Motorized electric scooters are the new craze in Southern California, particularly in many of our beach cities, where visitors can enjoy the ease and convenience of renting these nifty e-scooters and dropping them off in set locations. However, in recent years there have been increasing reports of serious accidents and injuries involving these e-scooters. Scooter accidents are claiming victims on an alarming basis. The problem has become so big that these scooters have been labeled as a “public nuisance” by some municipalities.
If you have been injured while riding one of these scooters, or after being hit by one, it is important to understand your legal rights and options. You may be able to receive compensation for the injuries, damages and losses you have sustained.
The experienced Los Angeles scooter accident attorneys at TorkLaw are investigating these cases and representing victims who have suffered serious injuries due the negligence of scooter operators or companies that rent them out. In this article, we will explain a bit more about how scooter accidents work.
E-scooters, or electric scooters, are dock-less scooters that you can rent by the minute.
The average speed of these scooters is about 15 mph, and they can often be seen zooming down sidewalks in beach towns such as Venice and Santa Monica (even though they are technically not allowed to be on sidewalks).
The idea of e-scooters has its origins in China, where park-anywhere bike companies such as Jump Bike and LimeBike are popular. But although battery-powered scooters have been available to riders for years, it was only recently that they became equipped with GPS trackers and wireless connectivity. Because of this, you can now rent a scooter using an app, just as you would get an Uber or Lyft ride.
There are several companies which rent these scooters to consumers on demand. Bird is one of the leading e-scooter companies, valued at over $1 billion. It was founded by Travis VanderZanden, a former Uber and Lyft executive.
In March 2018, Bird, Lime and Spin began rolling out e-scooter rentals in downtown San Francisco over the course of a few weeks. Since then, e-scooters have grown to be ubiquitous across the country, especially in towns with heavy tourist traffic such as Los Angeles and Nashville.
Most scooters are connected to an online network. To rent a Bird scooter, for example, you need to download the app.
After creating a login with your email address and adding your credit card information, you will have access to all sorts of features, including a map which will show you where you can rent a Bird e-scooter near you, as well as the battery charge of each scooter. You can unlock the scooter just by tapping a button on your phone.
An important caveat here: California law requires scooter users to have a valid driver’s license, so you may have to scan your driver’s license before renting a scooter!
With different types of scooters, the procedure may be slightly different, but it will not vary significantly.
These scooters are currently found in most major U.S. cities and on many university campuses. They can travel to speeds of up to 15 miles per hour and have a range of about 15 miles. Some Lime e-scooters have a range of up to 37 miles. Although prices vary, most scooter rentals cost around $1 flat fee, plus 15 cents for every minute of use.
Although electric scooters are popular, they are also increasingly controversial. While some claim that they are just as safe as bicycles, many others raise serious questions about their safety. Because the electric motor gives riders instant acceleration and torque, they have the potential to cause serious accidents, endangering not only the scooter operator but also pedestrians and bicyclists.
Bird’s business model rests on the belief that users will abide by the rules, but this is simply not the case. Although the rules require riders to wear helmets, very few do. In addition, many people ride double, sometimes with small children (who are also unlikely to be wearing helmets), and ditch the scooters on sidewalks, creating hazards for pedestrians and bicyclists. Finally, not all users are over 18 or have driver’s licenses.
Bird scooters and other e-scooters have wreaked pandemonium on beach town sidewalks. People have reported scooters swerving to avoid pedestrians and children in bike paths. There have also been reports of the scooters having been thrown on vehicles, breaking windshields and causing property damage. The e-scooter companies have often tried to avoid responsibility for these incidents.
Some scooter riders say they have suffered injuries after the scooter toppled from going on uneven pavement. You can see videos of this happening on YouTube and elsewhere.
Pedestrian accident victims have filed lawsuits. One mom reports being struck by a scooter rider at UCLA and knocked unconscious. Her doctor compared this incident to “being tackled by a football player.”
Depending on the speed at which an accident occurs and various other factors, victims may suffer serious injuries in e-scooter accidents. Here are some of the common injuries sustained in e-scooter accidents:
A brain injury occurs when there is a bump, blow, jolt or other type of impact to the head that causes damage to the brain. Each year, millions of people in the United States suffer brain injuries, and more than half end up in the hospital or emergency room. Those who suffer brain injuries are at risk of permanent disabilities or even death. The majority of brain injuries are from motor vehicle accidents. However, the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury may not surface for days or even weeks after an injury.
