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Bird is one of the foremost companies leading the charge of electric scooter, or E-scooter, sharing. Since coming to the city of Baltimore in 2018, thousands of people in the area have downloaded the smartphone application that lets them find and rent E-scooters to take short trips. Many of these people, however, are unaware of the terms that they have been forced to sign as a condition of riding the vehicle. Bird’s E-scooter policies are important, especially because as thousands of miles have been logged in Maryland, so too have hundreds of injuries.
The details of those policies can heavily influence who is ultimately responsible for the costs of those injuries or the other damages that an E-scooter crash can cause. The personal injury lawyers at the Baltimore law office of Gilman & Bedigian explain.
Where to Find Bird’s E-scooter Policies
Bird’s policies for riding an E-scooter come in the form of the “terms and conditions” that riders have to agree to in order to register on Bird’s smartphone application. Renting an E-scooter, therefore, requires riders to click “I agree” to a long contract – nearly 16 pages long – that they likely did not read and almost definitely did not understand.
That contract is also posted on Bird’s website.
The Relationship Between Bird’s Policies and Local Regulations
One of the most important aspects of Bird’s policies for riding an E-scooter in Maryland is that they fall away whenever they conflict with local regulations. For example, Section 1.7 of Bird’s policies states that the rider “agrees to follow all laws pertaining to the use, riding, parking, charging, and/or operation of the Vehicle,” effectively punting responsibility for learning the rules of the road from the company and onto the rider.
As Baltimore has shown, those rules are often vague and confusing, especially considering how E-scooters tend to fall between the cracks of traffic rules because they are neither cars, nor motorcycles, nor bikes, nor pedestrians. Putting responsibility onto their riders is just another attempt by Bird to absolve itself of liability in as many cases as possible.
An Extensive Release of Rights
Nearly all of Bird’s policies concern the release of a rider’s rights to hold Bird responsible for anything. While many contracts involve the release of some of the rights of the person using a service, Bird’s disclaimers and releases go far beyond what many other contracts would deem reasonable. Some of the more glaring releases and disclaimers include the following.
- Releasing a rider’s right to an E-scooter free from defects or a tendency to malfunction (Section 15).
- Releasing Bird from liability if the helmet they provided fails to protect a rider during a fall (Section 3.3).
- A disclaimer that absolves Bird from liability if an extensive pre-ride inspection should have noticed damage to an E-scooter (Section 3.1).
These are supplemented by the general release of claims in Section 15, which aims to release anyone associated with Bird for pretty much anything that could go wrong while riding an E-scooter.
Some of these releases and disclaimers are ambitious enough that a skilled personal injury lawyer can challenge them in court.
Bird’s E-scooter policy also covers the issue of helmets in Section 3.3. Of course, the bulk of this provision is a release of Bird from “any injury suffered by Rider while using any of the Bird Services, whether or not Rider is wearing a helmet at the time of injury.” This seems to include an attempt to release Bird’s liability in the situation where a rider was wearing one of the helmets that Bird provided and that helmet proved defective.
Prohibited Acts on an E-Scooter
Bird’s policies provide a laundry list of prohibited acts on their E-scooters. In theory, doing any one of these prohibited acts would violate Bird’s policies and absolve them of liability for an incident that results. Most of the prohibited acts are found in Section 1.8, though others are scattered throughout Bird’s policies:
- No headphones while riding
- Riders cannot weigh more than 200 pounds
- No violating local traffic rules
- No “racing, mountain riding, or stunt or trick riding” and no riding through water (beyond normal urban riding)
In theory, breaking any of these policies would lead to Bird absolving itself from the costs of any accident that happened, effectively throwing their riders under the bus of liability.
Just like other popular sharing apps, like Uber or Lyft, Bird uses a strict arbitration agreement to insulate itself from liability whenever a problem arises from the E-scooter it provides. This arbitration agreement is found in Section 9 of its policies and is particularly vicious.
Not only does Bird force disputes to go through its Rider Support system, first, but it also compels a binding arbitration for all disputes that are not settled by this system. Worse, Bird has already pre-selected an arbitration administrator – JAMS – and requires that arbitration to take place in Los Angeles, California. If you got hurt in Baltimore or somewhere else in Maryland, you would have to fly across the country to attend the arbitration or get Bird to agree to have it somewhere closer to home – something that is not likely to happen.
If you want to opt out of this part of Bird’s E-scooter policies, not only would you have had to read to Section 9 of the agreement; you would also have had to mail your written decision to opt out to Bird within 30 days of the effective date of the agreement or your first E-scooter ride.
Maryland Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian
Bird’s E-scooter policies show that the company is more than willing to let its customers, as well as innocent bystanders, suffer without compensation in order to maximize its own profit by insulating itself from any form of liability it can. Breaking this insulation can be difficult, but it can be done. The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian strive to represent those who have been hurt in an E-scooter accident in Maryland. Contact them online to get started on your case.