The Legal Implications of Rideable E-Scooters in New Orleans: Safety, Liability, and Regulations
According to the US Department of Transportation, rideshare e-scooter programs have been adopted by 158 cities. Though the popularity with Americans of whizzing around on two wheels is undeniable, it hasn’t been that easy for residents of New Orleans to embrace this way of getting around. The love-hate relationship between New Orleans and e-scooters has had its ups and downs since 2018, when the city decided to scrap a plan that would have permitted electric scooter rentals on city streets.
The proposed scheme, which was designed to regulate scooters and establish structures for fees, penalties, and parking, didn’t move forward. The “dockless” scooter model, championed by companies like Lime, Bird, and Skip, allowed users to park anywhere, aiming to bridge the gap in commuters’ first and last mile. Authorities cited the city’s insufficient infrastructure for bikes, pedestrians, and other public transit as a significant reason for the halt. The city’s roads and public attitude towards road-sharing weren’t deemed ready for the introduction of scooters.
One of the greatest concerns about e-scooters in New Orleans was parking on public rights of way, such as sidewalks, and in 2020, an ordinance was introduced banning the rental of e-scooters that didn’t have a physical storefront location the scooters would be stored when not in use. Happily for locals and tourists who like to scoot around the Big Easy, e-scooters are available for rent from several providers that align with city laws. They’ve even been integrated into city tours, giving tourists a novel way to explore the city.
This remarkable growth of e-scooters is transforming the transportation landscape of New Orleans, leading to new opportunities, but also new challenges, particularly in terms of safety and regulations.
The Safety Measures Every E-Scooter Rider Should Follow
E-scooter safety is a top priority for both riders and city officials alike, as the increasing popularity of these devices brings new risks. The Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles safety laws for operating an e-scooter include:
- A motor-driven cycle is only designed for a single rider at a time.
- A helmet equipped with a lining, padding, visor, and chin strap is mandatory.
- The motor-driven cycle should have one, but not more than two, headlamps that:
- Emit only white light.
- Are situated between 24 and 54 inches from the center.
- Can be seen from a minimum distance of:
- 100 feet at speeds less than 25 MPH.
- 200 feet at speeds of 25 MPH or above.
- 300 feet at speeds of 35 MPH or above.
- The cycle should be equipped with at least one reflector that is:
- Mounted at a height ranging between 20 to 60 inches.
- Visible from a distance between 100 to 350 feet during nighttime.
- The cycle must be fitted with at least one brake, which could be either hand- or foot-operated.
Additionally, following traffic rules such as obeying stop signs, traffic lights, and yielding to pedestrians can further minimize risk.
Riders should also maintain a keen awareness of their surroundings and avoid distractions, like using phones or wearing headphones while riding. Lastly, before starting a trip, it’s important to inspect the e-scooter for any potential issues, such as damaged tires or malfunctioning brakes.
Laws and Liability: How New Orleans Law Views E-Scooter Accidents
E-scooter injuries are on the rise – especially for children. In the eyes of the law, e-scooter accidents in New Orleans are typically treated similarly to other vehicular accidents. They fall under the realm of personal injury law, and if a rider or pedestrian sustains an injury due to someone’s negligence, they may have the right to seek damages. Determining who is at fault in an e-scooter accident can be a complex process, as it hinges on the specific circumstances of the incident. Liability could rest with the rider, another motorist, the scooter manufacturer, or the city, depending on the factors involved.
For instance, if an e-scooter rider is injured due to a motorist’s reckless driving, the motorist could be held liable. Similarly, if a pedestrian is hurt due to a scooter rider violating traffic rules, the rider may be at fault. In some cases, the city or the e-scooter company may bear responsibility. For example, if a rider was injured due to a pothole, the city could be found partially liable for not maintaining the roads adequately. An e-scooter company could face legal action if multiple riders reported brake failures which led to accidents.
Insurance Coverage: Does it Extend to E-Scooter Accidents?
The question of insurance coverage for e-scooter accidents is complex and often depends on the specifics of an individual’s insurance policy. Generally, most standard auto insurance policies do not cover e-scooters, and many homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies exclude “motor vehicles,” which could potentially encompass e-scooters. However, some insurance companies have started offering policies specifically designed for e-scooters, offering up to $50,000 in liability coverage for bodily injury and $25,000 in coverage for property damages. The evolving insurance landscape underscores the importance for e-scooter riders to understand their insurance policies and to consider seeking additional coverage if necessary.
Essential Steps to Take After an E-Scooter Accident in New Orleans
For riders involved in an e-scooter accident, taking the right steps can make a significant difference. First and foremost, ensure everyone’s safety and call for medical help if needed. Even minor injuries should be checked by a professional, as some injuries may not be immediately apparent.
Next, document the scene. Capture photos of the accident location, any visible injuries, and damage to the e-scooter or other vehicles involved. Gather witness information if possible. Witnesses can provide an objective account of the incident, which can be helpful later. Lastly, report the incident promptly to the e-scooter company and your insurance provider. This documentation will be vital if a claim needs to be filed or if a legal dispute arises.
If you have been injured in an e-scooter accident, call (504) 294-5118 or contact our experienced team for a free consultation.