Concussions are among the most common types of head injuries suffered in electric scooter accidents. A concussion is generally considered a “mild” traumatic brain injury, but recent research has shown that even one concussion could result in permanent damage to one’s brain cells.
Concussions or other brain injuries may occur when a rider takes and tumble and hits his or her head on the pavement or when a pedestrian is knocked down to the ground by an e-scooter rider. Some of the common symptoms of traumatic brain injury include neck pain, nausea, ringing in the ears, fatigue and dizziness. People with a severe brain injury may experience other symptoms such as a persistent headache, vomiting, seizures, slurred speech and inability to wake up after going to sleep.
Traumatic brain injuries can impact thinking, language, speech, emotions, behavior and sensations. People who suffer these types of injuries often need extensive treatment and rehabilitation and may not be able to return to their jobs.
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs down the middle of the back carrying signals between the body and the brain. An injury to the spinal cord disrupts these signals. Injuries might involve fractures or dislocations of the vertebrae, which are the bones that form the spine. Most injuries involving the spinal cord involve damage to the tissues and nerves of the spinal cord, which carry those signals to the brain. A complete spinal cord injury occurs when the cord cannot send signals below where the injury occurred. This causes paralysis below the injury site. With an incomplete injury, you will have some movement and sensation below the injury.
Treatments for spinal injuries may include medications, braces, or traction to stabilize the spine. Some sufferers may also need surgery. Spinal cord injuries may require lengthy treatment and rehabilitation, and some people never recover. Even those who do tend to suffer significant chronic neck or back pain. When a scooter rider falls on his or her back, or when a pedestrian is struck by a scooter and takes a fall, they may suffer serious spinal cord injuries affecting the neck and the back.
Broken bones or fractures are usually not considered serious or fatal injuries. However, recovery from a fracture can take a long time and may require extensive treatment and therapy.
Broken bone injuries are some of the most common types of injuries suffered by electric scooter victims. Fractures can occur from falls, trauma, or a direct blow to a bone. Some of the common symptoms of broken bone injuries include swelling or bruising over a bone, deformity of an arm or leg, pain in the injured area that gets worse when the area is moved or pressure is applied, and inability to bear weight on the affected foot, ankle or leg. Those who suffer from fractures might also experience loss of function in the injured area.
Treatment typically includes immobilization of the site of the fracture. After the broken bone heals, patients undergo physical therapy to regain function, mobility and strength in the affected part of the body. Rehabilitation treatments such as physical therapy and chiropractic care are often expensive, and they are usually not fully covered by health insurance plans. As a result, patients end up paying out of pocket for these costs.
Broken bone injuries may also require that victims take time off work for an extended period, and this can result in lost income. Some types of broken bone injuries may result in permanent injuries or disfigurement, such as a limp.
While sprains and strains are often characterized as “minor” injuries, they could put you out of commission for an extended period of time. These types of injuries may also require extensive rehabilitation such as physical therapy and often prove painful. Some of these injuries can result in chronic, long-term pain.
Scooter accidents and their injuries are no picnic. If you or a loved one has been injured in a scooter accident, there are a number of steps you can take to help protect your rights:
1. If you have been injured, get prompt medical attention, treatment and care. If you are unable to get up following an injury, call 911 and allow paramedics to take you to the nearest emergency department. If you were knocked unconscious after the accident, it is important that you get examined for head injuries such as concussions. Getting prompt medical attention will help you recover and will also create documentation of your injuries and treatments. This will also avoid gaps in treatment in your medical record.
2. If a scooter rider has struck you, get that individual’s name, contact information, and driver’s license number. Be sure to note the type of scooter the rider was on. If you are a scooter rider who has been struck by another vehicle, then you should also get the driver’s name, contact information, driver’s license and insurance information.
3. Gather as much evidence as possible from the scene. If possible, take photographs and video of the scene, including the vehicles, injured individuals, and the roadway. Get the contact information of anyone who might have witnessed what occurred.
4. Save and make copies of all paperwork, including record of doctor office visits, receipts for medications or medical equipment, physical therapy bills, and any other costs you may incur. Preserve all documents relating to your accident and injury. Document the number of workdays you missed while recovering from your injuries and calculate the amount of income you lost as a result.
