Can I sue if I am hit by an e-scooter?

The simple answer to whether you can make a compensation claim for an e-scooter collision is ‘yes’ if your injuries are caused solely or in part by the negligence of the rider.

However, the law surrounding the use of e-scooters is unclear and many e-scooter riders are unlikely to have adequate insurance, which can cause problems when it comes to recovering damages and costs.

Are e-scooters legal in England and Wales?

The answer to this is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The law and legislation are playing catch-up when it comes to electric scooters, like it does with most new technologies. Currently people are buying these new modes of transport without full knowledge of where they can legally ride them.

While it is perfectly legal to buy and sell an e-scooter, the government classify e-scooters as Personal Light Electric Vehicles and they are treated as ‘motor vehicles’ in the eyes of the law. They must comply with the same requirements as a car, and be taxed, go through an MOT, be licenced, have lights, number plates and signalling capabilities. Electric scooters have none of these and are therefore not allowed on the roads.

Two-wheeled e-scooters – the most common type of Personal Light Electric Vehicles – also fit the definition of a motorcycle, meaning that a helmet and driving licence with Compulsory Basic Motorcycle Training (CBT) are required. These further regulatory barriers mean that it is almost impossible for scooters to be ridden legally on the road.

Therefore unless all of the above legal requirements are complied with it is illegal to ride them in England and Wales on:

  • the roads
  • cycle lanes
  • public footpaths
  • and pavements

However, the law is different if you hire an e-scooter under one of the trial schemes across England, Wales and Scotland, which we will look at a little later on in this blog.

The only place that you can ride a privately bought e-scooter is on private land, with the permission of the landowner.

If you break the law by riding an e-scooter on the road or pavement you could be fined £300 and could have penalty points added to your driver’s licence. The police may also confiscate your e-scooter.

What if the e-scooter rider is not insured?

If you are involved in a collision with privately owned e-scooter it is unlikely the rider will have insurance.

This will make it more difficult to recover damages, but an experienced personal injury solicitor will investigate whether the rider is covered by some other form of insurance, such as home insurance, or establish whether the negligent rider can pay damages out of their own pocket.

However as e-scooters are ‘motor vehicles’ for the purposes of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and therefore require a policy of insurance when ridden in public, it also follows, that if they are not insured and the rider causes an accident, liability to pay damages may fall under the remit of the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB) under the Uninsured Driver’s Agreement. On the face of it, a pedestrian struck and injured by an e-scooter on the street ought to direct their claim against the MIB.

Can I claim compensation if I am injured by a rented e-scooter?

Again, the answer is ‘yes’.

Riders using a hired e-scooter who are negligently involved in a collision that injures another party would be covered under the hire company’s own e-scooter insurance.

The Department for Transport is trying out rental schemes across England, Wales and Scotland, which are similar to those seen in European and US cities. The Government brought forward the trials in response to the pandemic and the need for commuters to socially distance while travelling.

Riders must have a full driving licence and the hired vehicles can only be used legally within the trial area boundaries. The trial battery-powered scooters must be limited to 15.5mph on roads, cycle lanes and tracks, and must not be used on pavements. Helmets are recommended, but not mandatory.

How popular are e-scooters in the UK?

According to Tom McPhail, director of public affairs at Pure Electric, one of the UK’s largest e-bike and e-scooter retailers, the company is selling several thousand e-scooters a month. This is even though it is currently illegal to ride them on the public highway.

Nick Davies, research fellow in urban ecology at the University of Salford, suggests that sales of electric scooters have increased by 134% since April 2020.

The global market is expected to peak in 2025 with a value of around £20bn.

E-scooters are increasing in popularity in the UK but whether they take off will depend on the impact of future legislation, infrastructure to accommodate them safely on to our roads, and whether commuters will simply return to their cars and public transport after the pandemic.

What do road victim charities and other third-sector organisations say about e-scooters?

RoadPeace is ‘cautiously supportive’ of legalisation of private hire e-scooters. The charity hopes it will provide an alternative to car use, and potentially reduce collisions.

However, RoadPeace is calling for clearer regulation and guidance on how the justice system will deal with crashes on or by electric scooters, and how civil compensation claims will work in such cases.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at road safety charity Brake told the Guardian newspaper last year (2020) that although car alternatives were vital, the safety of e-scooters and their impact on all road users must be assured before they are permitted on UK roads.

Meanwhile, the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) has raised concerns that electric scooters are difficult to see and hear, so there is little warning of their approach. Also, dockless e-scooter hire schemes have led to e-scooters being dumped and abandoned on the pavement, creating trip hazards. Living Streets has also highlighted issues around safety and the potential impact on pedestrians.

Are e-scooters safe to ride?

According to a research letter, Electric Scooter Injuries and Hospital Admissions in the United States, 2014-2018, more than 39,000 e-scooter injuries were reported during the study period, with a dramatic increase in injuries and admissions associated with e-scooter use from 2017 to 2018. They were serious injuries and, of particular concern, in 2018, 4,707 of the 14,651 e-scooter injuries involved the head, which is twice the rate suffered by cyclists.

Peter McCabe, chief executive of Headway, a UK brain injury charity, has said he expected the government to tell e-scooter riders they should wear helmets. Our serious and catastrophic team whole heartedly support a call for head protection when riding an e-scooter because they have seen too often the devastation caused by a brain and head injury to a family.

There have been fatal collisions involving e-scooters around the world, including one in London. High-profile YouTube and TV star Emily Hartridge was tragically killed at the age of 35 by a lorry whilst riding her e-scooter in Battersea. The inquest into her death revealed that the e-scooter was being driven too fast with low tyre pressure, which caused the crash.

While the electric scooter is a welcome alternative to the car – especially if e-scooters have a limit of 15.5mph – collisions are inevitable because the UK does not have a suitable infrastructure in place. Wherever e-scooter riders, cyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicles mix, there is a risk of serious injury.

What do I do if I am involved in an e-scooter collision?

E-scooters are becoming a familiar sight within our urban areas, even though their presence on roads, pavements and footpaths can be illegal.  Pedestrians and other road users are vulnerable to serious injury around negligent electric scooter riders.

If you have been injured in a collision with an e-scooter then it is important to find out whether you can seek compensation for your injuries and financial losses incurred because of the collision.

We recommend that you talk to a specialist serious injury solicitor. Due to the confusion about the law surrounding the use of e-scooters, it is a complicated and fast changing area of law that requires specific experience and expertise in personal injury. As highlighted, there can be difficult questions about apportioning blame for the collision and insurance.

You should be able to get free initial and confidential advice from a solicitor to ascertain whether you could bring a civil case for compensation, which we can provide here at Birchall Blackburn Law.

Who do I call at Birchall Blackburn Law if I have been involved in an e-scooter collision?

Chris Bolton is a Partner and personal injury specialist in serious injury work, including claims involving brain injury, spinal injury, chronic pain and fatal accidents. He has nearly 25 years’ experience in the legal profession. You can contact him by calling 01772 552 271 or emailing cnbolton@birchallblackburn.co.uk.