Electric scooters, or E-scooters, have made their long awaited debut in Tampa Bay. On May 26, 2019, the City of Tampa launched a year-long E-scooter pilot program. Under this program, four vendors will provide about 2,400 scooters for downtown Tampa. The four vendors are Bird, Jump, Lime, and Spin.
In less than a month and with only 170 scooters actually launched thus far, there has already been a serious scooter accident. On June 20, a man operating a Lime E-scooter was hit by a semi-truck in Tampa and taken to the hospital with critical injuries. A witness reported that the man drove directly into the path of the semi-truck as if the E-scooter throttle was stuck in the full forward position.
If you have been to Tampa and witnessed the scooters zipping around the streets at all hours, you may have recognized the dangers this new program has created. Scooters are inevitably also coming to St. Petersburg and Clearwater. By the time they arrive, perhaps the safety issues will be improved.
The Scooter Program in Tampa:
The cost of the scooters is $1 plus a charge of about 15-20 cents per mile. All a person needs to do is to download the App, sign it and scan the map to find the location of a scooter. The scooters are simply left throughout the City. Once a scooter is found, it can be unlocked and ready to ride through the App. In order to ride a scooter, a rider must simply be 16 or older and have a valid driver’s license or permit. Helmets are not required. When scooters lose their charge or the rider is done, the scooters are supposed to be left at a designated corral or left upright. The scooters are not supposed to exceed 15 mph.
Changes to Florida Law Giving Scooters the Same Rights as Bicycles
On June 18, 2019, Governor Ron Desantis signed into law House Bill 453. The law, titled Micromobility Devices, sets new rules for electric scooters. It states that a scooter is allowed to travel up to 20 mph. It exempts scooter from requiring insurance or being registered with the State. It also does not require the driver to have a valid driver’s license. But, most importantly, the new law, codified in Florida Statute 316.2128 states that scooter are given the same rights as bicycles. This means that a scooter can now be driven on streets and in bike lanes, not just on sidewalks. Thus, the proximity for a scooter to be in an accident with an automobile just got a lot closer.
Do You Have to Sign a Waiver to Ride a Scooter?
Yes, all four scooter companies require the operator to sign a waiver release. This release states that the rider is solely responsible for any damage or injury caused while on the scooter. However, these releases are not effective to discharge the scooter companies from their own negligence. For example, if there is a defect with the scooter that contributes to the accident, the scooter company can still be held responsible.
Who Can File an E-Scooter Claim or Lawsuit?
There are three main categories of accidents involving scooters; those caused by a car or automobile, those caused by an E-Scooter, and those caused by a malfunctioning or defective E-scooter.
Accident Caused by a Car, Truck or Other Automobile
Since E-scooters are now operating 24/7 and most automobile drivers are not used to these new modes of transportation, there is a higher likelihood of some type of accident occurring. When the accident is caused by the negligence of someone else, you, as the E-scooter operator, can make a claim to recover damages against that party. This is done with a claim against their bodily injury car insurance. You also should be able to make a claim against your own motor vehicle insurance, uninsured motorist (UM) protection, if applicable. Further, you should be eligible for PIP or no fault benefits for up to $10,000 in medical bills through your own auto insurance.
Accident Caused by Malfunctioning E-Scooter
There are many possibilities for a scooter to have a malfunction and cause an accident. For example, a brake failure, battery issue, or accelerator or throttle malfunction are some of the issues that have been identified in scooters. If an accident occurs due to any malfunction of the scooter, both the rental company and manufacturer can be held liable for your damages and injuries. A scooter accident lawyer will be able to further advise on this issue as it does require expert analysis of the scooter.
Accident Caused by an E-Scooter Operator
In certain cases, an E-scooter rider may be the cause of an accident. Although scooters will likely not cause any injury to the driver of a car, another pedestrian or E-Scooter rider could be injured. In this situation, there could be a claim against that rider for the injuries sustained.
E-Scooter Accident Lawyer
Until E-Scooters become the norm, there is a high likelihood for an accident to occur. Even when the scooter programs settle down, E-Scooters will still be on the streets at dangerous times and around people who may be impaired. Additionally, there is always the chance that the operator of the E-Scooter also has been drinking or otherwise impaired. Obviously, any collision by a scooter with a car or truck will cause significant injuries to the rider of the scooter. Therefore, if an injury occurs from an E-scooter accident, it is wise to hire a lawyer who is experienced and knowledgeable with these types of claims. Many lawyers are so technologically deficient, that they simply will not be able to grasp or handle these types of cases. If you have been involved in an accident while driving an E-scooter and want to learn more about your legal rights, then please contact us. Our consultations are always free of charge.