What You Need to Know Before Riding a Scooter in Downtown Tampa
These Spin Scooters recently popped up on the sidewalk a block away from our office, but before we hopped on to tour the city, we had some questions for our lawyers. Then we figured why not share the answers with our followers on social media who may not have the “luxury” of sitting next to a personal injury lawyer. Below is the transcript of our conversation with Vanguard Attorneys’ Managing Attorney, Karina Perez.
Before we had the chance to ask Karina specific questions she had a few things she wanted to start with:
When you get on a scooter, you need to realize that they are dangerous. It’s that simple. These are smaller versions of motorcycles that travel at speeds fast enough to cause catastrophic injuries just by falling off. You could be driving a scooter as safely as possible but if someone else makes a mistake or there is a crack in the road and you are thrown from the scooter, you can become very badly injured. I’m not saying don’t ride them, but I am saying you better be careful and please wear a helmet.
OK, so what happens if I’m riding a scooter and someone crashes into me?
Just like if you are a pedestrian or in another vehicle after calling the police and/or EMS, make sure you get the name, license plate, and insurance information of the person that hit you. If the police are called, that information will be in a report but don’t rely on that report, take your own notes and pictures if you or a friend is able to. In this instance, since you are on a scooter make sure you get the scooter’s identifying information (serial number) and report that information to the operator of the scooter.
Once you have been treated for your injuries call me and we will discuss making contact with the at fault driver’s insurance company to report the accident and discuss whether you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. If you do have coverage, we will review the details of the policy to determine if Scooters are covered.
But what if the person who hits me doesn’t have insurance, I don’t have uninsured or underinsured coverage, or the scooter is excluded from my coverage?
Well then we could have a problem, because the “users agreements” (and I use that term loosely since Spin’s for example is over 25 pages and 10,000 words long so it’s unlikely you read it even though you agreed to it) tend to disclaim all responsibility and liability while mandating arbitration under the laws of another state (i.e. Michigan). Bottom line, if you are on a scooter and the person who hurts you doesn’t have insurance and you don’t have U.M. insurance it is unlikely you will be able to recover for your injuries. (Editors note: This transcript is just over 900 words long so the Spin User Agreement we provided to Karina is about 11 times longer)
You mentioned that the user agreements are long, and they aren’t responsible for anything, what if their scooter malfunctions and I get hurt?
You might think that in this instance Spin or the other scooter operators would bear some responsibility, but they sure try not to. Language in the user agreement mandates YOU conduct a safety inspection of the scooter including: brakes, lights, wheels, frame, battery charge, signs of damage, and excessive wear. Yes, they expect YOU the rider to not only recognize excessive wear but also “other signs of mechanical and/or maintenance needs. Basically, if there is a problem you should recognize it and not use the bike, if you do and something bad happens they place the blame on you.
This is not to say bringing a suit against an operator is not possible, but you should be aware of this caveat before operating a scooter.
What if I cause an accident, my insurance covers that, right?
Maybe. Every insurance company puts different language and exclusions in their policies, if that happens you are going to need to review your policy very carefully and be sure to cooperate with your insurer.
But I thought if someone owns a car and they let someone else drive then the owner’s insurance policy covers the accident if the driver doesn’t have a car with insurance of their own?
In most instances you are correct, but remember these are scooters and not cars. The owners are big corporations who have spent a great deal of time and money to ensure they can operate with the lowest cost and highest margin possible. Eliminating the need for insurance is one way to keep costs down, unfortunately it comes at the expense of people who get hurt and then have no one to pay their medical bills or compensate them for missed work.
So, what I’m hearing from you is that I shouldn’t ride these scooters in Tampa?
No, I’m not saying that at all. Just remember these tips:
- Wear a helmet.
- Take extra caution when operating them just as you would on a bicycle or when walking throughout Tampa.
- Check your own insurance policy and ensure at a minimum you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, and look at the details for exclusions. Email your insurer if you don’t know whether you would be covered.
- If something happens, you have my number just call me and we will figure it out together.