E-Scooter Accidents in New Mexico
Albuquerque is one of the latest U.S. cities to allow e-scooters. If you decide to use the service, what important legal considerations should you keep in mind? Find the answers in this comprehensive article.
From the moment they were dropped off onto the city’s streets, electric scooters have taken Albuquerque by storm. Many hail these compact, two-wheeled vehicles as a fast, practical, and ecologically-friendly means of moving around the city’s urban areas. In fact, even the city authorities seem to be excited that electric scooters have finally been introduced to the city. It has been reported that Zagster, the company that operates the scooters, is cooperating closely with the Albuquerque Planning and Zoning Department to popularize the service, with plans underway to both increase the number of scooters and approve new drop off zones. As of late July, Albuquerque residents were reported to take on average 22,000 monthly rides using one of the 750 scooters operated by Zagster.
Rather than an exception, Albuquerque’s adoption of electric scooter is a part of an increasingly popular, national trend. Micro-mobility services – a concept that includes apps allowing for an easy rental of e-scooters and similar vehicles – have been steadily gaining popularity since their wide-spread introduction in 2018. More than a year later, electric scooters are available in at least 65 American cities and have proven to be immensely popular with the public. For example, it is estimated that last year alone, users in the U.S. took 38.5 million trips on shared electric scooters – which is around 2 million more than shared bicycle rides.
However, along with the hype and the steadily-growing number of rides, the number of dangerous accidents involving e-scooters has been on the rise as well. Media outlets across the country have reported numerous instances where e-scooter riders and pedestrians alike sustained injuries ranging from minor to severe as a result of collisions or vehicle malfunction. Sadly, at least 9 deaths linked to rental scooters have been recorded since the beginning of 2018. In addition, at least 1,500 people sought medical help since 2017 in relation to injuries sustained while riding a rental e-scooter.
The rise of e-scooter services in New Mexico, along with the increasing number of accidents where the vehicles are involved, raises important legal considerations. For example, if you’re injured in an e-scooter accident, who will pay for your medical expenses? Can you ever sue the company operating the scooters for your injuries? In this comprehensive article, we explore the answers to these and other important questions related to electric scooter accidents.
How Dangerous Can an E-Scooter Accident Be?
Even though most e-scooters aren’t capable of riding faster than 18mph, getting into an accident at this speed can result in serious injuries as the vehicle provides the rider with absolutely no protection. Some injuries reported in relation to e-scooter accidents include broken bones and severe bone fractures, back injuries, road rash, and even traumatic head injuries. As a result, a victim of an e-scooter accident may quickly incur thousands of dollars in medical bills as even a simple visit to the ER may prove to be extremely expensive. The key question for such a person is, of course, who is going to cover such and other costs arising from the accident.
Questions of Liability
As it is the case with other accidents, the answer to this question is closely related to the issue of liability or, simply speaking, establishing who the at-fault party in the accident is. If the accident was caused by another person – for example, a motor vehicle driver – the injured rider may file a claim against them and try to obtain compensation from their liability insurance. In addition, even if no other person was directly involved in the accident, other parties may be indirectly responsible for it. For example, governmental entities or private companies responsible for maintaining the city’s sidewalks in good condition can be targeted if the accident occurred as a result of poorly maintained or defective road surfaces.
Can You Sue the E-Scooter Operator?
Some riders may wonder if the e-scooter operator can ever be held liable for their injuries if they get into an accident while riding the vehicle. Unfortunately, in most cases, it may be difficult to obtain compensation through the company that owns e-scooters. This is due to the fact that before a rider is allowed to use an e-scooter, they need to download an app and agree to the terms and conditions of the service. These terms and conditions usually contain a clause stating that the rider assumes full responsibility in the case of an accident while simultaneously waiving all and any rights to a lawsuit against the scooter operator.
Even so, the e-scooter company can potentially be held liable if the accident was caused by a dangerous design fault that a particular scooter had. Under the product liability law, various parties involved in the chain of production- from the manufacturers to the distributors or, in this case, service operators – can be liable if they fail to discover and address a defect or malfunction. Importantly, e-scooters have exhibited dangerous defects in the past. For example, in late 2018, Lime, one of the largest e-scooter operators, announced global recalls of certain models of e-scooters they operated due to issues involving battery explosion hazard and decks that could break. Some evidence suggests that Lime had known about the issues but failed to promptly address them. As a result, the company may potentially be held liable for injuries that arose as a result of these malfunctions.
Important Insurance Considerations
Finally, it is important to remember that frequent e-scooter riders may need to consider buying additional insurance to protect themselves from the financial consequences of an accident. While a person’s private medical insurance will likely cover the costs of treatment to the injured rider, the situation may become much more complicated if the rider causes an accident and a pedestrian gets injured. In such a case, the rider at-fault must remember that their auto insurance policy is unlikely to cover their liability costs. This is because most auto insurance policies exclude liability coverage for a vehicle with fewer than four wheels.
For now, it seems that electric scooters, both in Albuquerque and in the U.S. at large, are here to stay. These fast and compact vehicles may be a viable and enjoyable way of moving around urban areas and are bound to be embraced by more and more people. However, as e-scooters gain in popularity and until the service becomes more regulated, the number of accidents and injuries related to this new mode of transportation will keep rising as well. For those reasons, Ron Bell Injury Lawyers advises all Albuquerque residents to ride safely and remember that keeping our streets – and sidewalks – safe is a responsibility we all share.