If you feel like you're seeing scooters everywhere in the city of Atlanta, you're not alone.
Atlanta is the second largest scooter city globally according to Cameron Kilberg, Senior Manager Government Affairs at Bird.
City leaders have yet to vote on proposed regulations when it comes to the thousands of scooter riders now on city roads and sidewalks. While regulations are debated, we wanted to verify. Who is on the hook if someone gets hurt?
QUESTION: Who is liable if someone gets hurt on or by a scooter?
VERIFY: Riders agree to a user agreement via an app when renting, agreeing to ride at their own risk.
SOURCES: Bird user agreement
Lime user contract
Attorney Thomas Salata
There are more than 1,500 hundred scooters in Atlanta with Bird alone, not including other dockless scooter companies such as Lime. While scooters offer an alternative to cars and aim to ease congestion, lawyer Thomas Salata urges caution.
'These things are wizzing by at fifteen miles per hour and it's only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt,” Salata said.
So where does the legal line of liability fall? Before users ride, they must sign up via Bird or Lime’s app, where agreeing to the user agreement is legally binding.
"By clicking on the user agreement, you are holding the rental agency harmless,” Salata said. ‘By clicking that 'agree' a user of one of these scooters is confirming they are using the scooter 'as is'. If those wheels come off at 15 miles per hour driving on North Avenue and you get hurt, you're going to have a hard time getting past that user agreement to sue."
"Even if a user wanted to sue the company for their negligent operation or manufacture of the machine, they would have to do so in California,” Salata said.
Bird also issues a warning on its website:
“YOUR AUTOMOTIVE INSURANCE POLICIES MAY NOT PROVIDE COVERAGE FOR ACCIDENTS INVOLVING OR DAMAGE TO THIS VEHICLE. TO DETERMINE IF COVERAGE IS PROVIDED, YOU SHOULD CONTACT YOUR AUTOMOTIVE INSURANCE COMPANY OR AGENT.”
“You're on the hook for it,” Salata said. “Your insurance is not going to cover you unless you have some type of specific policy.”
We can verify, when you ride, you ride at your risk and could be held liable if you or someone else gets hurt.
Our Verify team reached out to Lime and Bird regarding liability and insurance coverage. Both companies responded that safety is a top priority, with Bird adding that “[safety] drives our mission to get cars off the road to make cities safer and more livable.” A response from Lime said, “While we cannot discuss specific incidents or speculate on potential scenarios, it’s important to note that Lime’s insurance policy offers at least $1 million in liability coverage for each incident, and we have processes in place to fully investigate all claims.”
Atlanta City Council's Transportation committee will hold a Dec. 6 work session to discuss the proposed ordinance on dockless scooters.
Read the full statement from Lime:
“The safety of our riders continues to be our number one priority. We’re constantly developing and implementing tools in the app to further promote safe scooter use, and we encourage our riders and communities to commit to safe riding practices and help ensure safe streets for everyone. Our safety, support and customer services teams are available 24/7 and can be contacted through the app, email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and phone (Call: 1-888-LIME-345 or Text: 1-888-546-3345).”
“In an effort to educate and inform communities about scooter and bike safety, we are working with government officials to help support and advocate for new rules and policies that help promote safety, protect all vulnerable road users, including bike and scooter riders, and encourage safe riding through proactive education.”
“While we cannot discuss specific incidents or speculate on potential scenarios, it’s important to note that Lime’s insurance policy offers at least $1 million in liability coverage for each incident, and we have processes in place to fully investigate all claims.”
Read the full statement from Bird:
"Class action attorneys with a real interest in improving transportation safety should be focused on reducing the 40,000 deaths caused by cars every year in the U.S. At Bird, safety is our very top priority, and it drives our mission to get cars off the road to make cities safer and more livable. The climate crisis and our car addiction demand a transportation mode shift to cleaner, affordable vehicles. Shared e-scooters are already replacing millions of short car trips and the pollution that comes with them, and we at Bird will continue to work with cities to help them redesign their transportation networks so that they are safer and cleaner."
"Bird is committed to partnering with cities to ensure that the community, and its visitors, safely embrace our affordable, environmentally friendly transportation option. We strive to improve and enhance the well-being of our riders and communities through concrete action, including: restricting the maximum speed of the vehicles, requiring riders to upload a driver’s license and confirm they are 18 or older, providing an in-app tutorial on how to ride a Bird and how to park it, and posting clear safety instructions on each Bird. Additionally, Bird recently formed the Global Safety Advisory Board, which will create, advise, and implement global programs, campaigns, and products to improve the safety of those riding Birds and other e-scooters. We strongly encourage all riders to wear helmets. To help ensure all people have equal access to helmets, Bird provides them to riders for free; we have given away more than 50,000 free helmets.”
"We strongly recommend reporting any damaged scooters or incidents that Bird scooters are involved in, as we have a support team dedicated to safety that is available around the clock to address questions and reports we receive. Bird provides a number of ways for people to reach us including by email (Hello@bird.co), through our in-app messaging feature, and by phone."
“Bird recently launched Community Mode which empowers community members to report instances of bad parking, or damaged vehicles on the road, directly to the company. Bird has always provided individuals with several ways to provide feedback to us (see below), and we hope this new offering will be yet another touchpoint that encourages smart, responsible practices in communities everywhere Bird is available.”