Ever since electric scooters, or E-scooters as they have become known, have come to Baltimore and Maryland, the number of E-scooter crashes has skyrocketed. With every new E-scooter accident, the question of insurance has come up. Does insurance cover the costs of the crash? Which details make or break an insurance company's coverage?
The personal injury lawyers at the Baltimore law office of Gilman & Bedigian explain.
Why E-scooter Accidents Raise Complex Insurance Issues
E-scooters are a relatively recent phenomenon. Sharing E-scooters under a business model used by companies like Lime and Bird is even more novel. So novel, in fact, that most insurance companies never considered it when writing their standard insurance policies.
This is not problematic, in itself: insurance policies are designed to account for real-world developments and use language that is vague enough that it should give at least an indication that a particular situation is covered or not.
Not so with E-scooter sharing companies. Not only are Bird's E-scooters hybrid vehicles. They are motorized so they are not bikes, but their engine is small enough that they are also rarely considered to be motorcycles, and they cannot be the same as a car because they have two wheels rather than four. They are also rented, rather than owned. In numerous different ways, then, rented E-scooters fall between important definitions on a standard insurance policy, raising serious doubts as to whether a particular policy covers the costs of accidents involving an E-scooter.
The Different Types of Personal Insurance That Could Be Implicated in an E-scooter Accident
Insurance policies are designed to cover the threats and damages that come from specific types of dangers that you can encounter. Each one of them, though, either has an Achilles' Heel when it comes to damages incurred in E-scooter rental incidents or has a severely limited ability to cover the costs of an accident. Consider the following.
- Auto Insurance. Insurance companies realize that the costs of an accident are much higher when it was a motorcycle involved in the crash rather than a typical passenger vehicle. Therefore, most standard auto insurance policies distinguish between cars and motorcycles in their coverage. If you have auto insurance rather than motorcycle insurance, an E-scooter accident will likely fall outside the realm of your auto insurance coverage because E-scooters have two wheels, not four.
- Homeowner's Insurance. Surprisingly, homeowner's insurance can provide liability coverage in some instances. While typically designed to cover slip-and-fall cases where someone else gets hurt by a dangerous condition on your property, that coverage could, conceivably, at least, cover your liability if you damage someone else's property or person. However, homeowner's insurance rarely applies to motor vehicles, which typically include any vehicle that is self-propelled. Therefore, coverage under the homeowner's insurance is a long shot after an E-scooter accident.
- Medical Insurance. If you have medical insurance, you can rely on it to cover the costs of the medical expenses you incurred in the E-scooter accident, subject, of course, to your deductible and other limitations. However, medical insurance will do nothing to cover the costs of any liability you have for other people's injuries or damages if you caused the accident, or for the non-medical losses you have incurred.
- Umbrella Liability Insurance. Umbrella liability insurance is an add-on type of insurance that covers the costs of your liability in incidents beyond the coverage in your auto or homeowner's insurance. While it would likely cover the costs of an E-scooter accident that you caused, few people carry it because of the increased costs it adds to your insurance premiums.
As you can see, the coverage for each of these types of insurance that you could have is either unlikely to extend to an E-scooter crash or only cover the costs of your own injuries. This could leave potentially thousands of dollars of liability uncovered in a crash. Most of those uncovered damages lie at the feet of the person who was not on the E-scooter, leaving them reliant on the E-scooter company's insurance policy to ensure they get the compensation they deserve.
The E-Scooter Company's Insurance
In a perfect world, the E-scooter company would provide insurance coverage that would pay for everyone's losses in the event of a collision or other injury. However, E-scooter companies are for-profit businesses that rely on the fact that people would rather have an inexpensive product or service than the assurance that they will be covered if something goes wrong. E-scooter riders fall into this mindset: They would pay very little, every time, then not face the risk that they could pay thousands of dollars in liability in the rare event that something goes wrong.
Innocent pedestrians, meanwhile, are not an E-scooter company's paying customers. It makes sound financial sense to limit their insurance rights against the E-scooter company to the potential loss the E-scooter company might have to pay out, should they take their claims to court.
The only things requiring E-scooter companies to provide insurance for the rides put on their vehicles are the regulations passed by the cities in which they operate. Unfortunately, not every city has passed regulations or legislation that requires E-scooter companies to carry this insurance. Additionally, E-scooter companies are prone to limiting insurance coverage to those who strictly abide by their rules of the road – rules that are notoriously vague for E-scooters and often difficult to understand and follow. When an accident happens and it is found that the rider was breaking those policies, E-scooter companies are likely to try pulling their coverage from the situation, entirely.
Understand Your Policy Before Riding an E-Scooter
The insurance issues that surround the world of rented E-scooter and E-scooter sharing companies makes it critical for potential riders to look at and understand their own insurance before getting on an E-scooter. As E-scooters hit the mainstream, this will become less and less of a problem as insurance companies will begin adding clear and explicit language into their standard policies about E-scooters.
Until then, though, the personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help. Contact them online if you want to know the extent of your insurance coverage and whether it applies to E-scooter accidents, or if you have been hurt already and want to invoke your rights to compensation.