Picture of Dockless Scooters on the Sidewalk

Have you heard of Scootergeddon? Maybe you’ve heard of this phenomenon by its other name—Scootergate. No matter its name, as a resident of the Bay Area you have probably run across the electric scooters people are renting using their smartphones. For some it seems like a smart solution to our area’s increasing transportation problems, but it could also cause danger. Here’s why the taxpayers of San Jose could wind up paying for Scootergate accidents.

How Are Scooter Accidents Causing Problems?

For-rent electric scooters seem to solve many problems when it comes to getting around San Jose. It allows people to move around downtown without hailing a ride, and without adding to smog. However, these rides are causing new and unexpected problems.

Scooters buzzing in and out of traffic. Scooters weaving through pedestrians on sidewalks. Scooters left to clog up walkways. These are just a few of the reasons neighboring cities like San Francisco created both a permit program and a 12-month pilot program. Once select companies have been permitted, they will be allowed to run 1,250 scooters for six months. If this works out, the number of scooters will increase to 2,500. The hope is that these limitations will prevent scooters from becoming a problem, and San Jose is considering similar measures. But as of right now, the city has taken no regulatory actions and that’s a cause for concern considering how few regulations there are for electric scooters.

California law requires that electric scooter riders wear helmets. Yet, rental companies rarely provide helmets with these rentals. So, how is this problem being solved? A bill sponsored by the scooter rental company Bird seeks to eliminate this helmet requirement for riders over 18. However, this solution seems like it would put more people in danger rather than helping to make scooter riding safer.

Who Is Responsible for Scootergate Accidents?

For further regulation, California residents are depending on municipalities to create ordinances. But many are taking their time or waiting to see what solutions larger cities come up with. That leaves people wondering who is responsible when a rental scooter rider plows into a pedestrian. Liability could fall on the rider and their insurer, but most insurance policies don’t cover scooter accidents. The company that rented the scooter could be liable, but especially if they are operating with a permit, they could have certain legal protections or be immune from liability due to contractual waivers riders sign. That means liability could fall on the cities issuing these permits, and that means taxpayers could start footing the bill for injuries caused by these vehicles. The same could even be true of scooter vs. automobile accidents or accidents involving riders wearing no safety equipment.

As the situation develops, more laws and ordinances are going to come and go. And as the prominence of these scooters continues to grow, the scope of this legal gray area will likely expand. That’s going to make having the help of an attorney essential for anyone injured by one of these problematic vehicles. The San Jose accident lawyers at Bohn & Fletcher will continue to monitor Scootergate to keep you informed of the latest developments in scooter-related legal news.