said that the employee was actually “at work” when the accident happened. 

These are just a few examples of how diligent legal work can result in big benefits to clients.  When our clients suffer serious injuries, it is up to us to help them get all the compensation they need and deserve.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, attorneys at Curtis Legal Group can help you.  Give us a call; we’ll be happy to talk with you.   1-800-LAW-3080.            

Sacramento Safe Speedlimit

What is the Safest Speed Limit?

Andrew Mendlin Blog

You are driving along south-bound, State Route 99 near Florin Road in Sacramento and it is raining heavily.   You had decided to take your mom on an errand, and she is sitting in the front passenger seat of your 2020 automobile equipped with the latest equipment.  She offers you directions to your destination.  She doesn’t trust your car’s built-in, GPS navigational system.   After all, in her day, illustrative road maps, a roadside gas station and an innate sense of direction were used to determine the proper route of travel, and it worked.

As you are driving the posted speed limit of 65 mph, traffic is slowing about 1/4 of a mile up the road.  You make no attempt to slow your vehicle in anticipation of the slowed traffic ahead and rainy conditions.  Your mother immediately exclaims, “Hey, you better slow down.”  You respond in frustration, “Mom, I’m driving the speed limit.”  Mom then screams, “Who cares, you are driving way too fast for conditions!”  You whisper to yourself, “I’m driving legally.  I am not traveling over the speed limit.”

Of course, mom is probably correct.  The fact that you may be driving 65 mph, the posted speed limit, doesn’t mean that you are legally operating your car.  California’s “Basic Speed Law” (California Vehicle Code section 22350) states, “No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.”

Here, the rainy weather and slowing traffic 1/4 mile ahead may not force you to reduce the speed of your car. Yet, given the traffic conditions, the reasonable driver would likely be slowing his or her vehicle in anticipation of the traffic congestion.  Thus, you are technically in violation of California law when driving 65 mph given existing traffic conditions.  This violation can be used against you should you become involved in a car accident while violating the Basic Speed Law or may even trigger a traffic citation. 

At Curtis Legal Group, when appropriate, we hire accident reconstruction experts to determine whether a driver was operating his or her vehicle in compliance with the Basic Speed Law. This fact may be important in determining who is at fault for a motor vehicle accident.  Even though a traffic collision report may note that a driver was driving within the posted speed limit, that driver may still be in violation of the Basic Speed Law. Many lawyers miss this issue entirely. Call the Heavy Hitters at 1-800-LAW-3080 to have your accident analyzed and reviewed.     

Vaping Related Injury or Death

Can I Sue for Vaping Related Injuries?

Andrew Mendlin Blog

Vaping devices have become the millennials’ old-time cigarette. Vaping devices are essentially electronic cigarettes that have replaced the paper roll-up cigarette.  Yes, even kids in Sacramento’s middle schools and high schools have turned to vaping.  One can now vape nicotine or marijuana along with a host of tobacco products.  It is the tech age, an age of creativity and the freedom to inhale since Cannabis has been legalized in many States. 

Yet, 5 deaths have been recently reported due to severe lung illnesses allegedly resulting from vaping. Also, more than 450 lung injuries have been reported from vaping. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) is investigating vaping devices and the chemical compounds used in vaping devices to address the causes of these deaths and illnesses. Those that have suffered death or illness are typically teenagers and young adults so this wave of illnesses and death is concerning to the FDA.

In California, vaping manufacturers, suppliers and retailers are strictly liable to a consumer or user of their product if they place a defective product into the marketplace that creates an unreasonable risk of harm to the consumer or user.  In general, strict liability means that a plaintiff seeking damages arising from a defective product doesn’t have to prove that the manufacturer, supplier or retailer acted below a certain of standard of care; just that they placed the defective product into the stream of commerce and that product was unreasonably dangerous. 

If the injured victim died, then certain individuals, who survived the death of the decedent, can claim wrongful death damages against the manufacturer, supplier and/or retailer. Wrongful death damages do not mean those damages suffered directly by the dead person thereby causing the person to die nor does it mean compensation for the deceased person’s value as a human being. Rather, wrongful death damages equate to those damages arising from the survivor’s loss of his or her relationship with the decedent.  The claim belongs to the survivor and is quantified by the amount of love, care, comfort, and society as well as financial support benefiting the survivor. 

Yet, California’s wrongful death statute limits wrongful death claims to certain individuals (See Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60).  Typically, if a person dies with a spouse and children, then both the spouse and children maintain the exclusive right to recover wrongful death damages except in certain circumstances.  If the person dies without a spouse or children, then his or her parents, if living, the right to compensation.  If the person did not have a spouse, children or parents that were living at the time of his death, then any sisters and brothers may recover such damages.   Other individuals may also recover if they were financially dependent on the person who passed.

