Electric scooters — commonly referred to as e-scooters — are growing in popularity across the United States. With a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour, these scooters can zip across town much faster than the average person can walk. Companies like Lime and Bird have made e-scooters available for rental from coast to coast — including in Washington, D.C.
There are a number of good reasons to ride on an e-scooter — they have a smaller environmental footprint than motor vehicles, they are relatively cheap to rent, and they can also be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, these scooters also present a danger, as serious injuries and fatalities have skyrocketed since the scooters became commonplace.
If you have been hurt in an e-scooter collision, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses. An experienced personal injury attorney can help. Read on to learn more about just how often people are being injured in e-scooter crashes.
E-Scooter Accident Facts and Statistics
In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study of individuals who had been hurt in e-scooter accidents in Austin, Texas between September 5, 2018, and November 30, 2018. During this 87 day period, 271 people were identified by researchers as being injured in rentable e-scooter crashes. Of the 130 people who agreed to be interviewed and confirmed that they were in an e-scooter crash:
- 20% were hospitalized;
- 45% suffered head injuries;
- 27% had an upper extremity fracture; and
- 12% had a lower extremity fracture.
The majority of these e-scooter collisions happened in the street (52%). 18% of the crashes involved motor vehicles. The study also determined several facts about riders involved in e-scooter wrecks:
- 49% were male;
- The median age of people injured was 29;
- 29% were first-time riders; and
- Less than 1% of injured riders reported helmet use.
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) conducted a similar study between September 1, 2017, and August 31, 2018. Of 249 patients who sought medical care in emergency departments in Los Angeles after an e-scooter accident:
- 61% were between the ages of 18 and 40, with a mean age of 33.7 years;
- 58.2% were male;
- 91.6% were riders;
- 8.4% were non-rider pedestrians;
- 80.2% of injuries happened in a fall;
- 11.0% of injuries occurred after a collision with an object;
- 8.8% of injuries happened after being hit by a moving vehicle or an object;
- 4.4% of all riders who were injured were wearing a helmet at the time of the collision; and
- 4.8% of injured patients were intoxicated at the time of the crash.
In many ways, the results of this study mirror the CDC’s findings. Generally, men around 30 years old were the most likely to be injured in an e-scooter crash. The overwhelming majority of injuries happened during a fall from the e-scooter, and most riders are not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
As with the CDC study, the UCLA report found that fractures and head injuries were incredibly common in e-scooter crashes. Out of 249 people who were treated for their injuries:
- 40.2% suffered a head injury;
- 31.7% suffered a fracture; and
- 27.7% suffered contusions, sprains, and lacerations without a fracture or head injury.
Just 5.3% of patients who suffered a minor head injury were wearing a helmet at the time of the e-scooter wreck. None of the patients who were diagnosed with a more serious head injury were wearing a helmet at the time of the injury.
The UCLA researchers took an additional step as part of their research; they observed people riding e-scooters during 3 public observation sessions. They observed a total of 193 scooter riders engaging in the following unsafe riding practices:
- 94.3% were not wearing helmets;
- 26.4% rode their e-scooters on the sidewalk;
- 9.3% failed to comply with traffic laws; and
- 7.8% rode tandem (more than one rider on the scooter).
These unsafe riding practices have contributed to an explosion of e-scooter injuries. A 2020 report published in the journal JAMA Surgery found that there was a 222% increase in injuries related to e-scooter use between 2014 and 2018. More significantly, hospital admissions for e-scooter injuries rose by 365% in this same time period.
Of the 39,000 injuries documented by this report, approximately 1/3 developed head injuries. This is twice the rate for head injuries in bicycle accidents — which is unsurprising, as there are laws governing helmet use for bike riding, but little to no regulation of e-scooters. Just 2 to 5% of injured riders wore helmets at the time of their crash.
How E-Scooters Collisions Happen
Across the United States, people are being injured in e-scooter collisions at alarming rates. At least 29 people have died in electric scooter crashes since 2018.