5. Contact an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer who has experience handling cases involving rental scooter or e-scooter accidents. The laws regarding e-scooters are constantly changing, and you need the assistance of an expert injury lawyer who keeps abreast of these changes and can fight for your rights.
In California, an electric scooter is legally defined as a motor-powered vehicle with two wheels, handlebars, and a floor board on which a rider can stand while riding. Sometimes, a motorized scooter may have a driver’s seat, but California law does not use that as a defining feature.
In California, you can operate one of these scooters with a regular driver’s license. There is no need for any sort of scooter-specific license. E-scooters are legal to ride on public roadways. However, unlike most other types of vehicles, they don’t have to have license plates or even be registered with the DMV.
Riders of e-scooters are subject to the same traffic safety laws and have the same responsibilities as drivers of other vehicles.
However, there are a few laws that are specific to scooters: they must ride in bike lanes on roads where the speed limit is higher than 25 miles per hour (and may not go on roads with higher speed limits where no bike lane exists) and cannot be ridden or parked on sidewalks. They must not travel faster than 15 miles per hour. Riders must also wear a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved helmet and cannot have passengers.
Scooter riders need a valid driver’s license, but they do not need auto insurance. Local authorities are also empowered to regulate the registration of scooters.
There are a number of risks that are unique to Lime and Bird scooter riders. Here are just a few of those risks:
Visibility. It is easy to see why e-scooters are less visible to motorists. They are small and easily hidden from view by parked cars or other objects in the roadway. In addition, most motorists don’t consciously look for scooters at intersections or while turning.
Lack of protection. Scooter riders are exposed to the elements. Unlike occupants of cars and other enclosed vehicles, they have no barrier protecting them from the roadway, and they also lack safety devices such as airbags and seat belts. Although scooter riders are required to wear a helmet, the law is poorly enforced and many choose not to do so.
Dangerous roadways. Defects on the roadway such as uneven pavement, potholes, gravel and debris could cause a motorized scooter to lose control. Such defects tend to be more dangerous for scooter riders than ordinary motorists. Many scooter accidents are caused by riders trying to swerve around roadway defects or debris.
Lack of stability. Since a scooter has only two wheels, it isn’t as stable as a four-wheeled vehicle. Scooters can lock up or become wobbly, especially when a rider tries to take some sort of evasive action such as swerving or applying the emergency brake. If a rider brakes hard enough, he or she could even be thrown off the scooter entirely, which could result in devastating injuries.
Lack of experience. Most Bird or Lime riders don’t have extensive experience riding scooters. You aren’t required to have a special license or training to operate these vehicles; all you need to get going is a smart phone, a credit card and an ordinary driver’s license. As a result, many riders struggle to operate a vehicle they have never ridden before.
Reckless behavior. Scooter riders, particularly younger ones, frequently operate the vehicles in a risky manner, including not wearing helmets or doing dangerous stunts like popping wheelies. You may also see them riding on sidewalks or operating a scooter with more than one passenger.
Driving under the influence. Unfortunately, it is common for riders to operate scooters while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Since these e-scooters are most popular in beach and tourist-heavy towns, which are populated with bars and restaurants, some people think it is acceptable to ride these scooters when they are under the influence. Needless to say, this is just as illegal as any other type of driving under the influence, and just as dangerous.
If you have suffered major injuries in an electric scooter accident, you are probably wondering how to pay for the injuries and damages you suffered. While drivers of vehicles such as cars and SUVs are required to have liability insurance, electric scooter drivers have no such requirement. Electric scooter riders can’t make a claim under their vehicle’s uninsured motorist coverage, either.
So, how do you recover compensation if you were injured in a scooter accident? That depends on who was at fault. Here are a few possible scenarios:
At-fault rider: If the scooter rider was at fault, they can be held financially responsible for your injuries. For example, when a pedestrian is hit by a rider or when a driver swerves to avoid striking a recklessly driven scooter and crashes, the rider will likely be at fault. If the rider has homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, that insurance company might cover your claim.
Scooter company: We have seen a number of cases where e-scooters crashed because they were built with sub-standard parts or improperly maintained. These rental scooters have several different riders each day and are often not serviced or repaired. Defective or worn-out parts such as brakes may not be fixed for a long time. This puts riders at risk. When you have been injured as the result of a malfunctioning scooter, you may be able to seek compensation from the scooter company.
