What You Need to Know About Scooter Accidents
Posted on June 13th, 2019 by Zane Cagle
They’re being touted as a fun, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly way to ease traffic congestion. And, hey, they are fun! Members of our firm ride them around downtown and the Central West End as they are inexpensive, maneuverable and cheap.
But there is another side to the dockless scooters that are showing up in cities across the nation. According to a study conducted by Consumer Reports in February 2019, an estimated 1,500 persons were injured in the U.S. on scooters since late 2017. A potential class-action lawsuit alleges that Bird scooters contain defective parts that led to injuries.
If you’re planning to use one or you already have, here is what you need to know about scooter accidents.
More Companies Are Getting Into the Scooter Game
Taking a page from the playbooks of ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, who match riders with drivers via a smartphone app, companies such as Bird and Lime began providing electric scooters for short-term rental in cities across the world. Those wishing to rent the scooter can do so by logging in on an app and finding the location of the nearest available scooter. The cost of renting the scooters is as little as $1 plus a few cents a minute. Some cities have allowed select companies to offer their scooters as part of pilot programs to see if the mode of transportation does, in fact, relieve traffic congestion.
Currently, a number of companies have either begun offering electric scooters for rent or plan to, including Uber and Lyft. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 12 companies were hoping to begin providing scooters in San Francisco following legislation that would allow riders to use the scooters on the sidewalks and allow adults to ride them without helmets.
Emergency Room Doctors Are Seeing a Wide Variety of Injuries
With more than 65,000 electric scooters available for rent across the country, the number of injuries from electric scooters is on the rise as well, Consumer Reports noted. The study conducted by Consumer Reports, revealed that there is no standard way for hospitals or cities to track the number of injuries from scooters.
However, Portland’s Bureau of Transportation performed its own study of the issue in its city and found that the injury rate was 2.2 per every 10,000 miles traveled, and 2.5 for every 10,000 trips taken. To put that into perspective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the injury rate is 0.5 for every 10,000 miles traveled for motorcycles, and 0.1 per every 10,000 miles traveled for cars.
Here in St. Louis, the city government doesn’t track the number of scooter accidents, but Barnes-Jewish Hospital is seeing a massive increase, from one per week to six or seven, 20 percent of which require hospitalization. During a three-month period, “Three people had brain hemorrhages, and 17 broke bones in their arms or legs,” according to St. Louis public radio.
From a February 2019 Forbes article, a study in southern California revealed:
- The most common injuries from scooter accidents seen at hospitals in southern California were bone fractures, which accounted for 40.2 percent of all injuries seen. Head trauma was seen in 31.7 percent of the accidents, and cuts, sprains, and bruises were found in 27.7 percent of the cases.
- 80.2 percent of the injuries in accidents involving scooters were caused when the rider fell off of the scooter. 11 percent of the accidents involved a collision with an object, and 8.8 percent of the accidents involved the scooter being hit by a moving vehicle or object.
- In one year’s time, at just two emergency departments, researchers discovered that 249 people suffered significant enough injuries from electric scooters to require medical treatment. A third of those individuals were transported to the hospital by ambulance.
- Only 4.4 percent of injured scooter riders were wearing a helmet at the time that the accident occurred.
According to a CNet article published in late 2018, a San Francisco woman was visiting San Diego when she and her husband decided to rent scooters from the company Lime. While riding the scooter, she stated, she found herself traveling downhill with no brakes, moving at about 25 miles per hour through several intersections, headed toward six lanes of traffic. She wound up in the hospital when, in order to stop herself, she put her hands to her chest and, with her feet, caused the scooter to slide sideways. The move caused her to skid about ten feet and resulted in two surgeries to correct her injuries, which included a broken metacarpal, a cracked knuckle joint, road rash, and a hematoma the length of her entire right leg. Other injuries that doctors have been seeing from scooter accidents include:
- Broken ribs, collarbones, scapulas, ankles, and femurs.
- Collapsed lungs.
- Multiple stitches.
- Ruptured spleens.
- Black eyes.
- Facial injuries.
- Fractured skulls.
Doctors in Dell Seton’s emergency department, in Austin, report that they’re seeing about ten scooter injuries a day. In one month, the hospital saw 18 cases in which the rider of the scooter was admitted to intensive care, had to undergo immediate surgery, or had to stay overnight. Some of the most severely injured riders may require a lifetime of round-the-clock care, one of the doctors stated to CNet.
Cities and States Are Scrambling to Regulate the Use of Scooters
While some cities incorporated the scooter rentals into a pilot program to study their benefits, other cities state that the scooters appeared in within their limits with no warning or preparation, leaving them scrambling to regulate where and how the scooters should be operating. Here is a look at how cities and states across the nation have been handling the issue.
The San Diego city council unanimously approved dockless scooter regulations in April 2019, according to information from the local NBC affiliate. The regulations include a speed limit of eight miles per hour in high pedestrian areas, and certain areas of the city were designated no ride zones. The council is requiring companies who provide scooters in the area to also provide geofencing, which will slow the devices down in designated areas. In the future, the council plans to enact a complete ban of scooters on the boardwalk and sidewalks. The city continues to work on providing appropriate places for riders to park the scooters when they are done using them.
