Written by: Ebony Davenport
San Francisco-based ‘Spin’ –an electric scooter provider owned by Ford Motor Co.– recently launched 100 scooters in downtown Dayton on August 21, 2019. The RTA-backed LINK bike-share program launched May of 2015, and the free RTA Flyer shuttle bus launched November of 2018. The Spin electric scooters are the latest installment in the City of Dayton’s initiative to provide transportation alternatives to motor vehicles. While this is an exciting addition to Downtown Dayton, the rise of electric scooters involves some unique insurance and liability considerations.
Earlier this year, Dayton City Commissioners approved ordinances to amend and supplement existing laws to govern electric-powered transportation devices like hoverboards, bicycles, skates, and scooters. These new laws prohibit the use of electric scooters, and similar devices, on sidewalks and are only permitted to travel up to 15 mph. Generally, the new laws will treat the electric scooters like bicycles, which raises concerns about liability issues and insurance coverage.
Larger cities across the country, like Washington D.C., are experiencing close calls and even accidents, involving scooter operators and pedestrians, strollers, and cars. A recent study by Consumer Reports shows that at least eight people died while using similar electric-powered scooters since the fall of 2017, while another 1,500 were injured, including some who were paralyzed. In June, Mayor David Briley of Nashville, Tennessee, ended the city’s pilot program and effectively banned the scooters amid public safety and accessibility concerns.
Despite these concerns, riders need to be aware of the risks involved in operating these transportation devices, including the possibility they might not be covered by their existing insurance policy. When you rent a Spin scooter, you are relieving the company of any liability when you hit “I Agree” to the terms and conditions. So, what happens if you’re involved in an accident? A typical auto insurance policy will not cover the devices as they generally only cover vehicles with at least four wheels, said Loretta Worters, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute, which represents auto and home owners. Likewise, a homeowner’s policy will cover traditional bicycles, but will not extend coverage to motorized devices. This gap in coverage is due in large part to a lack of consideration; these policies were not written with non-motor vehicle devices in mind. The result of this gap in coverage is that riders who are involved in accidents, may bear the responsibility for financial damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Personal liability umbrella policies (“PLUP”) offer an additional layer of protection that becomes effective when you reach the limit of your underlying auto or homeowner insurance. PLUP can fill in the gap of coverage to extend to areas your traditional policies do not cover. At any rate, consumers should carefully examine their existing insurance policies, and contact their insurance agents to be clear whether they are covered.
Before you decide to take these new scooters for a spin, contact the attorneys of Pickrel, Schaeffer & Ebeling to check whether you’re covered under your existing insurance, or if you need to add an umbrella policy. If you have any questions or simply wish to discuss this issue or any other matter, please contact us at (937) 223-1130.