Electric scooters seemingly appeared out of nowhere mid-June in Indianapolis.
Bird scooters descended upon the city overnight, and their “nests” took even the city government by surprise. Not to be outdone, Lime scooters showed up a week later. On every sidewalk, it seems, these electric, dockless scooters are available for a quick 15-mile-per-hour ride to get you where you need to go.
But with every step forward in technology comes questions about liability. These scooters are convenient, affordable, easy to operate — and a potential nightmare if you get into an accident.
So who exactly is responsible if you get into an accident on or with an electric scooter?
Scooter accident law is like the Wild West right now — everyone’s figuring it out as they go along. But there are a few outcomes we can reasonably expect.
Safety Warnings from Scooter Companies
- Be 18 years or older
- Have a driver’s license
- Wear a helmet as required by law
- Follow all local traffic rules
Bird also specifies that only one person can ride on a scooter at a time.
But beyond a few warnings, these companies don’t appear to have any measures in place to confirm that all riders follow these instructions. Bird offers free helmets to those who don’t have one, but it’s the riders who have a responsibility to comply with helmet laws. Similarly, neither company has a mechanism to check and validate a person’s driver’s license before they operate a scooter.
It’s reasonable to assume, then, that if you choose to disobey these rules and get into an accident, you’ll probably be at least partially responsible for your injuries. You may even be responsible for the injuries of someone else in the accident if you were at fault for causing the accident. Whether or not Bird or Lime will carry some of the responsibility if you were operating a scooter without a driver’s license, for example, remains unknown.
Where Can Scooters Legally Ride?
If you’ve walked around downtown these past couple weeks, you’ll probably agree with us that this question needs to be answered immediately. Whether you’ve dodged a scooter on a sidewalk or the Cultural Trail, or you’ve swerved your car to avoid a scooter lane splitting between vehicles (or, as one of our employees saw last week, traveling the wrong way along the edge of the street), it’s clear that these scooter companies and the city government have failed to establish where these scooters should go.
Bird states on its website that scooters are to avoid sidewalks “unless local law requires or permits — it endangers members of our community who want to walk freely.” Lime, on the other hand, gives no immediate guidance on where to ride, although it does suggest that riders avoid blocking pedestrian walkways.
Unless and until the city of Indianapolis decides differently, these are the only guidelines available. With that in mind, it seems likely that the government will agree with these guidelines and request that all scooters remain off of sidewalks and utilize bike lanes instead.
However, there are many trails and walking paths in Indianapolis that bicycles are allowed to share with pedestrians. Think of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail or the Monon Trail. Lime scooters have already been spotted on the Monon as far north as Broad Ripple. It seems likely that scooters will be permitted to use these types of trails, just like bicycles.
That makes a difference in your accident claim. Let’s say you’re a pedestrian and you suffer injuries when a scooter collides with you. If you’re walking along the Monon, it may be treated like a normal accident. But if you’re walking along the sidewalk downtown, the scooter rider may face additional consequences for riding on the sidewalk instead of the bike lane.
If You’re Injured in a Scooter Accident
Whether you’re a pedestrian injured in an accident with a scooter or a scooter rider injured in an accident with another vehicle, you have rights. As convenient as these scooters are, it’s only a matter of time before someone is injured in an accident. Other cities are already living this reality.
Scooter accident law may not be set in stone, but one thing is for certain: You shouldn’t have to fight for compensation for your injuries while you’re still healing. It’s all too easy for insurance companies to deny accident claims, especially claims involving vehicles and technology that are new to the streets.
Hensley Legal Group can help. Our personal injury attorneys have the strength and experience to make a difference in in your claim. If you’ve been injured in an accident involving an electric scooter, call us today or contact us online for a free conversation about your case.