Are Motorized Scooter Rentals a Threat to Public Safety? Class-Action Says Yes
*This post was originally published on November 26, 2018. It has been updated to include new information.
It launched in Santa Monica in September of 2017, and electric scooter rental company Bird is now valued at more than $2 billion. More than 100 cities in the U.S. now have dockless electric scooters available for rent from Bird and its competitors, including Lime, Skip, and Uber’s Jump. The scooters offer convenient transportation for an affordable price (Bird charges $1 to unlock the scooters and about $.15/minute to ride). With a top speed of 15 mph, they are a quicker alternative to walking, and a potential solution to congested roadways. Bird users have logged more than 10 million rides since the scooters first landed in cities last year.
Despite these advantages, there are issues surrounding the scooter rental model—so much so that Lime and Bird now face a class-action lawsuit. The suit was filed last month in Los Angeles Superior Court. It names Lime and Bird, as well as the companies that manufacture the scooters: Segway and Xiaomi.
What Does the Lawsuit Say?
The lawsuit against the scooter companies alleges that they knowingly distributed scooters made for personal, recreation use, but which are not suited for the rigors of commercial fleet usage. Moreover, the lawsuit takes issue with the companies failing to provide helmets and adequate safety instructions for riders. The scooter companies are accused of gross negligence, as well as aiding and abetting assault by contributing to injury-causing crashes.
According to one of the lawyers representing the eight plaintiffs, the scooters are not properly maintained, which leads to frequent injuries to riders. But the problem is not only that the scooters are dangerous to pedestrians and riders while in use, but also that they create hazards when they are parked. With no docks, riders are free to leave them wherever they want. While the companies warn riders against leaving scooters in the sidewalk or other places where they can become tripping hazards, there is no actual enforcement of this rule. The lawsuit states that leaving scooters on streets and sidewalks is a public nuisance in violation of California Civil Code.
Three of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said they were injured when they tripped over scooters that were left along sidewalks. Another three plaintiffs were allegedly injured when scooter riders crashed into them. The injuries include broken wrists and fingers, torn ligaments, lacerations and damaged teeth. The lawsuit seeks damages for the plaintiffs, along with a requirement that the companies provide adequate instructions and warnings with their scooter rentals.
What Do the Scooter Companies Say?
Bird has responded to the lawsuit, stating that “there is no evidence that riding an e-scooter presents a greater level of danger to riders than riding a bike.” The company suggests that regulators should focus on the greatest threat to commuters—vehicles, which kill more than 40,000 people in the U.S. each year. Lime commented that it takes a proactive approach to safety, and that reducing cars on city streets makes roads safer and greener.
Bird recently implemented a new feature called Community Mode, which allows users to report scooters that are hazardly parked or damaged. It is clear that poorly parked or damaged scooters are a safety issue, and scooters blocking sidewalks are a common complaint against Bird and other scooter rental companies. With the new feature, users can report problematic scooters, and the company will deploy workers to reposition the poorly parked scooters and collect damaged ones. Will features like this be enough to reverse the trend of dangerously parked scooters cluttering sidewalks? Time will tell. Some cities have begun to implement regulations regarding the scooters, which may also help to curb some of the safety issues.
“Providing people with affordable, green transportation is certainly important, but we must do so in a way that prioritizes safety and does not contribute to more injuries on the road,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.
Study Reveals Electric Scooter Injury Risks
In January 2019, a study published in JAMA Network revealed some of the injury risks associated with these motorized scooters. Researchers from UCLA reviewed the records of individuals who visited two UCLA-affiliated emergency departments from September 1, 2017, through August 31, 2018.
The researchers identified 249 patients who had suffered injuries related to electric scooters. About 31% of them had broken bones and 40% suffered head injuries. Out of the 249 patients, 15 were ultimately admitted to the hospital. While most of the injured patients had been riding the scooters themselves, 11 of them were actually hit by scooters or had tripped over them in the sidewalk. A majority of the patients in the study were not wearing helmets when they were injured. Twelve of the patients were riding while intoxicated.
Researchers believe the study may have significantly underestimated the number of injuries related to electric scooters during that time period. The study did not account for doctor’s office visits (as opposed to emergency room visits). Moreover, many people injured on scooters may not seek medical treatment at all. Despite these flaws, the study makes it clear that motorized scooter injuries are certainly cause for concern, and riders should take appropriate precautions—especially helmet-wearing—to avoid injury.
Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured in an auto accident and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today at (760) 777-7777 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.
DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.