Bird Scooters Arrive in Kansas City
In case you missed it, Bird, one of the largest e-scooter rental companies, “quietly” dropped off approximately 100 of its battery-powered scooters in downtown KC in early July. Then in early August they were banned from the Country Club Plaza due to tenant and customer complaints . However, the ban did not last long as the Bird scooters are once again scooting along the Plaza. Now it seems they may have competition coming to town. Kansas City will get another wave of scooters this week when Lime drops it’s dockless electric scooters in the area Tuesday afternoon.
Similar to Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing companies, Bird operates through a mobile app. If customers want to “rent” Bird scooters, they use the app to locate a nearby scooter. Before riding, however, Bird requires customers to sign a Waiver and Release of Liability. Bird conveniently refers to the waiver as a “Rental Agreement.”
What Do I Need to Know Before I Sign Bird’s “Rental Agreement”?
The waiver and release of liability Bird requires customers to sign before using its scooters attempts to provide a full release of any liability for Bird and its employees. According to Bird, by signing the agreement, a rider forfeits his or her right to pursue Bird for injury or death arising from use of the scooter, failure to wear a helmet, and even if the scooter “malfunctions” or is otherwise “properly maintained.” The agreement also imposes upon the rider an obligation to perform a “safety check” before using the scooter, and attempts to release Bird from any mechanical failure the rider may experience. To view Bird’s full rental agreement, click here.
If I Get in an Accident while Riding a Bird Scooter, Will Insurance Cover Me?
Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of Bird’s user agreement is what is NOT mentioned: insurance coverage.
When ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft first came on scene, they were under heavy fire for not providing insurance coverage for their customers. Today, however, legislative efforts have resulted in most states requiring ride-sharing companies to provide minimum insurance coverage for injuries. Ride-sharing laws generally provide limits of $1,000,000. To learn more about insurance issues in ride-sharing, visit our website.
Riders may have no recourse if Bird does not provide coverage. Any chance of recovery for riders will have to come from personal automobile coverage. Even then, it’s uncertain whether a standard auto policy will provide coverage for injuries suffered riding a motorized scooter. Some automobile policies go as far as to specifically exclude coverage for “motorized bicycles”. It’s unclear if this and similar provisions would extend to Bird scooters.
To illustrate, consider the following example: Bill is riding a Bird scooter and is struck by another vehicle driven by Jane. Bill suffers serious injuries. Jane was responsible. In this example, whose insurance applies? Generally, and assuming Jane has automobile insurance, her insurance would apply to cover Bill’s injuries. If Jane does not have insurance, or her insurance coverage limits are inadequate to cover Bill’s injuries, you would look to see if Bill’s own insurance provided “uninsured” or “underinsured” motorist coverage. Even then it’s uncertain if coverage would be afforded because of the potential for motorized scooter and bicycle exclusions.
Take it a step further, what happens if a rider strikes a pot hole, resulting in injury? What about if the scooter has a mechanical issue, like defective brakes? In addition to any defenses raised by operation of the rental agreement, these are likely scenarios where personal auto insurance would not provide coverage. Until Bird is forced to provide liability insurance coverage, riders need to be aware of these potential coverage issues.