Electric scooters are growing in popularity. E-scooter proponents tout consumer love. And a recent study surveying 7,000 users in 10 cities, revealed mostly positive perceptions. These e-scooter lovers view them as a convenient, economical, eco-friendly, and enjoyable mode of transportation. They may even start giving ride-shares a run for their money. But at what cost?
Detractors point to multiple safety concerns. Emergency Room healthcare providers are seeing an uptick in e-scooter accident injuries. They note that helmetless riders are at greater risk. But most riders shun this protective gear. Regardless, your entire body is vulnerable to injury in an e-scooter accident. And your risk isn’t limited to collisions. Potholes, equipment malfunction, poor maintenance, and risky rider behavior also contribute to injury. And because e-scooters are still relatively new, the laws addressing e-scooter personal injury are still catching up. Lack of legislative uniformity adds to the confusion. To better understand the impact these vehicles pose in personal injury, start by learning what they are.
What are E-Scooters?
Electronic scooters are changing the landscape of electronic ride-on equipment. But what exactly is this trendy new electric conveyance? Is it a bike? Is it a motorcycle or a motor vehicle? What about ATV’s and mopeds? Laws defining e-scooters are varied and often confusing. Stand-on scooters currently escape most regulation. Yet, when they incorporate a seat, motorized scooters often meet the legal definition of a motor vehicle.
While legal uniformity is lacking, today’s e-Scooter “craze" usually refers to equipment that incorporates some common features. These motorized conveyances typically include two wheels – one in the front and one in the back. They’re designed to be ridden in a standing position while holding on to handlebars. Plus, e-scooters are powered by electric motors, rather than human power or combustion engines.
The E-Scooter Rental Market
E-scooters are well-suited to the rental transportation market. They’re relatively inexpensive, ranging in price from $100 to $500. They typically only need a battery charge every 20 to 30 miles, and they’re easy to outfit with GPS units and 4G data connections. A rider can rent an e-Scooter for about $1 and then pay an additional 10 to 15 cents per rental minute. Renters simply leave these dockless scooters on the sidewalk when they reach their destination. Freelancers collect the scooters at night, charge them, and return them to strategic areas designated by the scooter rental company.
As e-scooter rental services spread across the nation, the number of e-scooters roaming sidewalks and roadways continues to grow. Cities are struggling to keep up, and laws and regulations lag.
E-Scooter Law in New Jersey and Nationwide
There presently exists vast disparity from state to state in e-scooter regulations. Some jurisdictions prohibit e-scooters completely, while others have no laws at all addressing their use. Many state lawmakers are working to establish laws or change existing rules. Safety concerns are a top priority for these legislators. Some factors to be considered in this new legislation include:
- Age limits
- Helmet laws
- Speed limits
- Rental company legislation
- Legal pathways (roads, sidewalks, bike lanes)
- Equipment requirements (bell/horn, lights)
Title 39 – Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulation, defines e-scooters as motorized scooters. New Jersey Law (39:4-14.12) prohibits their operation on sidewalks, highways and public streets. Yet, the Community Affairs Division of the Garfield New Jersey Police Department will be using a couple of e-scooters for its community outreach efforts. And in Madison, NJ, select commuters may use e-scooters for commutes between the borough’s train stations and their homes.
Despite the varied state of e-scooter legislation, personal injury claims and class action lawsuits for e-scooter injuries are growing. In 2018, the use of electric scooters contributed to at least 1,500 injuries in the United States. This Consumer Reports statistic relies on data from 47 cities. While the data is minimal, many medical providers believe these types of accident injuries are vastly underreported.
Faulty maintenance and upkeep may lay the blame for many e-scooter injuries at the feet of the scooter providers. An October 2018 class action lawsuit alleged negligence by rental companies in their upkeep of certain scooters.
Product liability law plays a part, as well. This can include claims of defective design, manufacture and insufficient warnings. The adequacy of braking is a recurring issue for e-scooter riders. Consumers have accused certain manufacturers of other defective equipment issues, as well.
Because the widespread use of e-scooters is still new, so too are the associated personal injury lawsuits. It remains to be seen how most litigants will prevail in court. A small Los Angeles study reviewed the patient data of 249 people with e-scooter-related injuries. Researchers point the finger at operator error for most of the accidents. But the data remains limited overall in this regard.
Rental/user agreement waivers also pose a challenge in e-scooter personal injury lawsuits. These typically lengthy agreements ask the rider to give up most of their rights in the event of an accident. Riders usually view quickly and sign electronically without reading the full text. Experienced personal injury attorneys understand the legal issues surrounding these types of agreements. Time will tell how juries and judges will rule in these cases.
Injuries aren’t just limited to e-scooter users. In some cases, the e-scooter rider causes an accident in which other people, such as pedestrians and motorists, are injured. These non-scooter-riding victims may have legal recourse as well.
Common E-Scooter Accidents and Injuries
Motor vehicles pose many hazards to e-scooter riders. Speeding and low visibility are key factors in collisions involving automobiles and e-scooters. But crashes aren’t the only hazard. Falls from an e-scooter moving at 15 mph or less can cause serious injury.
Some other common causes of injury include:
- Failure to follow traffic rules
- Excess speeds
- Rider/driver distraction
- Equipment damage/failure
- Equipment defects
- Poor maintenance
- Failure to heed posted warnings
- Rider intoxication
- Tripping accidents
The recent LA medical study shows head injuries and fractures are common e-scooter injuries. But they are not the only types of injuries associated with e-scooter use. The following are other types of injuries that e-scooter accident victims may suffer:
- Road burn
- Facial wounds
- Brain bleed
- Internal bleeding
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Fractures and broken bones
- Hip Injuries
Data for e-scooter injuries is still minimal. Most of it is piecemeal. One Salt Lake City ER reports a 161% uptick in e-scooter injuries. A Tempe, AZ, fire department notes an increase in e-scooter crashes, and a Dallas hospital tracks an influx of scooter injuries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just launched a study in Austin, Texas. The focus is on severe injuries related to e-scooters, in the Austin area. Other city hospitals are more likely to start tracking their patients’ e-scooter-related injuries. Clearly, this equipment and its widespread use pose a growing safety concern. If the unwieldy legislative process can’t keep up, perhaps the civil courts can help spur change. Personal injury and class action lawsuits often drive industries to make vital changes for public safety.
If you or a family member has been hurt in an e-scooter accident, a New Jersey personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights.