Electric scooters or e-scooters are the latest trends in affordable and convenient transportation, and Virginia has seen a rise in e-scooter use in recent years. E-scooters are popular across all demographics because they allow people to move around without the use of an automobile, without the physical fatigue that walking brings.
However, as with all modes of transportation, e-scooters bring their own risks and problems. As its popularity rises, so to the number of accidents involving e-scooters. The state of Virginia, in particular, has enacted several laws in the past few years to regulate its use and to hopefully lower the number of incidences involving electric scooters.
The Status of Electric Scooter Accidents in Virginia
Because the number of e-scooter incidences in Virginia is on the rise, government organizations are planning to create a separate category for e-scooters to properly document crashes and injuries caused by them. Presently, however, there is no separate category for e-scooters and therefore, it is hard to determine exactly how much e-scooters have affected the lives of motorists and pedestrians in the state.
However, here are some statistics that might give us a vague insight into the status of e-scooter accidents in Virginia:
- According to the Virginia DMV website, a total of 1,625 crashes in 2019 involved pedestrians. Although it doesn’t give us the exact number of crashes involving e-scooters, it’s safe to say that a huge portion of this statistic comes from e-scooter incidences.
- Some E-scooter crashes are reported together with bicycle crashes, while others are lumped together with moped or motorcycle crashes. It is safe to assume that a rise in motorcycle, moped and bicycle accident reports will have a few e-scooter accidents stashed in there somewhere.
While it’s difficult to get the exact number of e-scooter crashes for each year, accidents involving the “vehicle” have become so troublesome that the state of Virginia has decided to regulate and impose rules regarding the use of electric scooters. Here is a breakdown of § 46.2-904:
- E-scooters cannot go over 20 miles per hour
- E-scooters can be used on public sidewalks.
- Only people aged 14 and above can ride E-scooters
- The scooter’s weight should not go over 100 pounds
However, the law also states that local jurisdictions can choose to follow this set of rules, but they can also create their own rules regarding E-scooters. A lot of cities have taken advantage of this ruling and some local governments have implemented stricter rules regarding the vehicle. For example, you cannot use e-scooters on the sidewalk in Alexandria and Fairfax. In Virginia Beach, e-scooters are banned on the oceanfront.
Common Scenarios in E-Scooter Accidents
So what does a typical E-scooter accident look like? We take a look at the common causes for e-scooter incidents and the injuries you can sustain from them.
Common Causes of E-scooter Accidents
- Dockless e-scooter rental companies are popular in Virginia. People can simply use an app to locate the nearest available e-scooter, rent it and then simply leave it at their destination. The problem with this system is that when e-scooters are not in use, they can be found lying around just about anywhere. Pedestrians have been known to trip over ownerless e-scooters that have been left on the sidewalk.
- Navigating e-scooters can be difficult in busy sidewalks and bike lanes. Since a lot of cities allow minors to use e-scooters, there’s a chance that you’d get someone who was young and inexperienced at using e-scooters. Weaving through crowds on an e-scooter is not easy, and there have been a lot of instances where e-scooters hit and cause pedestrians accidents, bicycles, and other e-scooters.
- Inexperienced scooter riders may try to avoid hitting other people and vehicles, only to end up hitting a solid object, like a lamppost, a sign, or a fire hydrant.
- Several E-scooter injuries are caused by defective vehicles. Because of the rental system, these e-scooters see a lot of use, and it’s not uncommon to see e-scooters that have broken down due to overuse. An e-scooter rider sustained serious injuries after they were thrown off their scooter due to defective brakes.
- Road hazards are an E-scooter’s greatest enemy. While regular motor vehicles can go over potholes, road cracks, and humps easily, e-scooters can’t.
- Intoxication is a common problem with any motor vehicle and in most cases, intoxication in an e-scooter incident can go both ways. Electric scooter riders may be intoxicated and run into other people, other vehicles, or solid objects. On the other hand, the rider may be the victim of another drunk driver.
Common Injuries in Electric Scooter Crashes
- Traumatic Brain Injury – The e-scooter rider often suffers from traumatic brain injury in crashes involving larger vehicles. Because e-scooters are more vulnerable than motorcycles, it is easy for e-scooter riders to get thrown off their scooter because of the impact.
- Other Head Injuries – Concussions and less serious head injuries can also happen because of this vulnerability. In the example given above, the person who sustained injuries because of a defective brake was thrown off their scooter and hit their head on the sidewalk. In general, hospitals in Virginia have seen a rise in head injuries in the ER because of e-scooters.
- Minor Scrapes and Bruises – Luckily, a lot of e-scooter injuries involve e-scooters hitting pedestrians. Because e-scooters only go 15 to 20 MPH, the victim usually comes out of these accidents with only minor scrapes and bruises.
Can Pedestrians Sue E-Scooter Riders?
Imagine you’re a pedestrian and you’re minding your own business when suddenly, an out-of-control electric scooter crashes into you. Although a lot of e-scooter and pedestrian collisions result in minor injuries, there are situations wherein the pedestrian sustains a lot of injuries because of the fall and the angle of the impact. If you fall head-first onto the pavement or another solid object, you can sustain serious head injuries.
