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The legal risks of riding an e-scooter

It wasn’t long ago that the idea of rentable electric scooters zipping around streets seemed laughable. Now they’re widespread, with cities across the country welcoming the high-tech transportation gadgets.

Many people find e-scooters quick and convenient. But they also come with safety risks, along with plenty of unanswered questions about liability in the event of a crash. With that in mind, here are a few things you should be aware of before hopping on a rentable scooter.

You’re probably waiving something

The user agreements scooter companies ask you to accept before using one of the devices probably include some type of waiver. For example, some of the companies ask riders to relieve the scooter companies themselves of any liability in the event of an accident. Some also include an arbitration clause where a user agrees to waive any class-action rights and settle any legal disputes with the scooter rental company through arbitration.

Whether these would hold up under court scrutiny remains to be seen. For now however, it’s important to know they exist, and that they may serve as a legal hurdle should something go wrong while you’re on a scooter.

What about a scooter malfunction?

Some companies claim riders are covered if there is something wrong with the scooter – say a malfunctioning brake, loose wheel or broken handles – in the event of a crash. That might be reassuring for a rider. There are still some gray areas however.

For example, what if a scooter’s brakes fail and you hit a parked car, resulting in property damage and a serious injury – but you weren’t wearing a helmet? What will or won’t be covered by the scooter company’s insurance? Or, imagine one rider breaks a scooter, doesn’t report it, and then the next rider of that scooter is injured in a crash as a result of the broken component. Who might be at fault in that case?

Sharing the road

E-scooters are often sharing the road with pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and even other scooter users, all of which represent potential risks for an accident. Concussions, broken bones, severe traumatic brain injuries, paralysis and other serious injuries are all possible. It’s why groups suggest wearing a helmet and paying strict attention to where you’re going while riding a scooter.

Sometimes however it’s not your fault. If a distracted driver hit you while you had the right of way, for example, that may open the door to a personal injury claim. There may be a lot of unanswered questions and legal uncertainties to navigate with e-scooters, but one thing remains the same: if you were injured because of someone else’s negligence, you should be compensated for those damages.

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