Electric Scooters standing up in a group

The latest urban fad is one that too easily leads to personal injury. Electric scooters — or e-scooters — rented for use on city streets are creating risks and injuries in cities across the country. As the toll of injuries mounts, municipalities are grappling with what rules to create to regulate the use of electric scooters and whether to allow them at all.

Those who have been injured in scooter accidents may have legal recourse to recover losses caused by others’ negligence. At the Joye Law Firm, our South Carolina personal injury attorneys will work with you to hold at-fault parties accountable for the harm they cause in scooter accidents.

What are Bird Electric Scooters?

If you have not been downtown lately and seen people zipping around on Bird scooters, depending on where you live or travel in South Carolina, you can expect to soon.

Bird scooters appeared briefly in Charleston and were banned for a year while local officials study their use and regulation. The scooters were taken off the streets of Mount Pleasant. Columbia has had Zapp electric scooters, which also rely on a phone app for use, since 2016. Zapp scooters require being returned to specific location unlike Bird scooters, which are dockless. Myrtle Beach’s online newspaper features video of Bird scooters in use in Raleigh, N.C.

If you remember the Razor scooter craze in the 1990s, you’ll have an idea of the electric versions now beckoning to young urban adults across the country. The modernized two-wheeled vehicles can be rented through a smartphone app and parked anywhere within a defined geographic service area when the rider is done. The vendor has teams of contractors who retrieve them each night to recharge and reposition them on what seems like every street corner for use the following day.

Bird, a Santa Monica, Calif., firm, is the biggest e-scooter company and the one making inroads in municipalities in the Carolinas and other southern states. In addition to Bird, companies known as Lime, Jump and Spin are hopping on the electric scooter fad.

The problem is the lack of regulation of electric scooters. Scooter riders may swerve in and out of traffic, dart across intersections, and ride on sidewalks. When riding in active traffic lanes, scooter riders are exposed to the risk of collisions with larger vehicles. Injuries are a common occurrence in scooter crashes.

CNN report cites a Memphis, Tenn., ER doctor who says he is seeing more people with injuries from electric scooters, and a Los Angeles woman who broke her leg in two places in a scooter crash. The CNN reporter, Ford Vox, a physician specializing in rehabilitation medicine, says he has treated scooter accidents in Atlanta.

The Washington Post reported the death of a 24-year-old man who crashed his Lime electric scooter. A 65-year-old San Diego woman broke her thigh bone when she fell from a scooter, according to the local ABC TV station. The late October report about that crash says that, since June, San Diego’s Scripps Mercy Hospital has seen about 30 injuries from scooter accidents that required hospitalization.

Common Bird Scooter Injuries

Electric scooters have a slim profile and lack protection for the rider. E-scooter riders are being injured when they fall and when they collide with other vehicles whose drivers often do not see them prior to a crash. Scooter riders are injuring pedestrians who they hit while riding.

The injuries caused by electric scooter accidents are much like the injuries seen in bicycle accidentsmotorcycle accidents and pedestrian accidents:

  • Head and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Broken bones
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Road rash, i.e., scrapes, cuts and bruises.

Who is Legally Responsible for a Bird Scooter Accident?

After an e-scooter accident in which someone is injured, the injured party may have a legal claim if someone else’s negligence caused the accident. The injured person might seek compensation for medical expenses, lost work time, property damage, pain and suffering, and more in some cases.

An investigation into a scooter accident might find that liability lies with the:

  • Scooter rider, if the rider hit a pedestrian or caused a car accident by swerving in and out of traffic or was otherwise not acting responsibly.
  • Car, truck or motorcycle driver who hit a scooter rider. Though scooters may be hard to see in traffic, as long as scooters are legal, riders have a right to use them on public roads. Drivers of other vehicles have a duty of safety to scooter riders, which means sharing the road with them.
  • Pedestrian who negligently stepped into the path of an oncoming scooter. A pedestrian who is shown to have been using a cellphone or another electronic device at the time of an accident has a high risk of liability.
  • Scooter company, if a malfunction of the scooter caused the accident. Bird and other companies have broad liability releases in their user agreements (see Article 15 in Bird’s), which riders must agree to before riding and which the company will inevitably use to fight any injury claim.
  • Property owner responsible for debris or other obstacles in the roadway, which caused the scooter rider’s crash.
  • Municipality (city) responsible for a pothole or other defect in the road that caused a scooter rider to crash.

A scooter rider who was injured in a crash would most likely need to have followed all the rules of the rental agreement, as well as any local ordinances pertaining to e-scooter use, to pursue an injury claim.

Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney After a Bird Scooter Accident

If e-scooters remain a fact of urban life, then electric scooter accidents will continue to occur in downtown areas that allow scooters. These accidents should be treated like other motor vehicle crashes, in which the person or entity whose negligence led to the accident is held responsible for injuries and losses they cause.

The Joye Law Firm, with offices in Columbia, Charleston, Clinton and Myrtle Beach, stays abreast of trends like Bird e-scooters and what they mean to public safety and legal accountability. If you have been injured in a scooter accident in South Carolina, contact our personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation about a potential legal claim for compensation to you.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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