Also in April 2019, a Texas lawmaker wanted the Texas State Senate to act on legislation he put forth that would provide basic statewide regulations on electric scooters, while allowing municipalities to add their own requirements as well. The Dallas Morning News reported that state senator Royce West, a Dallas-based lawyer, proposed legislation that includes the following provisions:
- No more than one person riding the scooter at a time.
- Riders must be at least 16 years old.
- Rides would be restricted to bike paths and designated areas with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less.
- A speed limit for riders of stand-up scooters of 15 miles per hour, and a 20 mile-per-hour speed limit for riders of sit-down style scooters.
- Bar all scooters from sidewalks and require parking for the scooters that prevents obstruction of sidewalks and paths.
According to the article, several companies are approved to provide scooters in Dallas, but the council is still working out their own regulations. Currently, scooter-riders are permitted to ride on city streets, though sidewalk riding is banned in the city’s business district.
Florida lawmakers are considering statewide legislation in regards to electric scooters, as well. According to an article from Miami’s CBS 4, a controversial bill headed to the state House floor would remove much of the control over scooters from the hands of local municipalities and put it in the hands of the state, instead. The bill would require cities and counties to treat scooter riders like bicyclists and would prevent municipalities from using their regulations “to pick winners and losers in the industry.” In April 2019, Miami became the largest city in the nation to approve the operation of scooter rentals, and 6 companies were lined up to place 300 scooters on the streets and sidewalks of one of the city’s commission districts.
As reported by ABC 11 in Raleigh, North Carolina, the popular scooter rental companies Bird and Lime are pulling out of Raleigh due to increased government regulation there and fees imposed by the city council. A Lime spokesperson referred to the city’s regulations as “some of the most onerous regulations in the country.” Raleigh imposes a fee to companies of $300 per scooter, which it says is intended to offset the cost of police enforcement of scooter regulations.
An article from ABC 7, out of southern California, reported warnings from a whistleblower and former employee of the scooter rental company, Bird. The whistleblower, who spend a year working for the company, said that many of the scooters available for rent have been improperly maintained and are unsafe. Many have stripped or missing screws or loose handlebars, he stated. He provided an internal message sent by a Bird official which noted that scooters with brake problems should be listed as damaged, but missing or damaged screws, loose handlebars, and other structural issues should not be a reason to take the scooter off the road. The ex-employee says he was fired for continuing to list those scooter with issues as damaged after being told not to.
While regulations are developed and scooters continue to become more available in cities, scooter accident lawsuits are also becoming more prevalent. Here is a look at some of the lawsuits that have been filed.
As reported by the Florida Courier, scooters at Disney parks have been a growing issue and one that park officials cannot do a whole lot about due to federal provisions for people with disabilities. In 2018, 11 lawsuits were filed alleging injuries caused by scooters at Disney—the highest number of lawsuits involving scooters at the parks in 5 years. Some of the lawsuits were filed by pedestrians who had been struck by scooters at the park, while others are from scooter riders alleging unsafe conditions on park property that caused their injuries. One attorney interviewed for the Courier’s report said that many of these lawsuits could be avoided if scooter riders were given more instructions regarding park regulations before being “turned loose” in the park.
A class-action lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accusing scooter rental companies of gross negligence and aiding and abetting assault, according to an article from the Washington Post. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight initial plaintiffs who have been injured by scooters in a variety of ways. The suit states that the companies “dumped” the scooters on city streets, creating a public nuisance and that they should have known the scooters are dangerous. The suit also alleges that the scooters provided often have defective mechanical and electronic parts and that riders are not provided with adequate safety instructions before operating them. The lawsuit cites two instances in the nation—one in Texas and another in Los Angeles County, in which individuals died of injuries caused by a scooter accident.
As reported by National Public Radio, the city of San Diego was facing a lawsuit filed in January by a disability rights group who stated that the city and the scooter rental companies operating within it have failed to prevent people from riding or parking scooters on sidewalks. These scooters are preventing people with disabilities from accessing a public right-of-way, the suit alleges, and turn the sidewalks into a vehicle highway that puts pedestrians at risk of collisions with scooters. The lawsuit, which seeks to become a class-action, requests that the court prohibit scooters on sidewalks, crosswalks, curb ramps, and other walkways. The San Diego Police Department issued 551 citations in 2018 to scooter riders who were riding on sidewalks.
An article from the Washington Post in reported that the family of a young woman left in a vegetative state after a scooter accident was planning to sue the scooter rental company, Lime. The suit alleges that the company’s app instructed the woman not to ride the scooter on the city’s sidewalks, but on the street instead. While riding on the street, the scooter collided with a passenger car, throwing the woman about 100 feet and causing a catastrophic brain injury. The accident occurred in Fort Lauderdale, where scooters are permitted on sidewalks.
If you are going to ride a scooter, you have to do so safely. Again, many of us use the scooters to get around different parts of the city. Clearly, each of us must address some safety issues, including accountability for our own safe riding behaviors, if we are going to ride scooters. You have to ride defensively and not assume that others will automatically see you. Seemingly, motorists are still struggling to see motorcyclists and bicyclists, and this results in many serious injuries and fatalities. Thus, scooter riders must be alert and safe. If you own a scooter, then you really should also own a helmet, even though it is not a legal requirement.
Were You Injured in a Scooter Accident?
If you were injured in a scooter accident, contact The Cagle Law today to discuss the details of your case and learn more about your options for moving forward. You can reach us at (314) 276-1681 or email us anytime.