Rental Bikes and Scooters in New Orleans – Who is Liable if a Crash Occurs?
A recent study at UCLA suggests that e-scooter injury rates are worse than those for motorcycles. As more rental bikes and scooters appear in New Orleans, who is liable if a crash occurs? There are a number of parties who could be at fault, and accurately determining who is responsible for a crash or injury can be complicated.
New Orleans is a beautiful city that captivates visitors and locals alike, and what better way to enjoy its winding streets than on a bicycle or scooter? The slower pace and maneuverability of these environmentally friendly options means riders can go places that cars can’t. The Big Easy has welcomed companies like Bird and Lime that offer app-managed transport options. But sometimes new riders and old streets don’t mix, leading to accidents.
How Do Rental Bikes and Scooters Work?
Similar to auto rideshare systems, electric scooters and rental bikes (also known as micro-mobility vehicles) are summoned and paid for with an app that also allows users to see how close they are to a rental station. A new advancement from Lime and Bird rental companies eliminates the parking station for scooters, meaning users can pick up a scooter close to where they start and leave it where their journey ends.
This so-called “first mile” and “last mile” concept has led to a scattering of vehicles left across cities where the companies operate. Riders use the app to unlock and pay for scooters, and since they don’t have to find a charging station, public safety relies on those users to park their scooters safely. While bicycles continue to be parked in company-owned racks, both bikes and scooters present many opportunities for accidents.
Types of Rental Bicycle and Scooter Accidents
Many people grew up riding bikes or scooters and are comfortable controlling them. But even adults who ride one of these regularly may not be skilled in traveling through a city with other vehicles. When riders try to navigate by GPS or do some sightseeing, the risk for injury increases exponentially.
Common accidents involving rental bikes and scooters include:
- Collisions with cars or trucks: Many motorists don’t look for bikes or scooters on the road. This becomes worse when riders aren’t paying attention to their place in traffic.
- Equipment defects: Used heavily by lots of riders every day, bikes and scooters can suffer unseen damage that could lead to a crash. Brakes failing or a tire coming loose can cause severe injuries.
- Dangerous road conditions: Hitting a bad patch of pavement can send a rider flying from the bike or scooter.
- Pedestrian injuries: Bikers and scooter riders may be tempted to use sidewalks or ignore crosswalk laws, striking pedestrians in busy streets.
- Abandoned bikes and scooters: The ability to leave rented vehicles anywhere puts others at risk of colliding with or being injured by a parked scooter or bike.
Who is Liable if a Crash Occurs?
Riders who hire rental bikes and scooters are responsible for reading the terms of service in the rental agreement. Just because someone doesn’t read the contract doesn’t mean they aren’t legally bound by it. But since the concept of renting transport like this is relatively new, the law is still catching up. Insurance companies are also part of the conversation since most personal insurance policies don’t always cover accidents involving a moving vehicle.
Key factors in determining liability include where the accident occurred and who is involved. Multiple parties may be responsible, including the rider, other vehicle drivers, pedestrians, and parking lot owners. Common defendants also include the rideshare company that owns the bike or scooter and the manufacturer that made them.
It’s crucial to gather evidence and review the rental agreement to establish where the fault lies. A personal injury lawyer will often investigate and obtain evidence such as:
- Police or EMT reports of the accident
- Video footage or photographs of the scene
- Witness testimony
- Accident investigator reports
- Medical records and bills
- Accident and defect records for the company and manufacturer
Rideshare User Agreements and Insurance Coverage
While rideshare companies like offering a convenient way to get around metro areas, they do not like taking responsibility for accidents that occur on their scooters and bikes. Riders are required to consent to clauses such as the assumption of the risk and release and waiver of liability when they accept the rental contract. These agreements eliminate a customer’s usual legal rights to sue and absolve the rideshare companies of any liability. The companies don’t provide any insurance for their riders, and most riders’ personal insurance may not have a specific policy clause for these types of injuries.
When a rider is unable to file a claim against the rideshare company’s insurance and their personal insurance is insufficient for their injuries, the next step could be filing a personal injury lawsuit against the rental company. If a bike component fails, the victim may claim the accident was the company’s fault. In situations like this, seeking compensation through the courts may be the best option.
In cases where a rider hits a pedestrian, the injured person is likely to file against the rider’s insurance. They may still be able to pursue the rideshare company or manufacturer, but that hinges on what the evidence shows as the cause of the accident. Because riders who rent bikes or scooters are not required to complete any training or demonstrate any skills before renting, they put themselves and those around them at risk with every mile ridden.
Staying Safe on a Bike or Scooter
One of the best ways to avoid accidents is to do everything possible to ride safely and with awareness. It can be tempting to look around and enjoy the sights, but there are some actions that prevent injuries and collisions. Stay safe by following these recommendations:
- Wear a helmet: Brain and head injuries are the most common with micro-mobility vehicles. Travelers who use bikes and scooters regularly should buy or rent a helmet to carry.
- Obey all traffic laws: Learn and follow laws regarding bikes and scooters. Riders often have the right of way over cars but never over pedestrians.
- Learn city-specific rules: Laws and local ordinances can vary between locations. Learn how New Orleans differs from other places before renting these vehicles.
- Ride carefully: Pay attention and change speed depending on what’s happening on the road. Keep an eye out for other vehicles, pedestrians, and animals.