After a surprise rollout and more than a year of starts, stops and general confusion, dockless e-scooters will be fully legally available for rent and riding at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront by Summer 2020.
As any public official, ER doctor and personal injury lawyer in a city that has permitted e-scooters can attest, the devices rented by Lime, Bird and a host of other micromobility startups, scooter crashes are soon to follow the widespread availability of the devices. As summarized in a Statista article, research published in the journal JAMA Surgery revealed that injuries due to e-scooter use more than tripled from 4,583 in 2014, before the devices started flooding U.S. streets, to 14,641 during 2018, after Lime and Bird launched.
The article further notes that “only five percent of those injured wore a helmet at the time.” This, unsurprisingly meant “nearly a third of all patients incurred a head injury, double the rate experienced by cyclists.”
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So, accidents will happen. Serious ones. Which raises the obvious question of what legal options the people who get hurt in what promises to be a rash of e-scooter crashes in Virginia Beach have. The answer depends on the circumstances for each collision, as well as the severity of the injuries suffered.
E-Scooter Rules in Virginia Beach
Before running through a handful of possible scenarios, it is important to understand that e-scooters fall into a gray area of Virginia state law. The rules for companies like Bird and Lime are set by cities and counties, and riders are treated as a combination of pedestrians and bicyclist. Diving deeply into those details will cause more confusion than clarity.
What anyone who rents and rides an e-scooter at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront must know going in is that
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must hold a valid driver’s license
- You should wear a helmet, but failing to wear one will not be considered contributory negligence of the kind that prevents filing insurance claims or personal injury lawsuits.
- You must stay under 15 mph.
- You cannot ride on the Boardwalk or in the bike lanes along the Boardwalk.
- You should stay off the sidewalk.
- You can ride in the trolley lanes, but only at a reduced speed of 10 mph.
- You should keep to the far right and ride in the same direction as traffic.
- You must obey stop signs and red lights.
- You should use crosswalks.
- You must yield right of way to pedestrians.
Scenario 1: A Driver Crashes Into You
An e-scooter rider who is struck by a negligent or reckless driver has all the same rights to seek compensation and other types of monetary damages as any victim of a traffic accident. Succeeding in recovering medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earnings and payments for pain and suffering will depend on showing that the driver was completely at fault. In practical terms, the injured e-scooter rider will only succeed in holding a driver accountable if they were following all the rules listed above.
Scenario 2: You Cause the Crash
An e-scooter rider who falls, runs into a vehicle or crashes into a building will be on their own for paying medical bills. The company that rented the device cannot be held liable for the actions of an e-scooter renter, and Virginia’s contributory negligence rule makes it impossible to hold a driver partially responsible for a crash.
Scenario 3: You Crash Because the E-Scooter Malfunctioned
E-scooter rental companies enjoy broad immunity from personal injury lawsuits except when it comes to renting out dangerous or defective equipment. Bird, Lime and the others have legal duties to provide well-designed and properly maintained e-scooters. A rider who can prove that they crashed because of a defect with the device they were using could potentially succeed with a lawsuit against the relevant company. Several of these types of product liability lawsuits are working their way through the courts.
Scenario 4: An E-Scooter Riders Runs Into You While You Are Walking
Since e-scooter riders at the Virginia Beach oceanfront must have valid driver’s licenses and licensed drivers in Virginia are supposed to carry automobile insurance, it is possible that a pedestrian hurt by a rider could file an insurance claim against the rider. More likely, however, the injured pedestrian would need to either sue the rider directly or attempt to file an uninsured motorist claim with their own car insurance company.
Trying to collect compensation and damages from an individual, rather than an insurance company, is usually quite difficult and not worth the effort. Few people have the financial resources to pay an adequate settlement or jury award.
Uninsured motorist claims present their own challenges. The insurance company will investigate the case just like it was coming from a third party. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney will make a lot of sense.