What do E-Scooters mean for Road Safety in Ontario?

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Written By: Michael Warfe and Lori Khaouli, Summer Student

In November 2019, the Ontario government announced its plans to launch a five-year pilot project allowing the use of electric scooters (“e-scooters”) on provincial roads, beginning January 1, 2020. According to an Ontario government news release, permitting the use of e-scooters has the “potential to help hundreds of thousands of commuters get to transit connections, reduce congestion, and open the Ontario market to a new and growing sector.”[1] However, it is within each municipalities’ discretion to pass a by-law to permit the e-scooters on their roadways and to set safety standards for e-scooter operation within their jurisdiction.

E-SCOOTERS AND ROAD SAFETY

The integration of e-scooters into cities has been met with push-back by road safety experts, city officials, and personal injury lawyers, citing the dangers caused by the rise of e-scooters in cities across North America. Within the first three months of the e-scooter pilot program launching in Calgary, Alberta Health Services reported 477 emergency visits related to electric scooters.[2] A significant portion of the injuries were fractures and upper extremity injuries, including head injuries. South of the border, a UC San Francisco study reported that nearly 40,000 injuries related to e-scooters were reported between 2014 and 2018.[3] In addition, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 271 scooter-related injuries in Austin, TX within a 3-month period, where nearly half of the riders suffered head injuries.[4] In cities where e-scooter-use is widespread, there are reports of riders abandoning scooters on sidewalks, creating congestion and unsafe walking conditions for pedestrians.

While the province has issued safety guidelines to dictate how e-scooters should be managed within Ontario, including minimum age requirements, a maximum scooter speed of 24 km/h, and helmet requirements for users under the age of 18, the introduction of e-scooters creates a legal gray area of liability when riders are involved in an accident.

YOU MAY HAVE WAIVED YOUR RIGHT TO SUE FOR A DEFECTIVE E-SCOOTER

E-scooters have introduced a new landscape to the legal world, and the available precedent in this area is scarce. If you have used an e-scooter, you would have had to accept the terms of a User Agreement prior to being permitted to unlock the scooter. Two of the largest competitor e-scooter companies, Bird and Lime, have extensive User Agreements containing a multitude of broad terms that waive the company’s liability should an accident occur. Commonly, users of e-scooters are not aware of the terms they are agreeing to, including consent to arbitration, and an acknowledgment that you will follow all traffic laws, among others. The question of liability and who pays becomes more complicated where an e-scooter malfunctions and causes injury to the rider or another road user. When e-scooter injuries occur, riders may not be left with many options for a remedy based on the insurance policies and the terms and conditions laid out in the User Agreements.

E-SCOOTERS AND INSURANCE

Currently, riders are not required to purchase e-scooter insurance. So, what happens if you hit somebody while on an e-scooter? The insurance coverage carried by e-scooter companies does not necessarily cover riders who injure someone else or cause damage to property. Your auto insurance policy’s third-party liability coverage would not apply to incidents involving the operation of an e-scooter; consequently, you may personally liable for the resulting expenses.[5]

Typically, your homeowner’s insurance (or other property insurance coverage) includes liability coverage that would protect you in this situation. However, if you do not have property insurance, you may not be covered for these types of liability claims.[6]

COMMON CAUSES OF E-SCOOTER ACCIDENTS

E-scooters can travel up to a speed of 24 km/h and do not offer adequate protection to its riders. Additionally, adult users are not required to wear helmets while operating an e-scooter. As a result, serious injury can occur. Common causes of e-scooter accidents include:

  • Malfunctioning e-scooters
  • Error caused by the rider
  • Collisions with objects or motor vehicles
  • Road hazards

MCLEISH ORLANDO CAN HELP

Thus far, e-scooters have struggled to find their place in society: roadways and sidewalks are not designed for this new form of transportation, and e-scooter users are still learning how to use the technology. As e-scooters use begins to rise in Ontario, there may be an increase in scooter-related injuries. If you have suffered personal injury while on an e-scooter, you can contact McLeish Orlando LLP for a free consultation.

[1] Ministry of Transportation, Ontario Announces E-Scooter Pilot to Help Grow Ontario’s Economy (Nov 2019), online: Government of Ontario <https://news.ontario.ca/mto/en/2019/11/ontario-announces-e-scooter-pilot-to-help-grow-ontarios-economy.html?utm_source=ondemand&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=p>.

[2] Rosa Saba, Calgary doctors push helmets as e-scooter injuries send an average of six people to hospital a day (Sept 2019), online: The Star Calgary <https://www.thestar.com/calgary/2019/09/18/calgary-doctors-push-helmets-as-e-scooter-injuries-send-an-average-of-six-people-to-hospital-a-day.html>.

[3] University of California – San Francisco, Urban health scare: e-scooters show alarming spike in injuries: Hospital admissions quadrupled in last four years, UCSF study finds, mainly in young adults (Jan 2020), online: ScienceDaily <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200108131651.htm>.

[4] Andrew Jeffrey, Lawyer raises liability questions as e-scooter riders end up in Calgary emergency departments (Jul 2019), online: The Star Calgary < https://www.thestar.com/calgary/2019/07/31/lawyer-raises-liability-questions-as-e-scooter-riders-end-up-in-calgary-emergency-departments.html>.

[5] Samantha Lemna, A Guide to Shared Electric Scooter Insurance (Nov 2019), online: A-Win Insurance < https://www.awinins.ca/blog/a-guide-to-shared-electric-scooter-insurance/>.

[6] Ibid.

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