Product manufacturer: If an inherent defect such as a manufacturing or design flaw caused your accident and resulting injuries, you may be able to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the scooter and seek compensation for injuries and damages.
At-fault motorist: If you are a scooter driver who has been struck by a negligent motorist, you can sue the at-fault driver for the injuries and damages caused. The driver’s auto insurance carrier should compensate you, particularly if the motorist’s negligence caused the accident and injuries.
At-fault pedestrian: If a pedestrian causes a scooter rider’s injuries by stepping into the rider’s path, then the pedestrian’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance might be able to compensate you for your injuries.
Negligent business: Scooter riders often have a difficult time getting around debris and other dangerous conditions on the roadway. These dangerous conditions may be created by a business that discards debris or trash outside, or a construction company that places material or signage on the roadway. In such cases, the at-fault business or their insurance carrier may be able to pay for your injuries and damages.
Governmental entity: If a dangerous roadway condition such as a pothole, uneven pavement or poor lighting has caused your scooter accident and resulting injuries, you may be able to seek compensation from the city or governmental entity responsible for maintaining the roadway. It is important to remember that the statute of limitations for claims against government entities is short, so any such claim be filed within six months of the injury date.
Remember, this is only a general overview. Each individual case will be different, and a good personal injury attorney can usually find different ways to help you recover. Even if you or the person who caused the accident lacked one of the types of insurance mentioned above, do not lose heart until speaking with one of us!
If you have been injured in a motorized scooter accident, you may be wondering what your injury claim is worth. The answer to this question depends on the circumstances of the incident, including whose negligence caused the accident, and the nature and extent of your injuries and damages. For example, a case where someone suffers injuries that led to hospitalization, and caused the victim to miss workdays and lose income, will almost certainly be much more valuable than a case where the victim escaped with a few scratches and didn’t need medical attention. Here are some of the damages you can claim in a scooter accident case:
Medical expenses: This encompasses expenses including emergency transportation (ambulance or helicopter), hospitalization, surgeries, cost of medication, medical equipment, doctor visits, and anything else related to the medical attention sought for your injuries.
Lost income: Even when you’ve suffered injuries labeled as minor or moderate, you may be unable to return to work because of the pain and the emotional shock caused by your accident. As a result, you may lose wages you would have otherwise earned. This can be included in your claim for compensation.
Rehabilitation costs: Many types of common accident injuries, such as bone fractures, often require extensive rehabilitative treatment such as physical therapy. Unfortunately, most health insurance policies only have limited coverage when it comes to rehabilitative treatments or physical therapy. This means that victims might have to pay these costs out of their own pockets… unless they can recover the damages in a lawsuit.
Lost future income: If you have suffered catastrophic injuries such as brain injuries or paralysis from spinal damage, you may be able to seek recovery of lost future income and loss of earning capacity. Your injury lawyer will help you calculate the income you have lost as a result of being unable to work for the rest of your life.
Loss of life’s enjoyment: If you are unable to enjoy everyday activities such as playing with your kids, hiking, biking, or other hobbies, you can seek compensation for loss of the ability to enjoy life. This may not be as tangible as an actual medical bill, but as any survivor of an accident knows, that does not make it any less real.
Pain and suffering: Categorized as noneconomic damages, this includes compensation for the physical pain and emotional suffering endured by the victim. It is important to recognize that when an injury is suffered, victims are affected physically as well as emotionally. Victims who are rendered disabled by injuries frequently tend to sink into depression, and may develop various fears and phobias related to the circumstances of their injury. Some may even develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Electric scooter accidents are extremely complicated because the scooter rental business is a nascent, evolving industry, which is still trying to find its way. Our laws have not caught up with the rate at which this industry has been growing.
So, whether you are a scooter rider who has been injured or a pedestrian who has been run over by a reckless electric scooter rider, obtaining compensation for your losses can be a chaotic and intimidating process. An experienced Los Angeles scooter accident lawyer can help you file or obtain a police report, determine how to pay for your medical expenses, compile evidence including photos, videos and other information, which will help strengthen your injury claim, and do many other things to maximize your chances of receiving a fair settlement.
The experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at TorkLaw have obtained millions of dollars in compensation for severely injured victims. We advance all costs, so that you don’t pay any fees unless and until we recover compensation for you. We offer free consultations to victims and their families. If you were injured in an e-scooter accident, call us at (888) 845-9696 to find out how we can help you with your Los Angeles scooter accident case.