Who is Liable in an Electric Scooter Accident?


Public electric scooters for rent by the minute have been appearing in large cities across the country for the past couple of years. As they catch on in popularity, the number of scooter-related traffic accidents is growing as well. In this article, we explain who may be held liable in such accidents.

In the last few years, startup companies offering innovative transportation services have taken cities around the globe by the storm, gaining in popularity with city-dwellers and attracting considerable funding from serious investors. Uber – a foremost example of such startups – launched their ride-hailing app as recently as 8 years ago and, despite significant opposition in some places and legal obstacles in others, the company is currently active in 785 metropolitan areas around the globe.

Even though Uber has struggled to maintain a good reputation with its users, the company’s initial success has caused many similar startups to enter this newly-conceived market and the number of ride-hailing apps has been steadily growing ever since Uber went live.

Fierce competition in completely new markets often sparks innovation. Each new company tries to distinguish itself from its competitors, adding new services and exploring new directions. It seems that the newest development in this race to innovate transportation in the big cities is shared electric scooters. With a business model similar to city bikes, companies such as Scoot, Skip, Bird, Lime and Lyft, all offer apps that allow users to rent electric scooters directly off the street.

Bird – a startup that has apparently came up with the idea for electric vehicle sharing in 2017 and has already managed to secure $115 million in funding. The company charges $1 to unlock one of their scooters and additional 10 to 15 cents for every minute of the ride.

In Providence, R.I., electric scooter sharing services offered by Bird have been available since July. Now, it is likely that Lime – a similar company – is going to bring their electric scooters to Providence too. While many city-dwellers have quickly embraced this new and convenient mode of transportation, others are a little more skeptical. Safety is a common concern. If a person riding a scooter has an accident and suffers injury, who is liable for the injuries? What if there’s damage to the property? Since many of our readers ask these questions, we decided to dedicate this special blog post to answer some common concerns.

Regulations Imposed by the City

Bird, like many other startups offering services in an uncharted market territory, seems to operate according to the rule “ask forgiveness rather than permission”. Arguably, this strategy can sometimes backfire – as it did for Bird in San Fransisco where the company received cease-and-desist letters from the city attorney. However, more often than not, it allows companies dealing in innovative products or services to establish their presence, gain passionate supporters, and operate with virtually no restrictions. All the while the lawmakers and authorities scramble to come up with a legal framework to regulate the innovation.

Such was the case with Bird’s presence in Providence. Dozens of electric scooters appeared on the city’s sidewalks virtually overnight in late July, taking both the public and the city officials by complete surprise. The first set of regulations was released about two weeks later. According to the new scooter policy, companies that offer scooter-sharing services must first obtain authorization from the director of the Department of Public Works. Bird – or any other company offering scooters for rent – must pay the city $1 per scooter per day. In addition, each company may only provide 300 scooters that must be distributed across the city in such a way that no more than half and no less than 10% of a company’s fleet is present in each of the five zones. The scooters must be also removed from the streets between sunset and the sunrise.

Providence scooter policy also addresses the issue of liability. Each company offering electric scooters for rent must provide the city with a general liability insurance policy with a minimum coverage of $1 million. In addition, Bird and similar companies must pay $50 per scooter towards any future public property repair maintenance that may occur in relation to the scooters’ use.

How General Personal Injury Laws Apply

Liability in an accident where a rented electric scooter was involved depends on the type of accident and who the at-fault party was. Generally speaking, a scooter-sharing company – such as Bird – will not be held liable for an accident that occurred due to negligence on the part of the scooter’s operator. The operator will be liable and any compensation may be claimed from the operator’s personal auto insurance. However, a company that rents scooter may be held legally liable if scooter malfunction was a significant factor in the accident.

Injured in a Scooter Accident? Contact Marasco & Nesselbush

As companies like Bird become more and more popular, and as more and more people adopt electric scooters as a means of short-distance transportation around the city, we can expect the number of scooter accidents grow. If you have experienced injury in a scooter accident – whether it was caused by another driver or by a scooter malfunction – you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries and any related monetary losses. Contact the injury attorneys at Marasco & Nesselbush for a free consultation on your case and to discuss the legal options available to you.