Web-based electric scooter rental services are springing up in cities and on college campuses across the United States. The success of the companies has led to comparisons with Uber and Lyft.
However, scooter accidents are also increasing in frequency, suggesting the dangers of electric scooters in Maryland and elsewhere are only now becoming apparent.
In September 2018, a scooter rider lost his life in Dallas. The death the 24-year-old is thought to be the first linked to a web-based electric scooter and raised questions about the safety of motorized dockless scooters.
The cause of Jacoby Stoneking’s death is not clear. It comes at a time when a nationwide conversation is underway about the scooters that are causing a regulation headache for towns and cities across America.
The scooter in Dallas was operated by Lime, one of 10 scooter companies recently denied a permit to operate in San Francisco, ABC News reported.
Lime operates in Baltimore and Silver Spring in Maryland.
A second electric scooter company is Bird. It operates scooters in Baltimore.
Bird launched a pilot fleet of more than 60 dock-less, electric scooters close to the Baltimore Harbor.
The Baltimore Sun reported they can be rented for $1 initially and an extra 15 cents a minute, using a mobile app.
The arrival of services using small scooters that reach speeds of about 15 mph in America’s cities is a relatively new phenomenon but it’s already raising concerns. If you have been injured in a scooter accident, please contact an experienced Maryland scooter accident attorney as soon as possible.
The cause of the death of Jacoby Stoneking is yet to be determined. Dallas police found the Lime scooter broken in half on a curb. A witness was contacted by Stoneking who said he fell off a scooter and wanted a Lyft ride.
The witness ordered a Lyft ride. However, when the Lyft driver arrived he found the scooter rider unresponsive and called 911. Police officers at the scene said the rider had bruising and scrapes on his hands and lower extremities.
It’s not clear if the rider was hit by another vehicle or fell off the scooter. Motorized scooters were banned in Dallas until June 27. Minors who ride scooters are required to wear helmets. It’s not clear if Stoneking was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
In a recent article on CNN, Ford Vox, a physician specializing in rehabilitation medicine, warned electric scooters are potentially hazardous.
Vox claimed doctors are seeing an increasing number of people who were injured from scooters in their emergency rooms. Most of the injuries are broken bones and road rash. However, some are extremely serious.
Vox said he recently treated an injured scooter rider at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, a unit that specializes in head injuries, spinal cord injuries, and brain injuries. His patient suffered a severe traumatic brain injury when he was hit by a car.
Although the car driver may have been to blame for the serious crash, Vox warned drivers are placed at a disadvantage when they suddenly encounter the light, electric scooters on city streets. Few drivers are educated about scooter riders on city streets. There are no specific signs for the new vehicles on the block and little coordination with city authorities.
The writer argued scooter riders are even more vulnerable and less visible than cyclists. Vox pointed out the human figure standing up on an e-scooter presents a smaller visual profile than a cyclist. A driver may make the mental calculation that the scooter rider is a runner or a walker and wrongly assume he or she is moving slowly and the driver has time to turn. The scenario is more akin to that of motorcyclists who are extremely vulnerable to riders making left turns.
One city reporting a rash of injuries to scooter riders is Memphis in Tennessee.
A report on WMC5 quoted Dr. Jeff Harris of Methodist University Hospital’s Emergency Department.
He reported numerous injuries from the scooters ranging from cuts and bruises from falling to significant head injuries sustained by riders not wearing helmets.
Bird requires all riders to wear a helmet on the scooters, but many of them appear to be flouting the rules.
Recent accidents involving electric scooter riders also call medical coverage into question.
Writing for CNN, Vox recounted a story of a Los Angeles woman who fractured her arm in two places in a Bird accident. She found out neither her medical insurance nor her car insurance would cover her high medical bills.
Typically, the company renting you the scooter is unlikely to cover your liability if you have an accident. These companies seek to force riders to agree they are riding at their own risk. That may change.
Some cities are allowing scooters under a permitting process that stipulates the scooter companies must have ‘adequate insurance’ for all of their riders.
Whether you are covered under your own insurance may depend on the terms and conditions of your policy. Aim to speak to your insurer or agent. Many insurance policies were not created to deal with the situation of renting a scooter picked up off the curb.
If a rider is hit and injured by a negligent car driver, you should have grounds to sue the at-fault motorist.
Although many cities welcome the idea of smart mobility, electric scooters are at the controversial end of the spectrum.
Cities that have pushed back against the concept include Milwaukee which has sued Bird, classifying its scooters as unregistered motor vehicles that may not be legally operated on the streets and sidewalks of the city. Miami banned scooters from the city.
After prohibiting scooters, San Francisco in California is allowing them to apply for a permit. The companies must detail plans to keep their sidewalks clear of the scooters, demonstrate scooter access to low-income riders and share data with the transportation agency.
Santa Monica in California launched a pilot program in which only Lyft and Uber-owned JUMP are allowed to operate in the city because of their greater experience. Seattle capped the total number of scooters permitted per provider company, as well as introduced a high annual fee for providers seeking to operate in the city.
In some cities, scooters riders have avoided the roads and used sidewalks. Although this may be a safer course of action for riders, scooters zipping along sidewalks at speeds of up to 15 mph pose a danger to pedestrians and infants in strollers.
While companies like Bird tell riders to follow the rules, young and inexperienced riders often fail to do so.
The problem is not helped by the fact the business models of many of the scooter companies encourage riders to leave their scooters along the sidewalks and by the side of the road.
In some cities, pedestrians have started to mobilize against the scooters. In Atlanta, wheelchair user James Curtis complained he felt like a “second-class citizen” when he struggled to get by a scooter left on the sidewalk.
As more and more scooter riders sustain injuries, some of them serious, an increasing number of lawsuits are being brought over these accidents. The dangers of electric scooters in Maryland and elsewhere are becoming more apparent.
If you have been hurt on a scooter, you may have grounds to sue a driver, a scooter operator or another entity. A Maryland injury lawyer will help you negotiate the confusing world of Lime, Bird, Skip and Spin and advise you on your rights. Please contact the Law Office of Randolph Rice today for a free consultation at (410) 288-2900.