Electric Scooters in Tennessee
Tennessee has been swept up in the dockless electric scooter craze. The city even rolled out a Mobility Task Force earlier this year, hoping to improve transportation access and reduce vehicle emissions via rental scooters provided by companies such as Bird, Lime, and Lyft.
Scooter company, Lime has been under fire for safety issues after several riders received injuries when a Lime scooter broke apart while in use. Photos throughout social media feature scooters broken into two, often where the baseboard and stem meet. During the fall of that same year, Lime announced that these e-scooters, manufactured by Chinese company Okai are no longer on the market.
Tennessee Scooter Rules
- Limited to a maximum speed of 15 mph
- May only be operated on streets (no sidewalks)
- Must obey all traffic laws
- Must be parked upright and away from street corners
In the summer of 2018, Nashville Metro Council approved regulations to allow scooter companies Bird and Lime to operate in the Music City. The ordinance sets a cap on the number of scooters each company can have in Nashville. It also forbids riders from operating them on sidewalks in business districts.
Although dockless scooters can help with traffic, there may be an increase in personal injury claims. In 2019, Vanderbilt Medical Center's trauma ICU director explained that it's getting approximately one brain injury per month after a dockless scooter accident, an injury that the rider will never recover from due to the catastrophic injuries
Since the fall of 2017, 8 eight people have died because of scooter-related accidents nationwide, and over 1500 riders have been injured. More stringent e-scooterlaws have recently gone into effect in cities like Nashville in response to a Bird scooter rider's death after being struck by a vehicle.
Some of these injuries were caused by user error or misuse, while others were caused by negligent drivers. Illegal scooter riding on sidewalks may also lead to pedestrians being hit and injured or killed by scooters.
Much like ridesharing programs Uber and Lyft, scooter ridesharing has experienced a meteoric rise with little to no regulation. Since this industry is so new, it's easy to be confused about what your next legal steps should be. Both Lime and its rival Bird make users sign liability waivers. However, these waivers do not bar claims of gross negligence.
For example, if your scooter breaks apart while you are riding on it, you may have a product liability claim. In Tennessee, any party that manufactured, sold, or marketed the defective product can be held responsible for your injuries. So not only can you bring a suit against Lime or Bird, but also the manufacturer of the scooter. It is the responsibility of the scooter company to maintain the vehicles. Failure to do so can result in a scooter riding accident and a subsequent personal injury claim.
But what if you are involved in a car accident while riding a scooter? In addition to filing a claim with your own insurance company, you may be able to file a third-party claim with the driver's insurance company. You may also file a complaint against Lime or Bird if a malfunction of the scooter led to the accident.
Other examples of liability in e-scooter accidents include:
- Scooter operator: If you are hit by an e-scooter driver who is operating the device inappropriately.
- Car, truck, or motorcycle driver: If you are utilizing an e-scooter and a driver of a larger vehicle fails to see you, causing an accident.
- Pedestrian: Pedestrians who are walking and using their cellphone may have a higher risk of liability in an accident if they cause an e-scooter operator to become injured.
- Scooter company: If there is a malfunction in the scooter that causes an accident, there may be ways to negate the liability waiver.
- Property owner or municipality: If you get injured because of the road conditions such as debris or potholes, you may be able to sue the individual property owner or municipality.
Top Reasons why scooter accidents happen in Tennessee
Scooter accidents often resemble crashes involving bicycles. A person on a bicycle travels much more slowly than someone driving a car; yet, the bike rider must share the road with speedy cars and trucks. The same is true of scooters. In Tennessee, Scooter riders must share roadways, but most scooters can only travel up to 15 miles per hour.
While bicyclists can sometimes find a dedicated bike lane to stay safe, scooter riders don't have an equivalent option. Anyone who chooses to ride a scooter should be mindful of the risks.
Distracted Drivers Hurt People on Scooters
Distracted drivers put everyone's lives at risk. A person maneuvering a 4,000-lb vehicle who does not watch the road severely injure anyone with less protection. Scooter riders are on par with pedestrians, cyclists, and even motorcyclists here as the potential for damage is great when a rider and a vehicle collide.
Careless Behavior on Scooters
Scooter riders who view riding an e-Scooter as a fun activity rather than a method of transportation often display careless behavior. Riders have been observed riding unsafely and even violating the rules of operation, such as:
- Intoxicated riding;
- Scooters being ridden by more than one person;
- Weaving in and out of lanes;
- Texting while riding;
- Riding against the flow of traffic;
- Disregarding traffic signals and stop signs; and
- Not wearing a helmet.
Defective Scooters Can Also Cause Accidents
Companies who lease electric scooters have unleashed tens of thousands of them in the U.S. It's common for scooters to be defective, especially considering how people treat them when they complete their ride. Scooters are often thrown to the side of the road carelessly. Although some have kickstands, you're likely to spot one resting on its side. Often, that scooter was tossed and ended up that way, rather than gently placed down.
It doesn't take long to wear down a scooter since they change hands so often. Possible malfunctions that can contribute to an accident are:
- Collapsed handlebars;
- Brake failure;
- Flat tires; and
- Defective motors.
Special teams of people also round up scooters in trucks and vans to charge them overnight. Unlike personal bikes and cars, scooters rotate between users constantly, calling into question their overall safety.
Damages in Tennessee for E-Scooter Accidents
If you are injured in an e-scooter accident in Nashville or the surrounding areas, you may be able to recover damages for the following:
- Medical expenses: hospitalization, surgery, physical therapy, medications, etc.
- Lost wages due to missed work related to injuries sustained
- Property damage
- pain and suffering
Like lawmakers, Betz and Baril, are Personal Injury Attorneys concerned about the rising number of accident claims. We are prepared to fight for those who may have been injured physically and emotionally in an electric scooter-related accident.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a Tennessee scooter accident, contact Betz & Baril, Injury Attorneys.