Travel by electric scooter is becoming an increasingly popular form of transportation in cities throughout the United States. Companies such as Bird and Lime are renting their e-scooters to riders everywhere; even the rideshare company Lyft is getting into the game. This increase in popularity also brings with it an increase in the risk for injury.
Able to travel at speeds of 15 mph and combined with heavy city traffic, these scooters and their riders have the potential to become involved in some serious accidents. There have already been regulations implemented to limit the number of scooters any company can place in cities, and Nashville’s “Metro [police] attorneys cited safety issues and argued Birds represent illegal obstructions of rights-of-way and other public property. Users often leave the scooters on the sidewalks after they’re finished with their rides,” per The Tennessean.
As a driver, you have to obey the rules of the road. But what happens when people on scooters don’t, and you end up having an accident? Can you be liable if you hit an e-scooter, even if you weren’t doing anything wrong?
The answer, like in most cases, is “it depends.”
The rules for e-scooters in Tennessee
As of right now, there are no specific statewide rules for scooters – only for electric bikes. Nashville has developed its own set of laws, though, to help keep riders, drivers, pedestrians, and passengers safe:
- “Riders may not use public roadways — only sidewalks, except for in an area downtown that stretches from Broadway north to James Robertson Parkway just shy of the Capitol.
- Whenever a designated bicycle path is available, riders must use it.
- Riders must operate in single file line.
- Riders must yield to pedestrians and before passing by them, verbally warn them.
- Riders may not attach scooters to moving vehicles.
- During operation, riders may not listen to music.
- Riders must not exceed the posted speed limit or travel at a speed ‘faster than reasonable’”
Memphis also created an agreement with Bird, though it is far less comprehensive. Here, “riders are supposed to stick to streets or, when possible, to bike lanes,” and users have to take pictures of their scooters when they’re finished, in order to prove the scooters have been parked “in the furniture zones of sidewalks — the part of the sidewalk between the curb and pedestrian thoroughfare that includes park benches, streetlights and other ‘furniture.’”
Liability after a scooter accident
There are two potential cases for negligence in a wreck with an e-scooter:
- Driver negligence.This can include anything from the motorist leaving the scene of the accident to swerving into the scooter. Drivers of motor vehicles may turn in front of a scooter, drive too close to the scooter, or run the scooter off the road. Motor vehicle drivers must obey right-of-way laws and share the road responsibly with all types of vehicles, including those operating a scooter.
- Scooter operator negligence.The rider of the motor scooter may be liable for the accident if he or she was performing an unsafe action that led to the accident. An example of negligence in this case may include performing illegal maneuver or riding the scooter against the flow of traffic.
There is also the possibility that the scooter itself was defective. For example, if a software error causes the scooter to accelerate when a rider hits the brakes, then neither the rider nor the driver is fully to blame for an accident and its injuries. In this case, you and/or the rider could make a product liability claim.
Modified comparative negligence
The state of Tennessee operates under the legal theory of modified comparative negligence. As a result, when a plaintiff contributes partially to the cause of an accident, damages provided to the plaintiff are modified based on his or her percentage of the fault. For instance, if the court determines that you are 40% at fault for an accident, the compensation you receive will be reduced by that percentage. When multiple parties are at fault in an accident, each party may receive compensation reduced according to their percentage of fault in the case.
Tennessee operates according to the 50% Bar Rule. This means you are eligible to receive damages as long as you are determined by the court to be less than 50% at fault in the case. If you are determined to be 50% or more at fault, you are not eligible to receive damages.
Bird and Lime scooters are here to stay. If you were injured in a crash involving an e-scooter, Bailey & Greer, PLLC, has the resources and experience to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. We can evaluate your case and determine the damages to which you are entitled. To set up a free consultation, call us today at 901.475.7434 or use our contact form. We serve clients in Jackson, Memphis, West Tennessee, and the surrounding areas.