If you have been out and about, you have probably noticed people riding rented electric scooters. These scooters can be found at designated locations throughout the metro area, offering a low-cost way to get from point A to point B.
Similar to Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing companies, Bird and Lime operate through a mobile app. If customers want to “rent” a scooter, they use the app to locate one nearby. Before riding, however, customers are required to sign a “Waiver and Release of Liability.” Depending on which company you rent a scooter from, these waivers may be called either a “Rental Agreement” or “User Agreement.”
The “Waiver and Release of Liability” customers are required to sign before using electric scooters attempts to provide a full release of any liability for the company and its employees. By signing the agreement, a rider forfeits his or her right to pursue Bird or Lime for injury or death arising from the use of the scooter or 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 the rental company from any mechanical failure the rider may experience. Be sure to review the full rental agreement before your rent a motorized scooter from Bird or Lime.
Currently, Bird and Lime do not offer insurance coverage for their customers. 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 and Lime scooters.
Consider the following example: Bill is riding a Bird scooter and is struck by another vehicle, driven by Jane. Bill suffers serious injuries, and Jane was responsible. In this example, whose insurance applies?
Generally, 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, however, it’s uncertain if coverage would be afforded because of the potential for motorized scooter and bicycle exclusions.
Let’s take this a step further and imagine what would happen if a rider strikes a pothole, resulting in injury. Or, perhaps the scooter had 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 or Lime are forced to provide liability insurance coverage, riders need to be aware of these potential coverage issues.
If for some reason an incident does occur and an electric scooter rider is injured, the individual does have rights they can exercise, although it should be done through a personal injury attorney. Both Bird and Lime agreements include an area outlining resolutions and disputes, your rights to arbitration, and the process if the rider and the electric scooter company cannot reach a resolution.
Both electric scooter companies include a class action waiver limiting any dispute to be handled as an individual capacity and not as a class action or other representative action. By signing the agreement, you waive your right to file a class action or seek relief on a class basis against Bird or Lime.
However, Bird does offer 30 days from the effective date of your first use to opt out of their class action waiver. The format of which a request should be submitted is outlined under the “Right to Opt Out” section of the Bird “Rental Agreement.”