E-scooters are a convenient, fast, and affordable transportation option in cities across the U.S., but they are also prone to catastrophic accidents. According to a UC San Francisco study, the U.S. recorded 40,000 e-scooter-related injuries in 2018. This represents a 222% increase compared to 2014. Young adults accounted for a large percentage of those injuries. The study found that hospital admissions surged by 365% within the same study period. Head trauma accounted for roughly one-third of e-scooter injuries.
Insurance Challenges for E-Scooters
Rideshare companies hold limited liability policies that apply in the event a rider is involved in a motor vehicle crash. The policies, however, cover the e-scooter and not the rider. The rider is liable for his or her medical costs or damages to the other vehicle or the other party if he or she is found at fault.
Personal health insurance can cover injuries sustained by the rider but cannot cover those suffered by the other party. Most rideshare companies have a clause in the rental agreement that protects the company from liability for injuries or damages suffered by the rider on the e-scooter. Consequently, shared e-scooter riders are legally responsible for all damages in a crash.
A rider of a personal e-scooter is liable for his or her damages and those of the other party. Policies specifically developed to cover e-scooters are almost non-existent. Some insurance companies state openly that e-scooter accidents aren’t covered under their auto insurance.
Auto insurance policies are specifically designed for automobiles with four wheels, not two. Renter’s or homeowner’s insurance usually covers traditional bicycle accidents and not those involving e-scooters.
What Makes E-Scooters So Dangerous?
Poor Age-Verification System
The simple e-scooter renting process has caused a surge in the number of underage riders. The process involves a customer downloading an app, scanning his or her driver’s license, entering credit card details, and then unlocking a preferred e-scooter within his or her location. Teenagers are bypassing the second step using stolen or fake IDs to have careless e-scooter adventures.
Riding Without Helmets
Young e-scooter riders prefer to ride without helmets, increasing the risk of severe head injuries in the event of an accident. In fact, a surge in the number of people visiting trauma centers with head injuries is a major concern among doctors and health officials across the U.S. Shockingly, e-scooter companies like Bird and Lime are compromising safety for profits by supporting bills that seek to make use of life-saving helmets optional.
Lack of Rider Training Period
Any smartphone owner can rent and ride an e-scooter, thanks to the simple renting process. There are no training period requirements. A rider has to pay for the first ride, which may make him or her reluctant to spend more money learning how an e-scooter rides.
Most E-Scooters are Consumer Models
Consumer e-scooter models are currently the majority on the roads. These consumer models were specifically created for single owners who rode the scooter just a couple of times per day. They are made of cheap plastic materials that cannot withstand constant use.
Consumer e-scooter models have weak headlights that are only sufficient for the bright daylight. Other motorists are sometimes unable to see oncoming e-scooters due to weak headlights.
Failure to Notify Riders of Damages or Defects on an E-Scooter
E-scooter models capable of self-reporting damage are currently available in the market. However, those reports on damages or defects on an e-scooter go to rideshare companies and not the riders.
Common E-Scooter-Related Injuries
A 2019 study by The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers found that scooter riders visit hospital emergence rooms with head injuries (40.2%), fractures (31.7%), and soft-tissue injuries (27.7%). Some of the common injuries associated with e-scooter accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Multiple bone fractures, craniofacial fractures, and lacerations
- Neck and spinal cord injuries
- Concussions and contusions
- Scarring and disfigurement
An e-scooter accident can result in severe and catastrophic injuries. As such, many safety awareness organizations feel e-scooters are likely to be the country’s next transportation epidemic. A person who sustains an injury while riding an e-scooter because of negligent actions of another road user can file a personal injury claim against the negligent party to secure damages. Likewise, anyone injured because of the actions of a reckless e-scooter rider can sue that rider for damages.