All over Atlanta, electric scooters from Bird, Lime and other companies are popping up on sidewalks, begging locals to take a ride. On the surface, the premise is simple: Download the app, find the nearest scooter to you, pay a few dollars, and take a ride. But there are hidden issues that you may not be aware of.
As Marietta personal injury lawyers, we’ve seen the injuries that can occur from these scooters, even though they haven’t infiltrated our city just yet. From accidents with cars to simply falling off, the risk of injury isn’t insubstantial.
Obviously, going a few blocks on an electric scooter in Atlanta is more convenient than walking. But is it a risk worth taking?
Where Did They Come From?
Like daisies after the first rain of spring, electric scooters showed up on Atlanta's streets virtually overnight. Santa Monica, California-based company Bird dropped off about 600 scooters all around Atlanta in much the same way they’ve done in other cities: They decide to ask forgiveness rather than permission, dropping off their vehicles without notifying city officials.
But Atlantans seem to love the scooters. Within 70 days of the Birds being dropped off, more than 110,000 trips were recorded. These vehicles did what so many other modes of transportation couldn’t. They covered the proverbial “last mile” --- the distance too far to walk, but too short to drive.
City Planning Commissioner Tim Keane believes the city’s embrace of these scooters is essential for the future. It’s believed Atlanta’s population will double over the next 30 to 40 years, and as we’ve all seen already, our city’s infrastructure simply can’t handle the growth. Scooters, bikes and other alternative methods of transportation could help alleviate the increase in road traffic.
However, Keane says, the city must figure out how to regulate the scooters --- and soon. Some Atlanta residents are already tired of the issues these scooters seem to cause.
Not Everyone’s Happy
The lack of regulation on the scooters has caused its fair share of issues. For instance, one Atlanta resident describes how a scooter was left lying on the sidewalk, making it impossible for him to get by it in his wheelchair. More than inconveniences, though, electric scooters pose a real danger.
While Bird and other scooter companies recommend riders wear a helmet, that recommendation is all but ignored. There are currently no laws on the books regarding wearing a helmet while riding these scooters. What’s more, figuring out where the scooters can be ridden has become a real issue, especially since they top out at about 15 miles per hour.
If the same laws apply to electric scooters that apply to other motorized vehicles, then it’s illegal to ride them on the sidewalks. However, riding them on the road can be extremely dangerous. Unlike other small vehicles such as mopeds, it can be incredibly difficult to see a scooter rider on the road, especially if it’s dark. So, most riders choose to stick to the sidewalks, and Atlanta Police tend to turn a blind eye to it until real regulations are put in place.
What’s the Future Hold?
It seems Atlanta officials are all be resigned to (if not excited about) a future of transportation in the city that includes ridesharing scooters and other modes of getting around that don’t clog up the roads like cars do. However, officials have also agreed that rules have to be put in place for the safety of riders and drivers alike.
Earlier this summer, city council members considered legislation that would require vehicle-sharing platforms like Bird to have a permit to operate, as well as at least $3 million in liability insurance. Also proposed are laws to further encourage wearing a helmet while riding, as well as outlawing riding under the influence (though that’s already covered by Georgia law).
One of the other main issues the city is trying to tackle is underage riders. If scooters are to be treated like mopeds and other low-speed vehicles, riders must be at least 15 years old and have at least a learner’s permit to ride. Bird and other companies specify that riders must be 18 years old and have a driver’s license. But the app simply has you tap a button to “verify” their age and licensing. Without some kind of real rules set in place, the Bird invasion could lead to a high rate of injury --- if not worse.
What Can Be Done Now?
As personal injury lawyers in Marietta, we want to make sure you’re riding scooters safely if you’re going to ride at all. Here are a few tips to make sure you follow:
- Carry a bike helmet with you if you think you may be riding.
- If you ride, wear bright, reflecting clothing. A reflector vest is a great choice.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Never use your phone or headphones while riding.
- Stick to bicycle lanes if possible and, if not, ride slowly on the sidewalk.
- Try to avoid riding in roads. NEVER ride on highways.
- Always follow the laws of the road and the recommended riding procedures suggested on the app.
Can I Be Compensated for an Injury On a Scooter?
This is where things get a bit tricky. Remember that button from earlier that had to be tapped to verify a rider’s age? By tapping that button, you also agree to the terms and conditions of riding --- most importantly, that you agree to "fully release, indemnify, and hold harmless" the company for any injury or damage incurred. Essentially, you can’t hold them liable if you get hurt.
This is true if you are injured when the scooter is operating normally. However, if the scooter malfunctions and you are injured because of it, you may be entitled to compensation. Of course, with these scooters being such a new phenomenon, whether compensation will be granted or not is still to be seen.
Bird and other scooter companies do hire contractor mechanics to fix their scooters if they aren’t working properly. This adds another wrinkle to the mix. If the scooter is “fixed” but still doesn’t function properly, you may need to file a lawsuit against the mechanic, not the company.
There are, of course, other instances where you may get injured. For instance, if you are hit by a car, but you were operating the scooter lawfully, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver.
Ease Your Confusion by Speaking to a Personal Injury Lawyer in Marietta
Clearly, if you get injured on a vehicle-share electric scooter, what you should do next can be very confusing. Your first step should be to seek medical attention. You may not realize you’re injured, and not seeking medical attention can make it harder to get compensation later down the road.
Once you’ve been treated by a medical professional, call a Marietta personal injury lawyer from Andersen, Tate & Carr immediately. Our attorneys are here to help you. Your first consultation is free, meaning you don’t have to pay for us to evaluate your case. Call us at (770) 822-0900 or contact us online to speak to a lawyer today.
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