This summer, scooters appeared in the streets of metro Atlanta seemingly overnight. Rolled out in force across the country, e-scooters have become a grey area regarding personal injury claims and in terms of the local ordinance. What happens if you’re injured while riding an e-scooter or if you’re injured by someone riding an e-scooter? With ERs seeing a rise in scooter-related accidents and e-scooter companies fighting back injury claims by referencing the user agreement, it’s important that you find legal counsel for your potential claim. Don’t go up against a large company on your own, for a free consultation call the law offices of Schneider Hammers today.
In early May, 200 Bird scooters were dropped off in the neighborhoods of Midtown, Old Fourth Ward, Downtown, and the West End. Atlanta magazine reported that within 70 days of their arrival in Atlanta, 400 more scooters were added to Bird’s flock “on which more than 43,000 people now have taken more than 110,000 trips.” Using the devices appears easy enough. Once you download the app and agree to the terms and conditions, anyone over the age of 18 can check out a scooter for as little as $1 and pay 15 cents for each additional minute. Once a rider has reached their destination, they park the scooter and leave it where it stands for the next interested party.
While Bird suggests using a helmet when on the scooter, many users do not even though the speeds at which you can travel (15 mph) could result in a serious brain injury if you were to crash. Wally Ghurabi — director of the Nethercutt Emergency Center at UCLA Medical Center says, “when I see people using the scooters, they’re smiling and having fun, but if you lose control and get ejected into the air at 15 miles per hour and land on your head in the street, that’s enough force to kill you — and almost nobody on these scooters is wearing a helmet.”
How are they dangerous?
As the use of scooters rises in metro cities across the country, so are trips to the emergency room with scooter-related injuries. While there is no national data on scooter injuries, it seems that by this time next year there will be. The Washington Post interviewed ER physicians in seven cities, including Atlanta, with doctors reporting a spike in severe accidents after the devices launched in their city. Although ride-share companies advise users to use helmets, many choose not to wear them on quick scooter rides.
While each company employs mechanics, some don’t require any formal training. Instead, all you need to become an e-scooter mechanic is a car to pick up broken scooters and YouTube tutorials. Additionally, companies acknowledge there is a flaw in their repair system because they rely on users to flag problems. This reactive system is very dangerous in the transportation industry.
Fahin Kamrany, a former Bird mechanic in Santa Monica, Calif. was injured while performing a required diagnostic test when she fell off a scooter with defective brakes, sustaining a severe head injury, a broken clavicle and $15,000 worth of medical bills. In Los Angeles, John Montgomery was riding his Bird for only a few blocks when the accelerator stuck as he approached an intersection causing the scooter to lurch forward and launch his body over the handlebars. Montgomery landed on his face, breaking his jaw in two places and was knocked unconscious from the impact. While he hasn’t heard from Bird regarding the accident, he did notice that he was charged for the time he lay in the street bloodied and unconscious.
The same Washington Post articles points out that, “once injured, many riders might discover from the vehicles’ user agreements that they cannot file lawsuits because of clauses requiring that disputes be resolved by arbitration.” Bird and Lime both require users to agree not to sue as an individual or in a class action lawsuit. First, riders must submit to a mediation known as binding arbitration. Both companies name specific arbitration companies, while Bird also names a preferred location for arbitration and Lime requires users to first engage in a 60-day “dialogue” with the company.
When will the law catch up with the technology?
Companies such as Bird scooters, Lime electric bikes, and Muving mopeds have taken a similar approach to integration as Airbnb and Uber did before them: Ask for forgiveness instead of permission. As it stands now, Atlanta doesn’t have any legislation in place to regulate vehicle-share program operators. However, a city ordinance proposal has been drafted by Councilmembers Michael Bond, Jennifer Ide, Dustin Hillis, Matt Westmoreland, and Andre Dickens. The current draft would “require vehicle-share program operators to pay for a special permit—the cost of which has yet to be decided—and maintain a minimum of $3 million in liability insurance.” The legislation would also enforce helmet use and more severe consequences for scooting under the influence.
Contact an Attorney
With more than 40 years of combined legal experience and a track record that includes millions of dollars in recoveries, Schneider Hammers can be trusted to fight for the level of compensation you deserve. Having represented thousands of personal injury claims, we are intimately familiar with state and local laws. Find out how we can assist you by scheduling a free consultation today.