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Electric scooters, or E-scooters, have altered the landscape of urban environments in Maryland and elsewhere. Since Bird has been allowed to put E-scooters on the roads and sidewalks of Baltimore, lots of riders have made use of the service for so-called “last mile” trips that are too far to walk but too short to drive. The service that E-scooter sharing companies provide is not just convenient – it is also environmentally friendly.
However, these same E-scooter sharing companies make use of extensive liability waivers in their policies that are designed to insulate the company from the costs of an accident. Those waivers aim to severely reduce your legal rights by having you sign them away in order to use the company’s E-scooters, leaving you with fewer options if you get hurt and need compensation.
How E-Scooter Companies Use Waivers
E-scooter riders in Baltimore who have already accessed the smartphone application that allows them to find, rent, ride, and return E-scooters will have already encountered Bird’s rental policies. These policies are contained in the infamous terms and conditions that riders are presumed to have read before they click the “I agree” button and are allowed to rent an E-scooter.
Needless to say, very few E-scooter riders have actually read those terms and conditions. Even those who know the importance of understanding their rights and who have expressed an interest in reading the policy were likely deterred by the exorbitant length – Bird’s policies span 16 pages, while competitor Lime’s policies are an absurd 53 pages.
Most of those pages deal with all of the rights that riders agree to waive in order to use an E-scooter. These waivers include agreements – agreements that the vast majority of riders do not know they are making – about how dangerous it is to ride an E-scooter and that the rider will not hold the E-scooter sharing company liable for any injuries that result. For example, Section 15 of Bird’s E-scooter policies states that the rider “assumes full and complete responsibility for all related risks, dangers, and hazards” of using an E-scooter. Other provisions require E-scooter riders to abide by a litany of complex and vague rules – insinuating that riders who do not comply with those rules would be breaking the agreement, allowing the company to escape from liability for the incident.
Waivers are Not that Powerful in Maryland
Reading the waivers and the terms and conditions in Bird’s E-scooter sharing policies, you would think that the company could never be sued, no matter what it did. Thankfully, the law in Maryland recognizes that, if companies like Bird or Lime were allowed to escape every possible form of liability by mandating all potential customers to sign a waiver, then every company would do it and no one would be able to hold them accountable if they got hurt by the company’s poor conduct.
That is why contract law in Maryland – and these policies are a contract, as they outline your legal rights from the agreement that you make with an E-scooter sharing company – does not allow companies to require people to waive all of their conceivable rights. There are a handful of situations where these waivers will not be upheld in court if an injured customer or third party challenges them in a personal injury lawsuit.
Two of those situations are particularly important in the context of the waivers used by E-scooter sharing companies.
Waivers that Violate Public Policy are Unenforceable
In Maryland, waivers can only go so far. When they are so against the public good – like when a contract provision requires someone to break the law – courts can refuse to uphold them. That same idea can apply to the waivers used by E-scooter sharing companies in two situations.
First, companies that perform important public services are limited in how they can disclaim liabilities for accidents or injuries. Should E-scooter sharing become so ubiquitous in Maryland cities that they are seen as a staple of transportation on par with buses or taxis, those limitations could begin to change how the law sees the waivers they use in their E-scooter sharing policies.
Second, E-scooter sharing companies do not require riders to wear helmets, despite designing their vehicles to travel fast enough that serious head injuries are entirely predictable if a crash happens. Because requiring E-scooter riders to wear helmets is feasible – the vehicles could be programmed to not start until a provided helmet was detached from the E-scooter, for example – and because E-scooter companies are completely aware of the fact that it is the rare rider who wears a helmet, the waivers prohibiting injured riders from filing lawsuits over helmet use could be deemed unenforceable by a court.
Liability for Willful, Wanton, Reckless, and Intentional Conduct Can Never Be Waived
Additionally, getting someone to sign a waiver that forgoes their legal rights to sue for injuries does not give the other party to that contract-free license to get them hurt. In Maryland, no matter how broad the waiver is, E-scooter companies cannot insulate themselves from liability for injuries that result from their willful, wanton, reckless, or outright intentional actions.
This exception to the power of a valid waiver is the one that is most likely to be used against E-scooter companies because it requires them to at least lift a finger when they learn that something is wrong with their vehicles or with how people use them. For example, if they know that a particular E-scooter in Baltimore has broken brakes that are almost guaranteed to hurt someone, but they deliberately put it out for riders to use, anyway, it can amount to the intentional conduct necessary to brush aside their waiver.
Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian Represent E-Scooter Victims in Maryland
If you have been hurt in an E-scooter accident in Maryland, the waiver that you agreed to is not the end of the situation. You can challenge its power in court and fight for your rights to compensation. The personal injury lawyers at the Baltimore law office of Gilman & Bedigian can help. Contact them online.