Those that have died from vaping have evidently suffered breathing disorders and other medical complications which required treatment.  This treatment, of course, occurred before death.  In California, even after the injured victim dies, the injured victim’s family or representative may still recover for the decedent’s medical bills and lost wages.  This claim is commonly known as a “survivor’s action”.

Wrongful death, survival, and products liability actions can be complicated matters.  For instance, attorneys need to identify all those persons with a right to recover wrongful death damages since California requires that a wrongful death plaintiff join all those with a claim to that plaintiff’s suit.  Also, an investigation will have to be performed to firmly link the product defect to the injury or death.  

At Curtis Legal Group, we understand that the loss of a loved one can be unbearable.  That is why we work hard to protect a victim’s rights under product liability, survival, and wrongful death laws.

Highway Guardrail

Injury Caused by Collision with Highway Guardrail

Andrew Mendlin Blog

Who is responsible for injuries to a driver and his or her passengers when that driver crashes his or her vehicle into a freeway guardrail?  One might assume that the driver is responsible since he or she may have negligently driven his or her car into the guardrail or the driver of another motor vehicle that forced the injured driver’s vehicle into the guardrail.  However, other people, businesses and governmental agencies may bear fault and those persons and entities need to be investigated as well as the driver.  

California is a comparative fault State.  That means that a jury or judge assigns a percentage of fault to each person or entity that bears responsibility for the harm.  In this case, the injured driver’s lawyer should analyze whether the injured driver did drive negligently, i.e. did the driver drive too fast and lose control of his or her vehicle;  did the driver’s car have mechanical problems, such as a failed braking system; or was the driver operating his or her vehicle under the influence of alcohol, illicit drugs or prescribed pharmaceuticals.  After the attorney investigates these issues, the attorney should then also review whether any other persons or entities bear responsibility.  For example, does the injured driver’s vehicle exhibit damage evidencing that it was struck by another car and pushed into the guardrail?  The attorney may need to hire an accident reconstruction expert to determine the vehicle positions, speeds and forces.  

The attorney should also review the guardrail itself.  Over the last decade or more, cities, counties and States have worked to eliminate motor vehicle accidents whereby a car crosses a median and is struck by oncoming traffic.  However, the guardrail’s materials and design may be too dangerous for motorists.  Recently, a family of a San Diego man sued X-Lite based on allegations that it manufactured a dangerous guard rail system.  They claim their family member was killed when his vehicle crashed into the X-Lite guardrail.  Other States have examined their guardrail systems and have found that the guardrail ends can act as a spear and penetrate a vehicle.  These States and the Federal Government have either replaced their guardrails or modified their guardrail systems.  (See  Federal and State transportation agencies publish standards for highway guardrails which lawyers and traffic engineering experts should review.  (See  

In California, a governmental agency, such as the California Department of Transportation, better known as Cal Trans, is liable to injured motorists and passengers if it creates a dangerous highway condition and if the agency is not protected by immunity under the law.  Therefore, even if a private manufacturer of a guardrail system may be held liable to those injured by a defective guardrail, the defective guardrail may also create liability for the governmental agency in charge of the highway’s condition and design. Governmental agencies sometimes contend that even if a road or highway is dangerous, the agency is not responsible to compensate someone for his or her injuries since the agency has governmental immunity, i.e. a shield against such claim or suit. 

At Curtis Legal Group, we understand California’s comparative fault system.  We know that accidents may sometimes require an analysis of guardrail systems and other factors creating dangerous conditions for drivers.  We also understand that governmental agencies may claim that they are protected from claims and suits.  We fight against these defenses so that our clients get justice.

Call us at 1(800) LAW-3080 today!

Bicycle injury accident with car

Sacramento & San Joaquin County a Leader in Bicycle Related Injury and Death

Andrew Mendlin Blog

Despite all of the bicycle lanes and protected areas for cyclists to travel on, bicyclist injury rates increased by 21% from 28.4 (2007) to 34.4 per 100,000 residents (2013). The California Department of Public Health reports that the number of bicycle related accidents and deaths are on the rise. The number one leading cause of the rise in bicycle related injuries and death involves motor vehicles.

There are many reasons why someone would choose to commute by bicycle. In parts of Sacramento, it is easier to commute by bike than it is to own a car and find reasonable parking for it. Bike share services are a popular choice in Sacramento as well. In Modesto and Stockton, it is an enjoyable recreation shared by many as bike paths and bike lanes continue to be implemented throughout the cities.

