Electric scooters and personal injury claims

Tue 11th Apr 2023

Incidents involving electric scooters or e-scooters are becoming more common. How do you know whether you’re able to make a personal injury claim? Toby Konarzewski from our personal injury team explains…

One of the first cities to adopt the use of e-scooters, Paris has now officially voted to ban them in the city. This was after a slew of injuries and deaths, as well as an increase in reckless riding.

They are just as popular here in the UK and electric scooters (or e-scooters) can now be seen whizzing around major cities. They are also being rolled out across Cornwall with places to hire e-scooters in a handful of towns.

Unfortunately, despite their convenience, they have brought with them a raft of both personal injury and accident claims. Accidents involving electric scooters are becoming increasingly common and there can be some confusion about how and when you can pursue a claim for compensation.

The law surrounding e-scooters is relatively new, with the introduction of authorised hire schemes only recently coming into existence in July 2020. As such, it’s understandable why many would be unsure as to whether they have a claim and how to go about pursuing it.

What is the law surrounding electric scooters?

Electric scooter firm Voi operates 18 authorised hire schemes across the UK. They have revealed that nearly 1.2 million people across the country have taken 21.5 million rides since starting up, replacing nearly eight million car journeys and generating more than £50m across local economies. The firm is now calling for the UK Government to introduce new laws to secure the future of this growing industry.

Currently, the Road Traffic Act 1988 classes electric scooters as motor vehicles. This means that the same rules that apply to motor vehicles, such as cars and motorbikes, also apply to electric scooters. If you’re going to rent an e-scooter, you need to have a valid driving licence and the company needs to have insured and taxed their scooters. However, they can only be ridden in cycle lanes or at the side of the road, like a bicycle.

Privately owned e-scooters are currently illegal to ride on the road in the UK. If you’re caught using one then you could face a fine, and penalty points on your licence and the e-scooter could be impounded. They can only be used on private land and there are no exceptions to this.

The dangers of e-scooters

As with any type of motor vehicle, there are inherent dangers to using an e-scooter, whether they be the dangers to the rider, or other road users.

Firstly, as electric scooters are available to rent on-the-go, people often do not have the appropriate safety gear to hand. Although the law does not make it mandatory to wear a helmet on an e-scooter, as with bicycles, it is best practice to wear one along with light or fluorescent clothing to keep you safe.

The higher centre of gravity on an e-scooter results in harder falls, so should you get into an accident then the likelihood of serious injury is high.

Small wheels on electric scooters make them much more liable to tipping over on potholes, gravel, and bumps in the road. The first case to go before a judge regarding e-scooters and personal injury claims took place in 2022 whereby the claimant made a claim for approximately £30,000 for a personal injury from using an e-scooter.

The rider was illegally riding a personal electric scooter and unfortunately broke her knee when she hit a pothole. She attempted to claim damages against her local authority on the basis that they had failed to adequately maintain the road. However, because the e-scooter was being ridden illegally and wasn’t from an authorised hire scheme, the local authority claimed that she shouldn’t have been on the road in the first place and her injuries were therefore caused by her own unlawful act.

As this is the first of its kind, the results of this case will set a precedent for future claims. The case has been adjourned for the lawyer’s final submissions and a final judgement will be made in due course.

In terms of dangers for other road users, some electrics scooters can reach high speeds with some even exceeding 20mph. This speed clearly poses great risk to pedestrians who could accidentally step out in front of an e-scooter or be hit by poor riding.

The potential lack of road use experience from the people renting these e-scooters could also make them a danger to other motor vehicles.

Key considerations to make before hiring an electric scooter

To avoid injury there are some key considerations to make before choosing to hire an electric scooter.

Don’t exceed a speed which you are comfortable with. The Government’s trial e-scooters have been limited to 15.5mph at a maximum. Always assess road conditions and choose the appropriate speed for the circumstances.

Always use a helmet and further protection if necessary. You should avoid riding on the road if you’re not wearing a helmet as the number and severity of hazards will increase.

You should be familiar with the Highway Code as you’re required to hold, at a minimum, a category Q entitlement on your driving licence. This includes either a full or provisional UK licence covering categories AM, A or B. If you’re unsure, familiarise yourself with the rules of the Highway Code, as they apply to anybody riding an e-scooter.

If you don’t hold a provisional driving licence as a minimum, then you may not be covered by the authorised hire scheme’s insurance policy should you have an incident.

E-scooters can be ridden on the road except for motorways, as well as in cycle lanes. They should not be ridden on the pavement, however, if you find yourself on the pavement for whatever reason—be aware of pedestrians and don’t go faster than you would on a regular scooter or bike.

E-scooter safety

The rider of the electric scooter is responsible for making sure it is used safely. Responsibility also extends to the rental provider as the e-scooters being rented must not be defective and be adequately maintained. If a defective scooter caused injuries to the rider, then the rider may have a claim against the rental provider for negligently providing defective equipment.

Nearly all types of injury can be sustained to the rider ranging from lacerations to catastrophic brain and spine injuries and even death. E-scooters have gained a reputation for being extremely dangerous with figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) showing 12 people died in e-scooter-related incidents in the first half of 2022. That’s three times higher than the same period the year before when four people died.

Do you have a legitimate claim?

As someone riding an electric scooter, if you have been injured while renting an e-scooter from an authorised hire scheme and it wasn’t your fault, then you may be able to claim against the insurers of the individual that injured you. You are still duty-bound to ride safely and while you are insured against personal injury and damage claims, you can still be held criminally liable for reckless riding resulting in injury or death.

It is illegal to ride a private e-scooter on any public highway. If you choose to do so and cause injury or damage to a pedestrian, vehicle, or other road users, you may be found to be personally liable for any damages due. Criminal liability for battery or assault may also attach if you injure a person by reckless riding. If you cause death while riding, you may be found guilty of manslaughter.

As well as this, if you were riding a private e-scooter, you may be barred from raising a personal injury claim through illegality. The law finds it unjust to compensate individuals who have sustained injuries while undertaking illegal acts.

If you are injured by an individual riding a rented scooter, you could claim against the authorised hire scheme company’s insurance. If you are injured by somebody riding a private e-scooter, you would have to sue the rider personally. This is often inadvisable as they might have insufficient assets to cover your damages and legal costs.

If there is a scenario involving an e-scooter versus a car or pedestrian, for example, depending on who caused the accident, the normal rules of negligence would apply when deciding where the fault lies.

Coodes Solicitors

At Coodes, we have a dedicated team of personal injury solicitors to advise on whether you could claim compensation or not. Most of the claims we handle are on a ‘no win no fee’ basis and you typically have three years from the date of your accident or knowing about your injury to pursue a claim.

Speak to us as soon as you can, so our personal injury lawyers can start helping you through the process of claiming compensation and getting any other support you need.

For more advice, please contact Toby Konarzewski in the Personal Injury team on 01326 213031 or at toby.konarzewski@coodes.co.uk

Tue 11th Apr 2023

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