Should the E-scooter sharing company Bird ever come to Philadelphia, the company's policies surrounding the rental of its electric scooters will have an influence over any situation where something went wrong and someone got hurt. Looking at Bird's standard policies and how they have treated people elsewhere, it would surprise no one if Bird did absolutely everything it possibly could to avoid liability for a crash or injury caused by its riders or its E-scooters. Most of Bird's policies, in fact, aim to push as much liability onto the rider and insulate the company from paying the costs of an accident.
The results of Bird's policies can be a disastrous outcome for people who were hurt in an E-scooter crash through no fault of their own, and find themselves in need of compensation for the costs of the incident.
Bird's E-Scooter Policies
Bird's E-scooter policies come in the form of “clickwrap” – they are the terms and conditions that E-scooter riders are supposed to read before they are allowed to rent the electric scooters that Bird provides. Only by clicking “I agree” on the terms and conditions of use for the E-scooters can riders rent them.
The problem, though, is that Bird's policies are nearly 16 pages long. They are the classic example of the kind of binding contract that no one ever reads, and that no one would even understand if they did read them. Instead, potential E-scooter riders are almost guaranteed to click “I agree” to whatever is in the terms and conditions so they can get on their scooter and go.
Riders Release Lots of Rights in Bird's E-Scooter Policy
Most of Bird's E-scooter policy focuses on the legal rights that an E-scoter rider relinquishes against the company and all of the things that an injured person cannot do. In fact, Section 15 of the policy expressly disclaims Bird's responsibility for basically anything that could ever happen on an E-scooter – even if Bird was to be found negligent – and even states that the rider “assumes full and complete responsibility for all related risks, dangers, and hazards” that come with riding an E-scooter.
Further policy provisions include those that:
- Release the rider's right to an E-scooter that is not defective (Section 15)
- Release Bird from liability if the helmet, which they provide, is defective (Section 3.3)
- Requires the rider to make an extensive pre-ride inspection of their E-scooter of choice, and absolves Bird from liability if an injury was caused by damage that would have been noticed during that inspection (Section 3.1)
The scope of these releases, though, is excessive enough that they might not withstand the challenge of a personal injury lawsuit.
What Cannot Be Done on an E-Scooter
Bird's policies also lay out a handful of “prohibited acts” on their E-scooters. Doing any one of these things would violate Bird's policies and would, presumably, be used by Bird as justification for not covering the costs of whatever happened afterwards. Some of those prohibited acts, though, seem designed to be broken so Bird can escape liability. Most of the prohibited acts are found in Section 1.8 of Bird's E-scooter policy, though others are scattered throughout the rest of the policy. Some of the more glaring examples include:
- No violating local traffic laws, though Bird provides no guidance on where to find those laws
- No wearing headphones while riding
- Riders weighing over 200 pounds are prohibited
- No riding through water “beyond normal urban riding”
The Issue of Helmets
The issue of whether adults need to wear a helmet while they are riding a vehicle has always been contentious – whether it is a motorcycle, bike, or E-scooter. Bird's policies do not require riders to wear a helmet. They do, however, release Bird from liability for “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,” even if the helmet the rider was using was one of the helmets that Bird provides through the mail.
Local Traffic Regulations Trump Policy
Bird's E-scooter policy also requires riders to “follow all laws pertaining to the use, riding, parking, charging, and/or operation of the Vehicle.” However, no resources are given that adequately explains the details of those laws, effectively punting responsibility to the rider to go out and find what is legal and illegal to do.
Abiding by whatever those local traffic laws are is essential because breaking any one of them can be used by Bird to claim that a rider violated its policies and should, therefore, be liable for all of the costs of the crash and resulting injuries, rather than Bird.
A Forced Arbitration Provision
Finally, anyone who gets hurt and wants to implicate Bird in a lawsuit over an injury sustained in an E-scooter crash – or any other matter – and who has signed the policy is forced to go through arbitration, first. Worse, the forced arbitration provision found in Section 9 of Bird's E-scooter policies employs several incredibly aggressive tactics to insulate the company from liability:
- It forces riders to take disputes through the Rider Support system, first, giving Bird a strong argument against a rider who does not satisfy this preliminary and meaningless requirement
- It pre-selects the arbitrator to be used for disputes
- It requires arbitration to take place in Los Angeles, California
Opting out of this arbitration provision requires mailing written notification to Bird that you want to opt out of arbitration within 30 days of clicking the “I agree” button on the policy, or within 30 days of your first E-scooter ride.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian
Bird's E-scooter policies in Philadelphia are designed to kick as many people under the bus before they are held liable for the costs of a crash involving one of their vehicles. While there is little that riders can do to avoid the policy – it is a “take it or leave it” part of the application, so not agreeing to the policy prevents you from riding an E-scooter – riders can help themselves by reading it, understanding their rights, opting out of the arbitration clause, and calling a lawyer if something goes wrong and they get hurt.