Dockless, electric scooters arrived suddenly last summer and are apparently here to stay for the foreseeable future. Despite the general disagreement over whether or not this is a good thing, many Denver residents have adopted them as their new means of transport for both work and recreation. However, a recent study by the CDC in Austin, Texas found an average of 20 injuries (15% of which were traumatic brain injuries) per 100,000 rides. With about 5,000 rides per day in Denver and our first death-by-scooter occurring only a week ago, people are starting to wonder who’s at fault when something inevitably goes wrong.
If you’ve taken the time to read the 74 page rental agreement you’d know that companies like Lime, Bird, and Lyft claim zero liability for injury incurred on a scooter or damage done while riding one. There are a couple ways this can hurt you as both a rider and a driver.First of all, it’s important to note that in Colorado 1 in 6 drivers doesn’t have car insurance, which means if you get hit by a car while riding a scooter there’s a pretty good chance the driver doesn’t have insurance to begin with. If they do, Colorado only requires a minimum of $25,000 which could be quickly surpassed by medical costs, not to mention pain and suffering compensation for permanent injuries.
As a driver, if you hit someone riding a scooter and you’re at fault your drivers insurance will cover the damage. However, you should still be wary if you opted for the $25,000 coverage as it may not get you very far and you will be liable for whatever costs remain. Overall, the best option as a driver is to get more coverage if you’re currently at the minimum. If you also have homeowners or renters insurance with the same agency you’ll likely be able to get an umbrella policy for a slightly larger monthly fee that will add $1 million in coverage and should cover any trouble you manage to get into.
If you’re on the scooter things get a little more complicated. If you’re hit while riding a scooter and it’s the driver’s fault the cost of your medical care should be covered by their insurance, whether it’s the driver’s insurance or the insurance registered to the car. If the car and/or driver that hit you is an uninsured or underinsured and you have car insurance, your own UM/UIM insurance will follow you and step in to cover remaining costs.
However, in a situation where you’re riding a scooter and damage property, hit a pedestrian, or cause a car accident you could be held liable for all damages. Many have assumed that their drivers insurance would follow them when they’re riding but most auto insurance policies are specific to 4-wheeled vehicles and therefore can’t be applied to a 2-wheeled scooter. Some renters or liability insurance policies cover recreational vehicles but make a note to limit that coverage to non-motorized vehicles (like a bike or your standard razor scooter). The only existing policy that does apply to scooters is motorcycle insurance, but even then all policies are different and if you decide to go that route be advised to check the policy carefully.
Denver has been trying to safely integrate the e-scooters into the city’s traffic laws since they arrived. Originally designated as “toy scooters” they were limited to use on sidewalks, but with an average speed of 15mph they conflicted with pedestrian traffic. When the city’s contracts with various scooter providers were renewed last month, those laws were updated and relegated scooters to bike lanes on the roads that have them and allowed them on sidewalks only when a road’s speed limit exceeds 30mph. On sidewalks speeds are limited to 6mph, however no tickets have been issued for riders breaking this rule.
Clearly there is more work to be done. The laws for scooters are currently confusing, unenforced, and generally ignored. There’s also a gap in insurance for electric scooters and the responsibility has fallen to the users to find their own coverage. So, if you ride e-scooters often or dodge them daily it would be a good idea call your insurance provider and ask how to get coverage for those situations so you can ride confidently and safely.
Watch Phil Harding speak about it on Colorado’s Best on KDVR Denver to learn more and always feel free to contact us for a free consultation.