E-Scooters: Understanding the Laws & Liability Issues
Electric scooters, or “e-scooters,” are the latest micro-transportation fad to hit the streets of Florida. However, as we discussed in a previous blog, these vehicles aren’t exactly the safest means of recreational transportation. In fact, there is one concern that has lawmakers and safety experts in a tizzy: A customer can rent a scooter without knowing or understanding Florida’s e-scooter laws and regulations. As a result, thousands of negligent “scooterists” are suffering fall injuries, running into people (and each other), and being hit by larger vehicles. This factor is concerning because e-scooter accident liability represents an untested legal frontier, and most micromobility companies are protected by a lengthy and skim-worthy waiver.
In 2020, there is bound to be an influx of electric scooters docking in Florida’s most populated cities. To help you stay safe and out of a courtroom, the Pittman Firm, P.A. has compiled a list of e-scooter regulations and liability concerns you need to be aware of both now and in the coming years.
Florida’s Electric Scooter Laws
In Florida, an electric scooter is only street-legal if it has a seat or saddle. While a scooter does not have to be registered with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLMSMV), a renting customer does need to be licensed before operating a vehicle within the state. As a fun note, if your scooter has an engine over 50cc, it is technically considered a motorcycle and is therefore bound by Florida’s motorcycle laws.
Before renting or purchasing an e-scooter, you must have a clear understanding of the following rules and regulations:
- A rider needs to be at least 16 years of age to operate a motorized scooter in Florida.
- A scooterist needs a valid motorcycle or driver’s license to rent and/or operate an e-scooter.
- A rider has a legal obligation to obey state traffic laws and owes a duty of care to passing pedestrians, cyclists, motor vehicle drivers, etc.
- A scooterist needs to stay on the right-hand side of the road unless they are making a left turn or avoiding a road hazard.
- A rider needs to observe all road signs and traffic lights.
- A scooterist cannot carry a passenger when operating a vehicle.
- A rider needs to wear a helmet if they are under the age of 16 or plan to exceed speeds of 30 mph.
- A scooterist cannot operate a vehicle on sidewalks, bike paths, or state highways.
- A rider must use arm motions to signal stops and turns unless the vehicle is equipped with signals and brake lights; that said, a scooterist should still use arm motions in the latter scenario, if only for safety reasons.
- A scooterist must never ride between lanes or alongside cars and trucks.
Despite these laws, it is not unusual to see a negligent scooterist weaving through sidewalk-bound pedestrians and passing motorists. But many drivers tend to get flustered and angry around scooterists because they don’t know how to safely navigate around or in consideration of them. If either party is distracted or makes a mistake, it could easily result in a severe collision that has fatal consequences.
The Problem with Geo-Fencing
And what about the liability issues surrounding geo-fencing? There has been a significant increase in the number of pedestrian accidents and injuries since the introduction of the electric scooter. To address this issue, micromobility companies are testing geo-fencing options in multiple states – and to questionable results. Geo-fencing is a GPS-based service that allows companies to broadcast virtual fences in designated areas to create no-parking and no-ride zones. If a scooterist accidentally enters a geo-fenced area, their vehicle will automatically stop or slow to 5 mph.
This may seem like a great idea, but two critical problems have yet to be addressed:
- A rider isn’t supposed to look at their phone (where the red zone is noted) while operating a vehicle.
- Scooterists can suffer injuries if their vehicles unexpectedly stop or slow down.
What happens if a rider is thrown off a scooter and lands in front of a passing car? In other words, who is liable when an e-scooter accident occurs?
E-Scooter Accident Liability
Because electric scooters lack built-in safety features, even a minor accident can result in catastrophic and fatal injuries. Treatments, surgeries, ongoing therapy and rehabilitation services – it’s no surprise that even a “minor” collision can set a survivor back a good $10,000. Fortunately, an injured scooterist (or scooter victim) may have grounds to file a claim against the negligent party responsible for their injuries and financial losses.
But which parties can be held liable in Florida? The answer to this question is dependent on the circumstances surrounding a collision. For example, a plaintiff may be able to file a claim against:
- A driver
- A fellow scooterist
- A business owner (premises liability)
- The micromobility company (Uber, Bird, Lyme, etc.)
- The e-scooter manufacturer
- The city
Are You in Need of Personal Injury Representation?
Contact the personal injury lawyers at The Pittman Firm, P.A. if you require legal representation after an e-scooter collision. Our legal team can investigate your case, calculate the maximum value of your claim, and negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company on your behalf. If necessary, we can take your case to court and litigate for a favorable verdict that reflects your injury-related losses and debts.
Contact The Pittman Firm, P.A. at (850) 764-0383 to arrange a free consultation today.