Lime, Bird, Bolt, and Spin? Sounds like a group of energy drinks! Not quite. These are the names of a few of the companies that are operating e-scooters, a revolutionary transportation technology.
E-Scooters are new, fun, and fast. They seem to be everywhere in South Florida. You will find them at the beach, weaving through traffic on Las Olas and Himmarshee, and even in the suburbs. The City of Fort Lauderdale reported that since November 2018, there have been 322,541 rides taken and that an average ride lasts for 30 minutes. The scooters are accessible by an app that takes only a few seconds to download and then the driver is off and running. These scooters move at speeds that can reach up to 15 mph, are quiet, and do not emit pollution like gasoline-powered scooters do.
Now for the bad news – these things are dangerous! Most new riders do not have the skill to safely operate them. The companies often use poorly manufactured scooters, do not properly maintain them, and provide inadequate instruction and warnings. Some of the manufacturers are in Asia and are therefore not regulated by our federal government.
Did you know that Florida law currently does not permit motorized scooters to be ridden on public roads? Are you aware that the scooters are only allowed to be operated on sidewalks if the local governmental authority passes an ordinance that specifically allows motorized scooters on their sidewalks? See generally Florida Statutes Chapter 316 and Chapter 320.
In contrast, most of the companies tell their customers to ride in the street, obey local laws, and stay off of the sidewalks. The apps also require that the user should wear a helmet. How many people actually wear a helmet as they are flying down the street to their next meeting or to the next bar? A recent report from the local ABC station, WPLG, stated that in December and January, Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue responded to 40 e-scooter incidents with 31 folks transported to the emergency room.
On January 25, 2019, Senate Bill 542 was filed to address e-scooters. In summary, the bill provides that an operator (rider/driver) of a “micromobility device” or “motorized scooter” … “has all of the rights and duties applicable to the rider of a bicycle …”
The bill also states that “a county or municipality may require” that an e-scooter company have a license to market and lease for-hire e-scooters, and that a license to do so must be granted by the governmental entity if the company carries a commercial general liability insurance policy of at least $1 million per occurrence/$5 million aggregate limit.
Attorneys who handle cases involving e-scooters have a litany of issues to deal with. The most common legal theories are careless riding, failure to properly instruct, warn, and maintain the scooter, unsafe operating environment, and product liability. Unfortunately, the injuries that riders sustain are sometimes catastrophic and the litigation is often lengthy, complex, and quite expensive.
In the preservation of evidence letter, an attorney should include a request that the operating company secure all electronically-stored information regarding routes, speeds, loop records, impact data, and trip logs. Additionally, the request to preserve should include all inspection, maintenance, and repair records, as well as all software updates that were installed into the scooter’s operating system.
Enjoy these new e-scooters, but please do so safely!
Rick Ellsley is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer with The Ellsley Law Firm in Plantation. He may be reached at 1-800-SCOOTER (726-6837) or at www.800SCOOTERLAW.com