With that said, the most common contributor to a bicycle accident is a motor vehicle. There are several ways you could be in a bicycle accident while cycling in Sacramento, Stockton, or Modesto, some of which include:

  • Distracted Driving: Accidents resulting from a distracted driver are on the rise. Drivers have more distractions in the vehicle these days especially if they are prone to texting or checking email while driving. Distracted drivers are less likely to spot cyclists in time to avoid collisions.
  • Drunk or Under the influence Driving: Marijuana, prescription medications and alcohol impair the ability to operate a motor vehicle. Impared drivers cause bicycle accidents because the impairing agent affects their ability to respond quickly and remain focused.
  • Poor Visibility: Motorists are more likely to hit a cyclist in areas with poor visibility such as entry and exit points of buildings or parking areas. Poor lighting is also a major contributor to accidents.
  • Turning at intersections: A right-hook accident occurs when a vehicle makes a right turn in front of a cyclist who was traveling in a straight line. It is easy for a cyclist to end up in the drivers blind spot making the driver assume they are clear to turn. A left-hook accident can occur when a driver makes a left turn in front of a cyclist at an intersection.

We Can Help!

Curtis Legal Group fights for injured victims and families of vehicle related injury accidents. Our team is committed to helping our clients seek a full recovery from their damages including any lost wages or future earnings. To discuss your case and rights with one of our attorneys, call our Sacramento, Stockton, or Modesto office at 1(800) LAW-3080.


10 Car Accident Injury Claim Myths Debunked

10 Car Accident Injury Claim Myths Debunked

Andrew Mendlin Blog

Just about everyone has some preconceived beliefs about how car accident injury claims are handled. Most of us have heard bits and pieces of the experiences of friends and family. No single claims process is the same. Part of our job at Curtis Legal Group is to make sure our clients are informed throughout the process which means educating them on what to expect. Over time, we have come up with 10 common car accident injury claim myths and today we plan to debunk them.

1. I Can Handle My Claim Myself. The Insurance Company Will Be Fair

Insurance companies are not in business to be fair. They are in business to make money. They do that by paying as little as possible for claims, such as yours. To get the maximum recovery, you need an experienced personal injury attorney who knows how to negotiate with insurance companies and can take them to court if necessary.

2. My Family Lawyer Can Handle My Case

You may have a family lawyer who handled a will or business deal for you in the past. You may even have a lawyer in the family. There is a reason why personal injury attorneys specialize in this area of practice rather than practicing other areas of law. Personal injury attorneys emphasize only one area of legal practice: recovering compensation for people injured by the fault of others. At Curtis Legal Group, we get paid if our clients get paid and we don’t charge by the hour.

3. I Didn’t Get Hurt Too Badly So I Don’t Need A Lawyer

You don’t have to hire a lawyer, but choosing not to consult a personal injury attorney, even when you were not badly injured, will leave you dealing with the insurance company yourself. It will most likely be difficult for you to navigate through this complex area of law and reach a reasonable settlement of your case without the assistance of an attorney with personal injury experience.

4. I’ll Have to Go To Court

Most cases settle out of court. In fact, only about 2% of civil suits are tried in court. Trials are risky and time-consuming, and can be expensive for both sides. If you can get fair compensation for your injuries outside of court, it is usually in the best interest of both parties to negotiate a settlement before taking the case to trial.

5. I Will Need Money To Pay My Attorney To Pursue My Case

Many people believe that personal injury attorneys require payment in advance. While in most areas of legal practice this is true, it is not true for many personal injury law firms such as Curtis Legal Group. We operate on a contingency fee basis, which means, “We Don’t Get Paid Unless You Do!”

6. There’s No Hurry, I Can Wait Before Consulting A Lawyer

All states have what is known as a statute of limitations. This provides accident victims a window of opportunity to make a claim. Once that expires, you lose this chance forever. This means that it is important to seek the advice of a personal injury attorney as soon as possible especially if you are facing medical expenses and/or time off work. Also, the sooner an attorney can start working on your case, the sooner he or she can collect evidence that will help your case be successful.

7. Personal Injury Lawsuits Are Wrong

This is a huge myth. Some people may think we live in a society where everybody is too eager to sue each other, but we also live at a time when insurance companies are trying harder to avoid paying for legitimate damages caused by the fault of the person they insure. It is important to protect yourself and your family by seeking proper counsel so that you can be fairly compensated.

8. Injury Claims Take Too Long

Each case is unique and there have been cases that have taken many years to reach a conclusion. However, most cases are settled much sooner than that. It is impossible to promise a specific time frame, but we work hard to make sure your recovery comes as soon as possible.

