If you have visited downtown Denver recently, you might have seen electric scooters resting in various places around the city. Denver is one of several cities to join in on the scooter rental trend. While these scooters offer a quick and fun way to get around town, they could lead to accidents, injuries and other concerns.
Riders can access the scooters using a smartphone app. In Denver, users pay $1 to unlock the scooter and 15 cents per minute to ride with Lime, one of several rental companies.
While rental scooters are new to Denver (as of May 2018), other cities that have adopted them around the country have reported a number of issues related to accidents and liability:
The City of Nashville issued a cease-and-desist order to an e-scooter rental company earlier this year, following a hit-and-run accident where two e-scooter users sustained serious injuries.
That city cited safety concerns as it confiscated e-scooters and worked to develop permits and policies related to their use.
Other locales around the country have moved to ban the scooters to help prevent accidents. Following a ban in Nags Head, North Carolina, Mayor Ben Cahoon told a local newspaper:
“From what I’ve read, the business model seems to be a mass drop of scooters without any prior discussion into an area, which forces the community to use its own resources to figure out what the rules need to be and to clean up the problem.”
Denver’s public works officials voiced similar complaints when e-scooters appeared with little notice back in May. The scooters were pulled from the city at that time, but reappeared in July 2018 after the city issued new ordinances.
One of the main concerns with renting an on-demand scooter is risk of head injury. The scooters do not come with helmets. Although the rental companies encourage helmet use, in practice, scooter users usually don’t have easy access to a helmet. In addition, inexperienced riders or visitors to an unfamiliar city might have difficulty navigating busy sidewalks, crossing high-traffic streets and more.
According to a recent story from StreetsBlog, the number of e-scooter deaths has surpassed that of bike-share programs over the past year:
“Another e-scooterer was killed last week in Washington, D.C. — the third such fatality in just over a month. The death rate on shared e-scooters is now six times worse than the death rate for bike share systems.”
In some cities, e-scooter users must ride on roadways, which increases the risk of accidents and injuries. Critics of the scooter companies question their commitment to user safety.
In Denver, however, the city has classified e-scooters as “toy vehicles” and requires users to ride on sidewalks. While that helps eliminate some risk of collisions with motor vehicles, it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of scooter/pedestrian accidents.
Liability remains the biggest question in e-scooter accidents. E-scooter companies require users to sign a terms of agreement form on the app, which theoretically releases the company from liability.
However, some law firms around the country plan to challenge the validity of those releases. One firm in Los Angeles cites a number of cases where users were injured due to a scooter malfunction, and the firm plans to prove company liability in those instances.
Additional liability issues arise when accidents:
In short, you could be placing yourself at risk of personal injury when you borrow an e-scooter. You also could be held liable for any accident you cause, and the scooter rental likely does not come with its own insurance policy.
If you have been involved in an accident involving a rental e-scooter, contact us for a free case evaluation. Know your rights.
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