When Can an E-Scooter Company Be Liable for Injuries?

When Can an E-Scooter Company Be Liable for Injuries?

Electric scooters, also known as e-scooters, have popped up seemingly overnight in major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. Thousands of vehicles have been deposited by new upstarts like Lime, Bird, Scoot, and Spin. While one would think these companies could be held liable for serious accidents using their equipment, many company waivers require users to unknowingly sign their legal rights away. Despite these attempts to dodge liability, drivers may still be able to sue e-scooter companies for damages in certain cases.  

Defective or dangerous e-scooters 

Since 2018, there have been at least 29 deaths caused by electric scooters. A joint study by the CDC and Austin Public Health estimated there have been approximately 20 rider injuries per 100,000 trips. Thousands of people have visited emergency rooms with lacerations, concussions, and broken bones. Though some of these accidents involve other motor vehicles, many e-scooters experience equipment malfunctions. 

Electric scooter forerunner Lime has issued three recalls over the last year related to: 

  • Batteries that suddenly burst into flames due to improper manufacturing  
  • Defects that caused the baseboard to break in half, depending on riding technique 
  • Software malfunction causing excessive braking mid-ride, causing riders to fall, breaking bones or teeth 

Other product liability issues reported include: 

  • Sticky throttles, causing uncontrolled acceleration 
  • Faulty brakes that failed to completely stop the vehicle 
  • Locking of the front wheel 
  • Loose, broken or detaching handlebars, causing crushed fingers 
  • Flat or improperly filled tires 

Strict liability in California holds product manufacturers liable for injuries, regardless of fault or negligence. Injured scooter users do not necessarily have to prove the company’s negligence to be eligible for financial compensation.   

Was your e-scooter poorly maintained? 

Over time, some rentable e-scooters fall into serious states of disrepair. A dirty secret of the industry is that electric scooters break down at an alarming rate in heavy-use areas. Most scooters are lucky to last three months on the road, with many replaced monthly. Constant use and abuse cause scooters to die mid-ride, the brakes to lock up, and the handlebar post to suddenly collapse or detach, say riders. When something breaks on a scooter, it is left to users to notify the company – but often they don’t. No technician comes out to check the equipment on a regular basis as they should. Scooter rental companies owe a duty of care to ensure the safety of its fleet. While users assume some risk in renting, they do not assume the risk of malfunction related to defective equipment. Companies that fail to remedy known issues within a reasonable timeframe could be held liable in a product liability lawsuit. Injured victims will, however, have to prove that a comparable company would have repaired or replaced the scooter before the accident occurred.  

Did you trip and fall over an escooter?  

Tripping and falling over parked e-scooters is another common hazard. Since users can deposit their vehicles virtually anywhere, unsuspecting pedestrians and bicyclists have fallen over them in parking lots or while walking down sidewalks. If someone trips, falls and sustains a serious injury, it is possible to bring a claim with the e-scooter company’s insurance provider for failing to provide adequate instructions on how to store the scooter when not in use. The company can be on the hook for paying your medical bills, lost wages, pain-and-suffering, and out-of-pocket losses.  

Can anyone else be sued for a scooter accident? 

Even if liability cannot be traced back to the scooter manufacturer and rental company, you may still have grounds to file a lawsuit against one or more of the following entities: 

  • Drivers – Other motorists can be sued when they negligently, recklessly, or willfully contribute to a crash; under California’s pure comparative negligence law, you can sue for damages even if it is determined you were 99% at-fault for causing the crash, with the amount of compensation reduced based on the amount of your liability.  
  • Property Owners – A trip-and-fall accident over a parked e-scooter may allow you to sue the landlord for allowing known hazards on the premises without taking corrective action to remove the obstacles.  
  • Municipal Government – Lastly, you may also sue the city government if your e-scooter accident was caused by potholes, damaged sidewalks, poorly maintained bike paths, and other roadway defects. Sometimes accidents continuously occur in the same locations, but municipal officials do nothing to prevent future injuries. You may have as little as 30 days to initiate a claim against the government, however, so it is best to act fast and phone an attorney.  

Contact California electric scooter attorneys at Ellis Injury Law if you have any further questions about liability for e-scooter injuries. Our consultations are free and we charge nothing upfront for our services.