9. I Might Have Been Partially At Fault

Just because you may be partially at fault does not mean you can’t receive any compensation for your injuries. Cases where more than one party is at fault are more complicated because it must be determined how much liability falls on each party, but you still may be entitled to recover money damages even if you were partially at fault in causing the accident. The amount of recoverable damages will depend on the extent of the losses you suffered and your comparative fault in causing the accident. Don’t assume that you won’t be able to recover money damages. Talk to an attorney first.

10. My Medical Insurance Will Cover All Treatment for My Injuries

Depending on your medical insurance provider, they may pay for a portion of the cost of your medical treatment. How much they will pay depends on too many factors to go over here. However, there are common expenses you may still incur such as deductibles and copays. Your lawyer should work to make sure you get reimbursed for any out of pocket health care expenses you have paid, as part of the settlement of your case.

Car Accident Myths Busted!

We hope this article helped debunk some of the myths you may have heard about personal injury claims. If you have been involved in an accident, give us a call at 1 (800) LAW-3080. Remember that We Don’t Get Paid Unless You Do. The only risk is not speaking to an attorney.

10 Things To Do If Involved In A Car Accident

10 Things To Do If Involved In A Car Accident

Andrew Mendlin Blog Leave a Comment

A car accident is unexpected and happens fast. The chaos of the moment makes it easy to forget what to do when you find yourself in a car accident. This list of 10 things to do if involved in a car accident will help you remember what to do should you find yourself in this situation. One of the leading causes of an unsuccessful case is not having enough information. Feel free to print this out and keep it in your car.

It is important to note that if there are any injuries resulting from the car accident, make sure you cal 9-1-1. Your safety and the safety of others is most important.

1. Get to a position of safety
If you are able to do so, immediately move to a position where you will be safe from any further accidents.  Assist anyone in your vehicle to do so as well. Evaluate the scene and decide if you are able to assist anyone else.

2. Call 911
Ask for assistance from law enforcement.  Request emergency medical attention if necessary

3. Check yourself and others around you
Evaluate your injuries and those of any occupants of your vehicle as well as other vehicles.  Take reasonable precautions such as sitting/lying down, applying pressure to any bleeding, etc. while you await emergency personnel.

4. Identify and talk to witnesses
If you are able to do so, identify any witnesses and get their contact information.  Listen to what they say but do not talk to them about your impressions of how the accident happened.  Leave those comments for the police.

5. Think before you talk
Reflect on what you are going to say before talking to the police.  Be truthful and as detailed as possible. If you don’t know or remember something, say so. Don’t make conclusions based on matters not actually seen or heard by you.

6. Take pictures with your phone
If possible, take pictures of all of the vehicles with your smartphone or camera before they are moved.  If your vehicle is a hazard to other vehicles, however, move it off the road if that can be done safely, then take pictures. 

7. Exchange information
Exchange insurance information with other drivers but don’t talk to them about your impressions of how the accident happened.

8. Report the Accident to your Insurance Company
As soon as possible, report the accident to your insurance company.

9. See a Medical Professional
Get medical attention promptly, even if you think your injuries are minor.  Often, injuries are not painful until hours after an accident. Also, you may have internal injuries you are not immediately aware of. Depending on your assessment of your injuries, seek an ambulance to a hospital, get a ride to an emergency room or urgent care or see your primary care doctor.

10. Protect Your Legal Rights
Seek advice from an attorney.  An attorney can be much more effective in assisting you if he/she gets involved with your case early. By all means, talk to an attorney before talking to a representative of the other driver’s insurance company.  They will only try to get information from you that they can later use against you.

We hope this list helps you or someone you care about should they be involved in a car accident. 77% of us will be involved in a car accident in our lifetime which means we all need to protect ourselves.

Jump Electric Scooters now in Sacramento

Before You Jump on an Electric Scooter in Sacramento

Andrew Mendlin Blog

Jump Electric Scooters from Uber have hit the streets of Sacramento. Last month, we shared on the topic of Electric Scooter Safety and Liability on our blog.

We at Curtis Legal Group understand the laws and liabilities with riding electric scooters in Sacramento to best assist those involved in an Electric Scooter Accident.

Last week, a company owned by Uber named Jump, dropped off 100 Electric Scooters around Sacramento and West Sacramento areas. Jump already had a presence in Sacramento with their bicycle rentals. A Jump Electric Scooter can be rented through a mobile app for $0.15 per minute or $9.00 per hour currently. The electric scooters are an answer to busy streets that often take a lot of time to travel short distances in a car.

