If you live in a medium- or large-sized city in Canada, you’re probably aware of e-scooters. These small, electronic transportation devices have become immensely popular in many US markets and are already available in Calgary, Edmonton, and Montreal. They travel at a maximum speed of around 25 km/h and operate similarly to the public bike share programs that have found success in Toronto and Montreal: users sign up online and use the scooters for a small fee. However, unlike bike shares, e-scooters don’t need to be returned to designated docking stations; they can be left wherever the rider’s journey comes to an end.
In Toronto, where market leader Bird has run small-scale tests, personal injury lawyers are concerned about e-scooters’ impact on road safety and potential liability issues stemming from accidents. Is their fear justified?
E-Scooters: A Brief History
Bird launched in 2017 in Santa Monica, California, and quickly expanded to 120 cities around the world, according to Inc.com. Competitors emerged within months, most notably Lime, previously a bike-share company, and Uber and Lyft, both of which have experimented with e-scooter programs.
“Bird might be the fastest-growing company ever,” one investor told Inc. “It could be the fastest-growing company to a billion-dollar run rate in history.”
Proponents of e-scooters call them a flexible, efficient, and emission-free alternative to driving or taking public transit downtown. Yet they remain illegal on public streets in Ontario.
Critics of e-scooter programs, including some personal injury lawyers, believe they make public roads more dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. Helmets are not mandatory. They travel too fast to be safely used on sidewalks and too slowly to be safely used on streets. They are known to create chaos in bike lanes. And they are particularly vulnerable to potholes and large cracks, which Toronto and other seasonal cities struggle with. According to the Globe and Mail, e-scooter accidents caused more than 540 emergency room visits between July and mid-October 2019.
Then there is the question of liability: who is to blame for these injuries, and where will compensation come from? While the e-scooter operators and host cities tend to be robustly insured against accident damages, individual users don’t have the same luxury.
“I think there’s no question that if you’re on a scooter and you injure somebody through your own negligence, you’ll be liable for that accident and that injury,” one Calgary-based personal injury lawyer told the Globe.
“With respect to the rider, it’s no difference if they have an accident on their personal bicycle, while on a skateboard, or even while running,” added Bird Canada chief executive Stewart Lyons. “If the rider is negligent, then they are negligent – and that doesn’t change just because they are on a scooter.”
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
While e-scooters remain illegal in Ontario today, this may not be the case for long. The provincial Ministry of Transportation is considering changes to allow Bird, Lime, and other operators access to major cities. When this occurs, it will be left to personal injury lawyers and the court system to sort out complex liability issues.
If you or a member of your family has been injured in a traffic accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced accident lawyer.
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