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Who Can Be Held Liable for an Electric Scooter Accident?

Electric scooters, or e-scooters, have been showing up in cities across the country. These devices look like a foot-powered child’s scooter. However, they have the ability to travel at speeds as fast as 15 mph.

To use one, a person downloads an app and sets up an account. The person then scans a code on the e-scooter to unlock it, pays through a debit or credit account and rides off. When finished, the person locks the e-scooter on the app and leaves the scooter behind.

While that process seems simple, e-scooters actually present a serious safety issue. For instance, many motor vehicle drivers and pedestrians do not know how to share the roadway with these devices. Many riders can also be careless and reckless in how they ride and where they leave their scooters. The devices themselves may also fail to operate properly, putting riders and others at risk.

Here, we take a closer look at how one Florida community has approached e-scooters. We also discuss the potential personal injury liability scenarios that can arise when e-scooter accidents and injuries occur.

Fort Lauderdale Among Cities with E-Scooter Rules in Place

In many cities, the sudden appearance of e-scooters on the streets and sidewalks surprised officials. They had no rules in place to regulate e-scooter companies and to govern safe use of the devices. Fort Lauderdale is not one of those places.

Fort Lauderdale has been ahead of the curve when it comes to e-scooters. In 2018, the city’s commissioners passed an ordinance that established the city’s Dockless Mobility Program. The program requires companies to have a permit to distribute their e-scooters in the city. The program also establishes rules for riders.

The program launched in November 2018, with three companies listed as “permitted providers” of e-scooters:

  • Bird Black scooters with a black-and-white block logo on the stem
  • Bolt Yellow scooters with a black footboard
  • Lime Black scooters with lime green accents and a white footboard.

Riders must obey all traffic laws as well as:

  • Always yield to pedestrians.
  • Never drink and ride.

In addition to those rules, riders must be careful about how and where they leave their e-scooters. The city requires riders to use kickstands when they park the scooter (or leave it upright) and to leave at least four feet of clear space on the sidewalk where it is parked. The scooter also cannot block certain places, including:

  • Wheelchair ramps
  • Business entrances
  • Fire hydrants
  • Parking spots
  • Benches, trashcans or other “street furniture.”

What Happens If I Am Hit By a Car While Riding a Bird Scooter?

Generally, liability for an e-scooter accident will attach to the party who is responsible for the accident. So, if motor vehicle driver acts negligently and collides with an e-scooter rider in Fort Lauderdale, then that driver should be held liable for the injured rider’s medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages. For example, a car driver may fail to yield to an e-scooter rider who has the right of way, or the driver may be texting or talking on a phone and fail to see the rider.

However, Florida is a comparative fault state. So, if an e-scooter rider’s own negligence contributes to an accident for instance, the rider goes through a red light at an intersection then it could affect or reduce the rider’s ability to collect damages after a collision with a car or other motor vehicle.

When Pedestrians and E-Scooters Collide

If e-scooter riders share crosswalks with pedestrians in Fort Lauderdale, they must be careful. Pedestrians will always have the right of way. So, e-scooter riders must make sure to yield to them. If a rider fails to do so and collides with a pedestrian, the rider may be held liable for the pedestrian’s injuries.

Riders can also cause collisions with pedestrians when they ride with passengers, drink and ride, try to talk or text while riding, go too fast in congested areas, or operate an e-scooter without enough experience. They may also cause accidents by leaving scooters in prohibited areas or by failing to leave enough clear space on the sidewalk. In all of those situations, riders face a liability risk.

In their rental agreements, e-scooter companies also set out rules and recommendations for use of the devices. For instance, Bird specifically recommends against carrying items like a bag, briefcase, or backpack while riding one of its e-scooters.

Of course, pedestrians can also cause e-scooter accidents. A pedestrian may be distracted as well, for instance, and walk into the path of an oncoming scooter. Negligent bicyclists can also cause collisions with e-scooter riders.

When a Defective Scooter Causes an Accident

E-scooters are electric vehicles. They are not flawless. They can have defects that contribute to accidents and injuries. For example, due to a mechanical flaw, a hand brake may fail to operate, a wheel may blow, or the scooter may fail to charge properly. In those cases, the company which owns and rents the bikes may be liable for injuries that a rider suffers as a result of the defect. In some cases, a mechanic who contracts with an e-scooter company may be liable if the mechanic’s negligence contributed to the defect.

Get Help from a Fort Lauderdale E-Scooter Injury Attorney Today

At Englander Peebles, we keep pace with emerging issues such as liability for electric scooter accidents in Fort Lauderdale and throughout Florida. If you suffered injuries in an e-scooter accident as a rider or non-rider, contact us to discuss your case. We can provide a free consultation and help you to understand all of your rights and options.

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