Startups such as Bird, Lime, Skip, Spin, and Scoot offering electric scooter-rental services have grown in popularity this past year, giving rise to scooter liability concerns. A scooter is classified as a light two-wheeled, open motor vehicle with a low-powered gasoline (or electric) engine that powers the device. The rider stands or sits on the vehicle with feet resting on floorboards. While intended for recreational use, many scooter riders travel on roads designed for automobile and heavier traffic.
Interested riders can now rent an e-scooter through an app-based program that enables them to unlock a scooter, ride it for as long as they want, and park it anywhere as long as they do not violate any parking restrictions. As dockless e-scooters are gaining popularity as a mode of transportation, there are increasing implications for insurance carriers resulting from electronic scooter accidents.
Hazards to pedestrian and rider safety is a primary concern for scooter liability. Accidents related to dockless scooters have resulted in broken bones and the reported deaths of two riders in Dallas and Washington, D.C. A class action suit was recently filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Bird Rides Inc. and Lime for gross negligence that caused nine people to suffer a range of injuries including broken bones and facial lacerations. Furthermore, Lime recently discovered defects with Segway scooter batteries that could cause battery failure, which poses safety risks to riders in the event the e-scooters burn or catch fire.
In addition to negligence and products liability claims, individual drivers may also pose a scooter liability risk to public safety. A rider was recently prosecuted in Los Angeles for operating an e-scooter while intoxicated, which caused him to injure a 64 year old pedestrian. Critics have pointed out that unlicensed drivers can often rent an e-scooter and travel at more than 20 miles per hour, which has drawn attention to local regulations and insurance policy provisions.
Riders may eventually be required to hold a valid state driver’s license as well as insurance to operate an e-scooter, even if just as a rental. In New York, riders are required to have driver’s license to rent a scooter regardless of how fast it operates, but are only required to have insurance if the scooter exceeds 20 mph.
As the e-scooter industry continues to expand, the insurance industry will adjust to reflect manufacturing defects as well as scooter liability risks associated with individual riders.
Developing Regulations and Legislation
There is a movement across the United States concerning the current regulations and proposed legislation affecting scooter liability insurance coverage for both e-scooter rental companies and their riders. Currently, approximately 10 states identify e-scooters as a type of vehicle under their laws. In the future, scooter bills will be considered by state legislatures in at least 15 more states, according to industry reports.
In addition to introducing new bills related to the operation of e-scooters, states are also amending existing laws that relate to the e-scooter industry. Insurance carriers and panel counsel members could see more stringent regulations regarding the operation of e-scooters.
The chief legal officer and head of government partnerships at Bird acknowledges that local laws concerning e-scooters are not entirely clear, which can become problematic for both companies and riders. Representatives from services like Bird and Lime have started working with legislators to amend laws that are vague or outdated with respect to e-scooters. Once these laws are revised, insurance carriers may gain clarity on insurance coverage considerations for the e-scooter industry.
Insurance Coverage and Panel Counsel Implications
Some insurance carriers reportedly offer protection for scooters as part of their motorcycle insurance policies. Progressive currently offer riders affordable options starting at $75/year under their motorcycle insurance policies, according to their website. Riders can get similar coverage as a motorcycle rider, but at a comparatively lower rate. Considering the rising number of electric scooter related accidents, attorneys working as insurance panel counsel members may see an increase in claims for electronic scooter injuries.
Insurance panel counsel law firms may want to consider the different types of coverage options being offered to e-scooter consumers. Depending on regulatory trends, insurance carriers may be required to provide a minimum amount of coverage for bodily injury and property damage liability, which may include legal expenses as well. Insurance carriers may also provide optional coverage plans to consumers and rental companies. Comprehensive and collision coverage is an option that covers the costs of repair or replacement of the e-scooter in the event of damage or theft. Insurance carriers can even provide coverage for belongings carried while riding in event the belongings are lost, stolen, or damaged.
Considering the severity of injuries that have been documented in recent electronic scooter accidents, insurance carriers may re-evaluate premium levels considering the costs of litigation as well as bodily and property damage. Insurance panel counsel attorneys may want to monitor changes in state regulations as well as coverage provisions.
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This article is provided for educational purposes only. It is not to be interpreted as legal advice or an opinion in regard to any topic discussed. The article should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Every situation is different and circumstances vary widely depending on the governing state law, policy provisions, and related considerations.