If you’re in the Triangle area, you’ve undoubtedly seen at least one brand of electric scooter (most likely Byrd or Lime). These e-scooters, as they are more commonly known, have become a popular method of transportation. They have their good qualities, a handful of bad injury repercussions, and some downright ugly outcomes of the ramifications of these injuries.
The Good. On one hand, their arrival has created jobs, reduced pollution, helped to decrease traffic in some areas, and given riders a chance to get from point A to point B in a novel new way.
The Bad. Unfortunately, however, e-scooter injuries have increased exponentially.
The Ugly. When it comes to paying for these injuries, don’t look to the scooter companies. Or to insurance.
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Common E-scooter Injuries
WRAL cited a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study, which stated that head injuries are among the most common e-scooter mishaps (40%). Although this study was conducted in California, Triangle physicians also reported seeing broken bones (more than 31% of injuries), and arm, wrist, or hand fractures. Many are serious enough to require permanent plates and pins.
Injuries span all ages. From younger people under the age of 18, who are sometimes seen as risk seekers, to those over the ages of 50.
The JAMA study noted that nearly 5% of those injured, were intoxicated during the accident. Drinking and operating an e-scooter can lead to more serious injuries that have required some people to receive intensive care for bleeding on the brain or intracranial hemorrhages.
If that is not bad enough, even worse accidents have been reported. In recent months, there have been at least three deaths across the country related to e-scooters. One young woman riding a scooter in Ft. Lauderdale was so severely injured, it left her in a vegetative state. The woman’s mother is suing Lime based on the argument that Lime’s app includes language that specifically instructs people not to operate scooters on local sidewalks, pushing them onto city streets instead. The conundrum here is that operating a motorized scooter on the street is against the law in Fort Lauderdale, though the city does permit e-scooters to be ridden on sidewalks.
There have been so many accidents nationwide that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has entered the picture. The agency is studying the health risks associated with e-scooters by analyzing injuries to riders and pedestrians.
Safety Rules for E-scooters
As that story illustrates, the rules governing e-scooters are confusing. They vary from state to state and seem to change. In North Carolina, riders are not allowed to ride on sidewalks and they must wear helmets. Yet, these rules are routinely broken.
Who Pays for E-scooter Injuries?
Are riders completely held liable, or do the scooter companies provide insurance for its riders? According to Bird’s and Lime’s rental agreements, the rider assumes all responsibility.
When an at-fault driver of a car is involved in an e-scooter collision, that driver’s car insurance coverage may potentially apply. That might lead someone to believe that if they are a scooter rider and become injured as the result of a vehicle driver’s negligence, the driver’s auto insurance might pay for the scooter rider’s injuries. Not necessarily so.
Don’t think that the negligent driver’s insurance company is simply going to hand you over a fat check for all your medical bills and other expenses to fully compensate you for the injuries you suffered. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses – some of the world’s most profitable. They are so profitable, in fact, that in 2016, the insurance industry’s assets ($5.8 trillion) totaled more than the GDPs of all but two countries – the United States and China.
Insurance companies understand how to try to avoid paying you what you may potentially deserve.
Did You Contribute to an E-scooter Crash?
One more thing. North Carolina is a contributory negligence state. What that means is if the insurance company can prove you were partially at fault – even just 1%, – you will most likely not get compensation.
Electric scooter accidents have been proliferating in NC cities and towns and across the nation. If you decide to ride an e-scooter, make sure you obey the rules and remain extra cautious to try to avoid injury to yourself or others.