New York City, like other major cities across the United States, have experienced companies offering electric bikes and scooters for rent. The idea originated from rideshare companies who seek to expand its market reach to places where vehicular traffic is highly congested, like in New York City, to increase personal mobility efficiently. Motorized scooters and bicycles seem to fit that bill.
New York City, like the other cities, have encountered electric scooters, has wandered into this new territory without any regulation other than New York’s rules of the road or general legal principles of negligence. Those existing laws did not give people sufficient guidance about riders’, scooter owners’, and others’ rights and responsibilities. Some U.S. cities have adopted ordinances tailored to address some of the issues.
The Dangers of Riding an Electric Scooter
As the name implies, the rider of an e-scooter, which looks like a foot-propelled scooter, controls the speed of the ride by adjusting a throttle that operates like a motorcycle throttle. The accelerator operates the electric motor that pushes the wheels forward. An e-scooter is faster, typically than a foot-pushed scooter. Becoming accustomed to the speed for the uninitiated can be tricky and losing control is a common happening with someone learning to ride.
Falling or crashing into an object is not unheard of for even experienced riders, and, as such, every rider should wear a helmet. Many do not, however. Furthermore, very few, if any, riders wear guards like elbow pads or knee pads. Thus, e-scooter riders are ill-equipped to encounter any danger. The rider and the company renting e-scooters assume that the rider will safely move about without the need for safety gear.
The Most Common Types of E-Scooter Injuries
The rider of an e-scooter is as susceptible to injury as any pedestrian or bicycle rider. E-scooter riders can suffer catastrophic injuries like:
- Traumatic brain injury,
- Spinal cord injury,
- Broken and fractured bones,
- Sprains and strains,
- Severe lacerations and “road-rash,” and
- Face, head, and eye injuries.
The preceding list encompasses injuries that e-scooter riders might experience if another motorist strikes the rider or the rider crashes the scooter. However, as mentioned in passing, pedestrians are at risk for sustaining an injury in an e-scooter accident. E-scooter riders could hit a pedestrian and knock him or her down, causing serious or catastrophic injury. Furthermore, and this is a problem that New York City has experienced: people dump the scooters wherever they want. Riders will leave them on the sidewalk, leaning against a building or tree, which creates a falling hazard for people walking. New York City’s regulations purport to address the problem by obligating rental companies and riders to ensure that sidewalks are clear, and scooters are appropriately stowed.
Who is liable for E-Scooter Injuries?
Liability for catastrophic injuries resulting from an e-scooter accident might be challenging to determine. Liability will turn on the facts and circumstances of each case. Responsibility could fall on the e-scooter rider, the rental company, the middle-man who provides a charging station for the e-scooters, and the rental company itself. Of course, if an e-scooter rider is safely riding and the operator of a vehicle slams into the rider, the vehicle operator will be liable for that accident. However, liability might extend to other parties as well.
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