As the victim of the accident, can you sue the e-scooter rider for damages? If we’re talking about the ability to file a lawsuit against the other party, then it is possible to do so. After all, the biggest requirement of a personal injury lawsuit is proving fault. Witness testimonies and security cam footage are enough to build a strong case against the e-scooter rider.
However, the bigger issue is compensation. While it’s possible to file charges against the e-scooter rider who injured you, obtaining fair compensation is not that easy. E-scooter accidents are not the same as car accidents, and they’re not even close to motorcycle accidents either. In a normal car accident, you can sue for damages against the other party if you have sufficient evidence of fault. The insurance company of the other party will usually compensate you following the other party’s insurance policy limits.
Here is where it gets complicated. Although Virginia requires all motorists to carry automobile insurance, this only applies to vehicles with 4 wheels, and e-scooters have 2 wheels. Motorcycle riders have their own insurance, but e-scooters are not considered motorcycles either. Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance only includes bicycles, not e-scooters. In recent years, insurance companies have come up with insurance specific to e-scooters, but this isn’t common practice and the majority of e-scooter riders are still uninsured. Keep in mind that if you sue for damages, the other party will most likely be uninsured and therefore, they will have to pay from their own pockets.
Pedestrians Suing E-Scooter Companies
Most lawsuits coming from pedestrians usually involve an e-scooter rider; however, a pedestrian can also sue the e-scooter rental company in certain situations.
Unlike cars and trucks, e-scooters can be shared and rented nowadays. Because most e-scooters are “dockless”, several companies have started e-scooter sharing and rental services. Rental companies usually have apps that anyone can download. Using the app, people can simply find the nearest available e-scooter in the city and then rent it. Once they reach their destination, they can simply discard it. The e-scooter will then stay where it was discarded until it is pinged by the nearest renter, who will then take the e-scooter and use it.
While this method makes e-scooters convenient and accessible for all, it also means there are thousands of e-scooters in Virginia just discarded everywhere. Not everyone has the decency to store the e-scooter away from foot traffic. Hence, you get several instances of pedestrians tripping and falling over e-scooters that have been left haphazardly.
Who do you sue for damages if you fall and injure yourself from an e-scooter? If the last renter left the e-scooter in a place where it can potentially harm pedestrians, suing the last e-scooter rider is the most logical choice. However, if the e-scooter has been left there for a long time, you can sue the rental company for negligence.
The rental company has the capacity to track all e-scooters owned by the company so they can be turned in for maintenance regularly and protected from theft. Rental companies can usually tell through their tracking app if an e-scooter has been left in an area where it can cause injuries. Rental companies may choose to do their due diligence and move the e-scooter to avoid injury.
If the e-scooter has been left there for days without the company intervening, it means two things: One, the company hasn’t retrieved the e-scooter for regular preventive maintenance, and two, the company knows it has been left in an area where it poses danger to pedestrians and chose to ignore it. An injured pedestrian can sue the company itself for negligence.
Can E-Scooter Riders Sue the Rental Company?
If a person gets into an accident while riding an e-scooter, can they sue the rental company? Yes, and no. As with any personal injury lawsuit, the fault must be proven. The rider must prove that the accident occurred because of the negligence of the rental company.
What most e-scooter riders don’t realize is that when they register with these rental companies, they are asked to agree to terms and conditions, which usually include a waiver of liability. Since most people don’t really read terms and conditions when they sign up for a service, most people miss the part where they can’t sue the rental company if something bad happens to them while riding an e-scooter.
Fortunately, the state of Virginia considers the unenforceability of injury waivers depending on the situation. The key is to take a look at the Terms and Conditions you agreed to and check if your particular accident is covered by it.
For example, if you sustained injuries because you lost your balance and fell from your e-scooter, and the waiver of liability states that the company cannot be sued for injuries arising from the user’s inexperience with e-scooters, the courts may side with the company. On the other hand, if you fell from your e-scooter after it toppled over while going over a pothole, and the waiver of liability doesn’t state that the e-scooter can topple over easily when going over potholes, you can seek compensation for this.
Overall, rental companies must inform their users regarding every possible scenario that can result in injuries if they wish to be protected from liability. Anything that gets left out can be used to file damages against the company. In essence, if the company fails to inform the rider of a potential risk, it is considered negligence, and the company can be deemed liable for this.
Hiring Personal Injury Lawyers for Your E-Scooter Accident
Pursuing a personal injury claim involving e-scooters is complicated because e-scooters are not as regulated as other motor vehicles. This makes e-scooter lawsuits complex regardless of whether you’re a pedestrian suing an e-scooter rider, or a rider suing the electric scooter sharing company. Hiring a personal injury attorney with experience in handling e-scooter cases can help make the process easier and less of a hassle.
At CAIL, we take every case seriously, regardless of how big or small the vehicle involved. Leave the negotiations and the legal work to us. We aggressively pursue each case to ensure that our clients get the compensation they deserve and all they have to worry about is recovering from their injuries.