In Los Angeles Are Vague, Even Non-Existent
(Editor’s note: Corpus Christi Monsignor Liam Kidney was sent to the hospital after being struck by a person driving a dockless scooter. The person left the scene, a hit and run. The person was not charged and supposedly the scooter company did not provide the person’s identification.
This led Pacific Palisades Community Council members Steve Boyers and Chris Spitz to write a resolution regarding the operation of scooters in Los Angeles. It was approved by the Community Council and sent to Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council.
The resolution asked the City to deny, suspend or revoke business licenses to companies that refuse to cooperate with law enforcement.
At the June 27 PPCC meeting, Councilman Mike Bonin said, “We spoke to the city attorney. Police officers said they couldn’t reach the company.” He explained that the standard for dockless scooters would be the same as for a rental car company.
Turns out it’s more complicated than that. This is the first of a two-part story examining scooters.)
A young girl, who looked to be three years old, was holding onto the stem of the dockless scooter, while her mom drove it through heavy traffic on Ocean Avenue by Moomat Ahiko in Santa Monica. It appeared her husband was following her on another scooter with a slightly older boy also holding onto the stem. None of the four was wearing a helmet.
Driving through Venice on Neilson Way, three young adults were on scooters in the slow lane. Cars slowed and put on blinkers to go around them, but even then, there was a near accident. One of the scooter riders swerved into the fast lane, while he was texting. Nobody was wearing a helmet.
Last September, the L.A. City Council voted to approve a one-year pilot for dockless scooters/bicycles that capped the number at 3,000 per company.
Additional City rules mandated that the scooters had to be left upright and on the outer edge of sidewalks, near bus benches, parking meters and advertising kiosks. There was a 15 MPH speed limit cap and they scooters/bikes were not allowed on the sidewalk.
The year is almost up, what do we know?
Emergency physicians say they have seen an uptick in the number of people admitted to hospital ERs because of scooter accidents.
The Journal of the American Medical Association reported in a January 2019 story (“Injuries Associated with Standing Electric Scooter Use”) about a study by two hospitals that tracked scooter accidents between September 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018 (the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and the UCLA Medical Center–Santa Monica).
JAMA reported, “In this study of a case series, 249 patients presented to the emergency department with injuries associated with electric scooter use during a one-year period, with 10.8 percent of patients younger than 18 years and only 4.4 percent of riders documented to be wearing a helmet. The most common injuries were fractures (31.7%), head injuries (40.2%), and soft-tissue injuries (27.7%).”
The JAMA story also compared injuries during the same period for bicyclists (195) and for pedestrians (181).
A February 2019 Consumer Reports story (“E-Scooter Ride-Share Industry Leaves Injuries and Angered Cities in its Path”) reported that an estimated 1,500 people across the country had been injured in e-scooter-related crashes since late 2017.
The magazine collected reports from 110 major hospitals and five public agencies in 47 cities, where at least one of the two biggest scooter companies, Bird or Lime, operated.
“Several doctors at trauma centers told CR they’ve been treating serious injuries related to e-scooters since the ride-share fleets started showing up on some city streets about a year and a half ago,” the story reported. “Other hospitals told Consumer Reports they don’t track the scooter injuries.”
A new California law went into effect in January 2019 that eliminated the state’s helmet requirement for e-scooter riders older than 18. The law was supported by Bird and signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown. Everyone under the age of 18 is still required to have a helmet.
Councilman Bonin said at the June 27 PPCC meeting that these scooters would have to operate like car rentals. But do they?
When you rent a car, you have the option to take out insurance. Or if you have your own insurance, you can decline the extra coverage offered by the rental agency. That is not the case with dockless scooters.
E-scooter companies generally require users to assume all liability arising out of their e-scooter use. There is no option for a renter to purchase insurance.
A February 2019 story found by the Insurance Information Institute (“Spotlight on: e-scooters and insurance. How personal insurance addresses e-scooter injuries”) explains coverage.
A standard auto policy excludes liability coverage for a vehicle with fewer than four wheels. “Motorcycle insurance may not cover scooters that require users to stand,” the story reported.
The article explained that medical costs to treat injuries sustained while operating a scooter would have to be paid for by a person’s health insurance. If the person was using the scooter for work-related purposed, the person might be eligible for workers compensation benefits.
How about a standard homeowner’s policy? Would it cover liabilities arising out of a “motor vehicle/scooter” accident? No, and renters insurance will also not cover vehicle-related liability.
A personal liability umbrella policy might provide coverage for perils that are excluded from the underlying insurance policies. “Unlike an auto policy, a standard PLUP does not usually exclude vehicles with fewer than four wheels and therefore may provide some coverage for e-scooter liabilities.”
(Tomorrow we examine the waivers that scooter riders sign and who enforces the rules.)