Nearly 40,000 electric scooters are reportedly traversing the streets (and, though illegally, the sidewalks) of Los Angeles at any given moment. 249 emergency room visits in Southern California resulted from e-scooter accidents between September of 2017 and August of 2018. That figure is the result of a study examining medical records from two UCLA hospitals in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Most of the injured riders (91.6 percent) experienced either a fall off the scooter, a crash into another object, or being hit by a vehicle/object. But, as the number of scooters on city streets has spiked, so have the number of injuries, with a reported 167 taking place during the first eight months of 2018, and 118 of those requiring hospitalizations. The number of accidents — both major and minor — that occurred over the course of 2019 is currently being calculated. But again, given the increase in scooter availability, it stands to reason that 2019 will yield a greater number of accidents than in previous years.
In terms of the riders injured between 2017-2018, only 4.4 percent were wearing helmets, and two of the cases landed in the intensive care unit. Consumer Reports found that since the fall of 2017 at least eight people have died, with over 1,500 injured (some of whom have been left paralyzed). Since the study was released in January of 2019, many additional cities throughout California have made rentable electric scooters available to the public. That availability has resulted in an increased number of injuries across the state, and personal injury attorneys are being overwhelmed with inquiries concerning clients’ rights under the law, and accident victims seeking to file personal injury lawsuits for damages.
Much of the public, even those who patronize scooter companies, are unfamiliar with the specifics of the laws related to scooter operation on city streets, as well as the rights of scooter riders. Let’s take a look at the current laws within California, as well as your rights as a rider, and your options for filing a personal injury lawsuit in the unfortunate event of an accident.
The scooter laws in California define the speed and locations in which a motorist can legally operate their electric scooter. With that in mind, it’s important to note that the locations on which it is legal for a scooter motorist to travel can be different from those on which a bicyclist is allowed to travel. When considering both modes of travel, the law refers to different classes of the “bikeway.”
Class II Bikeways are standard bike lanes that can be found in most major cities. They are designated by a single striped line and allow strictly for one-way travel among bicyclists/motorists.
Class IV Bikeways are physically protected bike lanes that separate the designated bike lane from roadway traffic. Class IV bikeways can consist of postings, cones, railways, or other objects that create a physical barrier between the bike lane and the roadway, providing greater protection for bicyclists/electric scooter riders, and allowing automobile drivers to more easily identify such riders. Unlike Class II bikeways, Class IV bikeways can provide both one-way and two-way travel, depending on the location.
California’s electric scooter laws permit motorists to travel on Class II and Class IV paths marked for bikes, regardless of the posted speed limit for automobiles. However, according to the law, electric scooters cannot exceed a speed limit of 15 miles per hour, regardless of which bikeway class they are utilizing. This particular law was enacted with consideration for bicyclists’ safety as they share the lanes with electric scooters.
Additionally, scooter drivers are permitted to drive on city streets with a speed limit of up to 25 miles per hour, provided the scooter does not exceed 15 miles per hour. In short, the general rule that electric scooter drivers should follow is to always maintain a speed limit below 15 miles per hour. However, a few exceptions do apply depending on ordinances passed by individual cities and municipalities.
Some California cities, townships, and counties have specifically passed ordinances allowing electric scooter drivers to operate on roads with a maximum 35 mile per hour speed limit. Again, despite the ordinance allowing for travel on a street with a higher posted speed limit, the acceptable speed to operate an electric scooter remains at 15 miles per hour.
Previously, riders of any age were required to wear a fastening helmet while riding an electric scooter. As the popularity of electric scooters surged and additional cities made the mode of transportation available to residents, many riders complained that the law was restricting, as it effectively required individuals to carry a helmet with them whenever they might make use of a scooter. This meant that any rider who was without a helmet while operating a scooter would be ticketed accordingly. Additionally, given that most scooter riders reported using the vehicles occasionally (often sporadically and for impromptu travels), the helmet law limited the amount of riders who could legally operate the vehicles to those who carried helmets. Given the pushback from both riders and scooter companies, that law has now changed.
Today’s updated helmet law no longer requires individuals 18 and older to wear a helmet while operating an electric scooter. The change in the law, however, has generated much debate. One common argument is that motor-safety should not be limited to those under the age of 18. Moreover, many who oppose the new law tend to equate electric scooters as merely less advanced versions of motorcycles, but with the same potential for serious injury and even death. Despite the controversy, the new helmet law currently stands, and any rider over the age of 18 is not required to wear a helmet while operating an electric scooter.
The simple answer is to immediately contact a reputable and experienced personal injury attorney who has successfully represented motorized vehicle accident victims. The details related to how your accident occurred will largely determine the type of damages and potential settlement you will receive.
Two scenarios are most commonly related to scooter accidents. The first involves any type of crash (be it into an automobile, an object, or an individual). In such cases, determining who is at-fault will be the primary factor in whether or not you are entitled to a settlement.
With that in mind, if you are ever in a scooter accident it is advisable to, after first addressing any medical concerns, take steps to document what transpired during the accident. This can involve photographs or videos of the accident scene as well as any injuries you may have sustained (including medical records and bills), filing a police report, and taking recorded statements from any individuals who may have witnessed the accident and can help to corroborate your version of events.
The second common result of scooter accidents involves a mechanical malfunction with the vehicle. Last year, personal injury attorneys reported a deluge of inquiries related to reports of scooter equipment failure. Numerous media outlets have reported that the scooters are often not well maintained. Moreover, the most common issue cited involves the scooter’s throttle sticking, which can be extremely dangerous for drivers, pedestrians, and motorists.
Such instances of a throttle sticking (frequently while traveling at top speed) have skyrocketed recently, and resulted in a number of catastrophic injuries. As a result, some cities now require companies to implement geo-fencing, which causes e-scooters to slow down in busy areas with large groups of pedestrians. But the geo-fenced areas are not marked with any sign postings, which means the scooters suddenly slow down when entering, but then speed up automatically upon leaving the zones without warning to the drivers. That, according to personal injury attorneys, is an example of negligence, and is an issue you should discuss with an experienced litigator immediately following an accident.
About Dordulian Law Group:
At DLG, We understand that each client has a unique case and a unique story to tell, and we will approach your electric scooter accident case accordingly. Our ultimate goal is to secure the largest possible settlement for you in the shortest amount of time, allowing you to recover from your accident and resume a life of productivity with peace of mind knowing that justice has been served on your behalf because you have selected the best attorney to represent you.
We’re available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, online and by phone at (800) 880-7777. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us for a free consultation related to scooter accidents or any other subset of personal injury law. We are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding a potential electric scooter personal injury claim.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and workers compensation concerns.