Can I Make a Claim or Sue if I was in a Lime or Bird Scooter Accident in Atlanta?
Atlanta Magazine describes Lime and Bird scooters as “fun, dangerous, exciting, annoying, and unstoppable.” Business publications contend that electric scooters are revolutionizing transportation in Atlanta. The scooters are clearly popular. Bird has 1,500 scooters in Atlanta that residents and visitors have used more than 100,000 times since May.
Lime and Bird scooters move at about 15 mph when operated at full speed. Most people use the scooters for about ten minutes at the cost of a few dollars. Since Bird and Lime charge by the minute, however, renters have an incentive to get to their destinations as quickly as they can.
Scooters are rented using a cellphone application. The companies require renters to be at least 18 years old while making no obvious attempt to enforce the rule. Bird requires users to upload a driver’s license but does not confirm that the renter is the person to whom the license is issued.
Careless and unlawful scooter operation is common. Georgia law prohibits the operation of motorized vehicles (other than wheelchairs) on sidewalks, but that law has been largely ignored. Scooter riders weave their way through pedestrians on sidewalks, ride against traffic, and operate on multi-use pathways and in park areas where scooter use is prohibited.
Surveys show that riders prefer sidewalks to Atlanta’s busy streets because they feel safer. Unfortunately, riding a scooter on a sidewalk isn’t necessarily safe for pedestrians.
While emergency rooms are not yet compiling specific data concerning scooter accidents, a survey of ER doctors in Austin, Atlanta, and Nashville found that emergency rooms have seen a wave of serious injuries caused by scooter accidents over the past several months.
Some accident victims are scooter riders. Electric scooters are not subject to regular safety inspections and many are poorly maintained. Bird and Lime hire amateur mechanics to repair broken scooters but offer little training. The Washington Post reports that fleets of electric scooters are “prone to mechanical failure.”
Falling from a scooter that fails while traveling 15 mph can lead to broken bones, head injuries, spinal damage, and other serious consequences. No Atlanta ordinance requires scooter riders to wear helmets, making traumatic brain injuries among the most serious risk of riding a scooter that has not been properly maintained.
Other accident victims are pedestrians, bicyclists, and children who are involved in collisions with careless scooter riders. The speed and weight of a scooter combined with the weight of a rider makes a scooter operating at full speed a danger to pedestrians who happen to be in the rider’s path. Unfortunately, many scooter riders operate scooters as fast as they can because they view scooters not just as transportation but as thrill rides.
Pedestrians typically sustain significant injuries when they are hit by a scooter. A high-speed impact can crush internal organs and break bones, including the spine. Falls can cause head and joint injuries, torn muscles and ligaments, and fractured hips.
Compensation for Scooter Accidents
When scooter riders are injured, they may find that the company’s user agreement contains an arbitration clause that purports to prohibit lawsuits based on the rental of a defective or dangerous scooter. It is fair to say that few people who use Bird or Lime scooters read the user agreement or understand that it contains an arbitration clause. Whether injured users will be forced to arbitrate injury claims is a question that Georgia courts will need to resolve.
When scooter riders cause the accident, however, no arbitration agreement impedes the ability to bring a legal claim against the negligent rider. The injury victim will be held to the usual standard of proving that the rider’s negligence caused the victim’s injury. When a scooter rider speeds down a sidewalk, fails to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, or operates the scooter recklessly, it is usually obvious that the rider’s careless behavior caused the resulting collision.
When a rider’s negligence causes a pedestrian’s injury, a personal injury lawyer will determine whether the rider has insurance coverage. A careful lawyer will start by examining the renter’s auto liability insurance to determine whether it offers coverage. Many people have personal umbrella coverage attached to a homeowner’s, auto, or commercial policy. That coverage may also insure against a scooter accident.
When no coverage is available, accident victims can look to the personal assets of the negligent scooter rider to pay for accident compensation. In addition, the accident victim or someone with whom the victim lives may have insurance coverage that would pay if no other source of compensation is available.
Determining liability for a scooter accident and receiving fair compensation depends on a careful investigation of the facts and law. If the accident was not entirely your fault, your Atlanta personal injury lawyer can help maximize your recovery if you were injured while riding a defective scooter or if you were hit by a scooter.