Riding at your own risk: A legal look at rental scooters

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Scooter sharing schemes are conquering the world—and often triggering emotional reactions. In the French city of Marseille, for instance, it has become a game of sorts for young people to throw them into the sea en masse.

You either love or hate them, that much seems clear. But from a legal point of view, the matter isn’t quite as cut and dry.

Media in the United States reported seven scooter-related deaths between summer 2018 and early 2019, and plenty more injuries. The legal fault line is one of liability and insurance, and it runs between the things that may or may not happen to the rider of a scooter themselves, and how they affect the people around them. 

Ride at your own risk 

Right out of the gate, any user of a scooter share service should be aware that typically, the service rejects any kind of liability not only for injuries and damages suffered by the rider, but also those that might result from an accident.

In other words, by hitting the “I agree” button under a service’s Terms and Conditions, you agree to a waiver of liability. If you injure yourself, it’s on you, and if you injure others, that is on you, too.

The lengths to which service providers go to let you know about this differ significantly. There may be a reference to traffic rules; you may be reminded that you’re required to wear a helmet; and so on. The Terms and Conditions typically state that by accepting them, you as the rider confirm that you’re aware of the dangers and risks implied.

Legal grey area beyond typical traffic risks

While service providers act within reason where they assume that the rider is aware of the typical risks of moving through traffic, they might ultimately find themselves forced to run special information where risks are concerned that are connected directly with the electric scooters.

Should such a risk be identified, this could mean that the service provider has violated their obligation to inform the rider.

Issues specifically related to the scooters continue where riders are required to make sure they are in usable conditions before they set off.

Checking scooters: What you can and what you can’t see

Every single service provider we have looked at requires its riders to make sure the scooter is in good condition before beginning their ride.

Users are actually legally required to inform the provider of any problems they have identified with a particular scooter, and are forbidden to use the one in question.

The question here is what problems the user can identify at all. Any visually identifiable shortcomings, such as parts broken off, cracks and the like, can certainly be left to the user to identify. Other problems, ranging from broken speed control units to loose wires and broken motors, might not be as easily to pin down.

If such a hidden issue causes an accident, it wouldn’t be excessive to expect the service provider to be held liable for at least the damage and injuries caused to the rider. Here, a liability of the provider to compensate the rider for damages is implied as well, in the same fashion the rider is liable for damages caused to third parties and third-party property in the case of an accident.

Providers liable only where direct issues of scooters concerned

This suggests that a provider can be held liable at least by a third party only where they allowed faulty scooters onto the street. In other words, if you ride your rented scooter down the road and it suddenly accelerates and you can’t slow down, and you end up causing an accident, a technical issue may be the culprit. In such a case, the provider can be held liable.

But where your own behaviour in traffic is involved, or to the extent to which you failed to make sure that you are familiar with rules and regulations before you got going—that is all within your responsibility as the user.

If you have any questions regarding this subject, don’t hesitate to contact our sworn advocate Artur Sanglepp and advocate Kätlin Ots, at (+372) 686 0000 or via email info@levinlaw.ee. We are more than happy to help out.

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