The July 12 death of wildly popular YouTube star Emily Hartridge in London has turbocharged the controversies over e-scooters. Ms. Hartridge, 35, was hit by a truck and killed while negotiating busy roundabout on an e-scooter. British media reports indicate that hers was the first of the e-scooter fatalities in the United Kingdom.
Ms. Hartridge’s tragic death was out of the ordinary in another respect, too. As it happens, she owned the scooter she was riding at the time. Her boyfriend had gifted it to her. The vast, vast majority of e-scooter riders, on the other hand, rent the vehicles on a per-trip basis. This ad hoc rental usage is, after all, a key feature of the micro-mobility concept.
THE E-SCOOTER REVOLUTION
In an earlier post, we described the launch and the turbo-charged rise of companies offering e-scooter (dockless scooters) rentals in the United States. We noted the inherent risks in this mode of transport. Reported the inevitable increase in accidents and injuries. The Hartridge celebrity fatality in London urges us all to focus on the prospects haunting us here at home. As e-scooter usage explodes, so will the death toll from accidents. This is baked into the e-scooter cake.
The magnitude of the coming e-scooter fatalities wave here in South Florida depends on several factors. Some are regulatory, some commercial, and others social or economic. How popular will e-scooters become? Hard to say. The “smart money” seems to be saying this is the Next Big Thing. E-scooter company Lime raised $335 million from investors like Google’s parent company and Uber. Lime’s now valued at $1.1 billion. They may be right. City governments reported 38.5 million e-scooter rental rides in 2018.
THE LEGAL LANDSCAPE
States and cities, on the other hand, are in turmoil trying to cope with these new “invaders” of their streets and sidewalks. There are at least 44 regulatory bills pending in at least 26 states. The legal and regulatory scene in Florida is shifting rapidly, too. It’s confusing the public and the legal profession alike. For example, on June 18, Florida’s Gov. DeSantis signed off on a bill the media reported as “expanding individual cities’ authority to regulate scooters”. This will tighten things up, right? In fact, it cancels a State regulation keeping e-scooters off the roads. Now, unless localities act, more e-scooters will be mixing it up with cars and trucks on the roadways. Like Ms. Emily Hartridge did, in London.
There will be fatalities. There will be deaths that were preventable, and so were due to negligence by one or more of the parties involved. Hence, expect a rising tide of wrongful death claims related to e-scooters. The non-use of helmets in the rental e-scooter market also assures a wave of non-fatal brain injuries. None of this is to say e-scooters are bad, or that they should be banned. They’re unquestionably convenient and useful in their niche. Informed adults can choose or not choose to use them.
Informed adults choosing to use e-scooters should understand the risks. They should learn how best to minimize them. And, know that in the event of a tragic accident, the best hope of some recompense is with a South Florida personal injury attorney who’s experienced and up-to-date.