In February 2020, a 74-year-old California man died after the e-scooter that he was riding collided with a car. Just a few weeks before this tragic accident, a 69-year-old California woman was critically injured when her e-scooter crashed into a cement mixer in San Francisco.
In Portland, a man suffered life-threatening injuries after he fell off of his rented e-scooter in October 2019. He was found unconscious and not breathing — and was not wearing a helmet at the time of his accident. Earlier in 2019, an Atlanta man was killed after his rented electric scooter was hit by an SUV.
From being hit by a car to running into an object to simply falling off of a scooter, these stories demonstrate that there are any number of ways that an e-scooter crash can occur. With few regulations governing their use and proliferation of e-scooters in cities across the country, the trend of serious and deadly e-scooter crashes will likely continue.
Recovering Money Damages from an E-Scooter Collision
If you have been injured in an e-scooter collision, you may be able to obtain compensation for your damages with the help of a lawyer. Depending on how your crash occurred, you may be able to file a lawsuit against:
- A driver who struck you while you were riding an e-scooter;
- The company that manufactured the scooter or its components if it was defective;
- The e-scooter rider if you were hit by a scooter;
- The e-scooter company if an e-scooter rider struck you;
- The e-scooter company, if you were in an accident as a rider; and/or
- The city or other government entity if improperly maintained roads or sidewalks contributed to your crash.
If you succeed in a legal claim or lawsuit, you may be able to recover for medical expenses, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, property damage, pain and suffering, and other losses. Your lawyer will likely start by attempting to negotiate a settlement with the other party (or their insurance company). If a settlement can’t be reached, then they will likely file a lawsuit and aggressively pursue your right to compensation through the court.
Filing a claim against the company itself — such as Bird or Lime — can be challenging if you were the rider. Most e-scooter companies require riders to sign a user agreement before completing a rental. These agreements typically limit your ability to file a legal claim and often require you to engage in arbitration instead of filing a lawsuit.
In addition, e-scooter user agreements typically require riders to perform a safety inspection before riding, agree that they are competent to drive an e-scooter and to follow all traffic laws. As a result, any failure on your part as a rider may make it difficult to bring a legal claim.
These user agreements can be difficult to overcome. However, a skilled Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney may still be able to file a claim, based on a number of theories, such as gross negligence or product liability.
Waivers do not cover gross negligence on the part of the company. Under D.C. law, gross negligence is defined as “such an extreme deviation from the ordinary standard of care as to support a finding of wanton, willful and reckless disregard or conscious indifference for the rights and safety of others.”
In court, your lawyer can present evidence that shows that the e-scooter company acted with gross negligence. Based on the facts of the case, this may involve demonstrating that the company didn’t take steps to ensure that riders wore helmets, or that they failed to maintain their scooters properly. A judge will provide instructions to the jury about what constitutes gross negligence — and if the jury finds that the e-scooter company was grossly negligent, then the user agreement will not be valid and the jury may find in your favor.
If you did not sign a user agreement, then you are not bound by its terms. For example, if you were hit by the driver of an e-scooter, then you could file a lawsuit against the driver of the e-scooter or even the company. Your attorney can analyze the facts of your case and determine whether the law supports a claim against the driver, the e-scooter company, or even another entity — like the City itself. Because these cases are complex and involve the application of facts to the law, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an e-scooter accident to understand your rights and options.
How We Can Help
As e-scooters gain in popularity, the likelihood of serious or even fatal injuries will increase. Although these devices are fun and convenient to ride, they also represent a serious risk to riders and pedestrians alike — particularly because helmets are rarely used by individuals who rent these scooters. If you have been hurt in an e-scooter collision, you may be entitled to compensation.
At Patrick Malone & Associates, we have decades of combined experience representing people like you who have been hurt in different types of crashes. Our team has a history of success and can fight to help you achieve a favorable outcome. Call us today at 202-742-1500 or contact us online to learn more, or to schedule a free initial consultation.