Motorized scooters are here in Atlanta whether you like it or not
What started out as a Silicon Valley bro-fad is quickly becoming a daily presence on the streets of Atlanta. There are many players in the “shareable dockless mobility devices” game in Atlanta including: Bird, Lime, Muving Ecosystems, Ofo. If you haven’t seen a scooter or moped posted out in front of a building or on a street corner yet then you will very soon.
There are many reasons to be thrilled about the electric scooter fever: Scooters swiftly move commuters short distances without parking and traffic headaches, help close transportation gaps in neighborhoods, provide cheap transit for students and people with modest disposable incomes, and will hopefully help in decreasing traffic congestion. Cities and urban planners often refer to this problem as the “last mile” – meaning getting people from transit or offices to a final close destination which is often the least efficient. Companies such as UPS, FedEx, and Amazon spend millions trying to solve this problem.
My firm is located in the heart of midtown and a frequent user of all rideshare and rental on demand services. The convenience and ease of these new age alternatives are just now coming to full realization. Also, we are a close observer of the rideshare community. Since we deal with many rideshare-specific accident/injury claims, our success depends on the growth and popularity of companies like Uber, Lyft, and, now, Lime, Bird, and the rest. We are pro-rideshare, pro-shared mobility, pro-innovation, and pro-tech, but, above everything else, we’re pro-safety.
While we appreciate the utility and inescapability of motorized personal transport, we have concerns about scooter companies’ business models and their waivers of liability.
Let’s brief talk about Lime, which recently received a massive investment from Uber and is to be featured on their app. Several sections of Lime’s Terms of Service completely insulate the company from liability for user and third party injuries.
For instance, riders must “assume all responsibilities and risks for any injuries or medical conditions” from crashes on the scooters. Also, riders are “solely responsible and liable for all consequences, claims, demands, causes of action, losses, liabilities, damages, injuries, costs and expenses, penalties, attorneys’ fees, judgments, suits, fees (including impounding fees charged by any local government), and/or disbursements of any kind” when using the services.
Let’s think about that:
This essentially means that Lime refutes financial liability for a rider’s medical bills, lost wages, disability, and pain and suffering sustained by a scooter crash. If a Lime rider collides with a third party, the rider is fully financial responsible to the injured person. On the same train of thought, if a rider crashes into a parked car regardless of user error or mechanical problem, the rider pays for the property damage.
Even further, if Lime is sued, then rider must reimburse Lime for any money it pays to an aggrieved party, including the company’s attorneys’ fees and litigation costs. They have included not only arbitration but reimbursement/indemnification clauses in their User Agreement.
Lime and others have basically thrown their hands in the air and said, “It’s not never problem our problem. Check the fine print in the User Agreement.” These provisions are soon to be tried in court or regulated by the City of Atlanta.
Hypothetically speaking a Lime rider could crash into an innocent bystander and break their leg. An ostensibly harmless ride home could cause financial ruin for both parties. Per Lime’s Terms of Service, the pedestrian would need to sue the rider for medical bills and lost wages which could cost the rider thousands of dollars.
Without the rider being independently wealthy or have special liability insurance, then the injured party could have no recourse. They would have to pay for those expenses themselves.
The regular rules of the road always apply. Cars are supposed to treat scooters like bikes or pedestrians. In a situation where a scooter and car are in an accident, if the car is at fault then their liability policy would apply. At the same time, if you are on a scooter and you get struck, then your underinsured (UM) motorist protection may apply.
Bird and Lime want to change local transportation. We’re all about it. However, we want them to do it the proper way – no avoiding their obligations to our community. Thankfully, the City Council of Atlanta has recently proposed requiring these companies to carry $3 million in liability coverage in order to operate in Atlanta.
Scooters in Atlanta are not necessary going away and a lot of us want them here. But, first, we need to make sure these corporations take responsibility for the harms and losses that will certainly happen.