Bird Scooters Arrive in Kansas City

The Bird, Lime, and Spin scooters you’ve probably seen throughout the city operate through a mobile app on your smart phone, like Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing companies.

If customers wish to “rent” a scooter, they use an app to locate a nearby scooter. However, before riding customers are required to sign a waiver and release of liability. Some scooter companies, like Bird in particular, conveniently refer to the waiver as a “rental agreement.” Here we look at Bird’s liability waiver and address some of the questions you should consider before taking your first motorized scooter ride.

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 these user agreements 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. Learn more about insurance issues in ride-sharing.

Unfortunately, riders of rental scooters now face this same issue.  They may have no recourse for their injuries if the scooter companies do not provide insurance 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 scooters.

To illustrate, consider the following example: Bill is riding a 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 pothole, 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 these companies are forced to provide liability insurance coverage, riders need to be aware of these potential coverage issues.