Before you Jump on an Electric Scooter to get around Sacramento, here are a few things you should know.

  1. You must be 18-years-old to ride a Jump Electric Scooter in Sacramento.
  2. Jump requires you to wear a helmet.
  3. You can get a DUI if under the influence of alcohol while riding.
  4. No riding on sidewalks unless you are safely entering or exiting a nearby property.
  5. You must obey all traffic laws.
  6. Electric scooters are only allowed on streets with a speed limit of 25 mph, unless operated in a Class II bike lane or Class IV bikeway.

Jump Electric Scooters are new but it is important you inspect the scooter before riding. A damaged scooter could malfunction while you are riding it causing injury.

To learn more about who is liable in an electric scooter accident in Sacramento, check out our recent blog (LINK to Blog).

Have you been involved in an Electric Scooter Related Accident? Call us today at 1(800) LAW-3080 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

Staying Safe While Riding a Hoverboard

Staying Safe on a Hoverboard Electric Scooter

Andrew Mendlin Blog

Made popular about four years ago, the Hoverboard is a self-balancing rideable device similar to an electric scooter that is a lot of fun to cruise around on. You’ve probably seen a kid riding down the street on what looks like a sideways skateboard. These electronic devices have two electric motors, a battery, and an onboard computer that helps them maintain balance with a rider on board. The idea of the Hoverboard was made popular in the movie “Back to the Future” where Marty McFly hovers around on a skateboard that appears to be floating. The Hoverboard we see today is also known as a Self-Balancing Motorized Scooter.

Watching someone cruise by on a Hoverboard is an eye-catching experience. It looks as if the rider is standing still, yet they are moving. The Hoverboard is small and is no higher than the riders shoes making it hard for motorists to tell that the rider is moving. There are many risks here because motorists typically look for a pedestrian’s legs to be moving when walking. This could confuse a motorist and cause them to pull out in front of a Hoverboard rider. The risk increases because stopping quickly becomes challenging on a Hoverboard. To slow down, you have to lean back. If the rider of a Hoverboard leans back hard to slow down fast, the Hoverboard could shoot out from under them causing the rider to fall to the ground. Imagine this happening in the crosswalk of a busy street.

You often find young kids riding on Hoverboards which is risky because the motor skills and the ability to react quickly is not fully developed in children. Hoverboards can reach up to 13 MPH depending on the model.

Though the sale of Hoverboards slumped a bit after the news that they were catching fire while charging, the sales picked back up quite a bit for Christmas of 2018. You will likely start to see children on Hoverboards again in your neighborhood.

Tips to Stay Safe on a Hoverboard:

  1. Always be aware of your surroundings: Kids are using their Hoverboards to ride around town and through neighborhoods. The law states that self-propelled motorized rideable devices belong in the bicycle lane, but that is probably not the safest place for a Hoverboard. Riding a Hoverboard in a bicycle lane or on the sidewalk of a busy street is risky because at any time the rider could fall into street traffic. We recommend using your Hoverboard in a safe place away from traffic.
  2. Always Wear a Helmet: It is quite easy to fall off of a Hoverboard. Though it does a good job at keeping you balanced, you can fall. You can fall backwards which could result in a head injury when the back of your head hits a hard surface. Wearing a helmet will limit the potential of such an injury.
  3. Don’t Let Others Ride Your Hoverboard: If you talk to someone with a Hoverboard, chances are they will offer you to try it. Sharing is Caring but if you let someone ride your Hoverboard and they hurt themselves, you are opening yourself up to unnecessary risk.
  4. Don’t Over Charge Your Hoverboard: Hoverboards are mass produced in factories overseas. The quality control on these devices has been questionable and there have been multiple reports of fires due to overcharging of Hoverboards. This happens because the charging device overheats and causes a battery fire. This can be very dangerous especially if it happens overnight while your family is asleep. Find out how long your Hoverboard is supposed to take to charge and set a timer so you can unplug the charger at the end of the charge cycle.

Who is Liable in a Hoverboard Accident?

There are many differentiating factors when determining who is at fault in a Hoverboard accident. If you were involved in a Hoverboard related accident which resulted in an injury, we would like to hear your case. Whether you were hit by a car while riding your Hoverboard or believe your accident was caused by a malfunction of the Hoverboard itself, you may be able to receive compensation for medical bills, loss of income, and pain and suffering caused by the accident.

Curtis Legal Group has experience in cases involving rideable devices and alternative modes of transportation. Please call us today at 1(800) LAW-3080 to share the details of your Hoverboard related accident with us. We are here to help!

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.