E-scooters are now commonplace in Canberra. Whether you’ve rented one by the minute to sight-see around the lake or bought one for your commute, they’re everywhere.
Sadly, this means scooter-related injuries are now also commonplace, with President of the Australian Medical Association Dr Steve Robson recently calling for e-scooters to be “treated with extreme caution”.
So, what do you need to know about riding an e-scooter in the ACT before you kick off? We asked James Treloar, Partner at Maliganis Edwards Johnson (MEJ) for the low down.
“As e-scooter usage becomes increasingly prevalent, so do the reports of injury caused in e-scooter accidents,” explains James.
“To my knowledge, the ACT Government has not yet released specific statistics regarding e-scooter injuries since the Neuron and Beam ride-share scooters were introduced, but I am aware of several reports in the papers of increased in hospital admissions due to e-scooter incidents ride-share services were introduced.”
“In the first two months that e-scooters were introduced to Brisbane, for example, more than 120 people made trips to the hospital with injuries that included head trauma, upper and lower limb fractures, sprained/strained limbs and serious contusions/abrasions and in about 10% of cases required surgery.”
“In 2022, injuries to people riding electric scooters in Victoria increased by 234 percent compared to the preceding year, leading to many hundreds of hospital admissions, mainly due to broken bones.”
Tragically, James says injuries can sometimes be deadly.
“Australia has had at least four fatalities relating to e-scooters so far that I know of, one of which tragically was in the ACT. Unfortunately, there are likely to be more fatalities in the future.”
So if you use, or plan to use, an e-scooter, it is imperative to understand the legal framework surrounding these electric vehicles and the potential personal injury risks involved.
“While e-scooters offer convenience and eco-friendliness, it is important for riders to be aware of the legalities and take necessary precautions to avoid personal injury and potential legal consequences,” explains James.
“When an e-scooter accident leads to personal injury, determining liability becomes crucial in seeking compensation. If you have an accident due to your own misuse or carelessness, you are personally responsible for your own injuries.”
“However, often liability can fall on various parties involved in the accident, including the e-scooter rider or other road users. Each case is unique, and liability is assessed based on factors such as negligence, compliance with road rules, and duty of care.”
So, how do you make sure you’re complying with the rules?
“In the ACT, as with other Australian States, e-scooters are considered personal mobility devices under Road Transport (Road Rules) Regulation 2017 (ACT),” says James.
“To legally ride an e-scooter in the ACT, the rider must wear an approved bike helmet, not exceed 15km/h on footpaths or 25km/h for shared/bike paths, and slow down to 10km/h when using a crossing or preparing to stop. A person cannot ride on the road unless there is no footpath available or the footpath is impractical to use.”
“You must not be impaired by alcohol or drugs, operate mobile devices, or carry any passengers. E-scooters can be taken onto the light rail, and buses with the permission of the driver. For further information see: sections 244D to 244J in the ACT Road Transport (Road Rules) Regulation 2017.”
However, even if you’re complying with these rules, James says there can be misadventure due to hazards on the road or path.
“At MEJ we often take calls from persons injured when their e-scooter has impacted with cracked or uneven pavement, causing them to fall. In the ACT, the Government has a general immunity from suit from negligence claims pursuant to Chapter 8 of the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002, including accidents that occur on road or road-related areas. But it is important to note that that immunity is not insurmountable.”
“If the state of disrepair, such as a large pothole, crack or raised pavement, was known to the Government (for example, after being identified through the ‘fix my street’ programme), there is the potential to seek financial redress including payment of medical expenses, time off work, domestic care needs and damages for pain and suffering.”
As for people who have been hit by a scooter, James says it comes down to whether the scooter is a rental or owned by the rider.
“Persons who are injured by a collision with an e-scooter rider are in a different position. This is because only parties to a contract can incur rights and obligations under the contract. E-scooter contracts are between the user and the respective company, so those who are struck by e-scooters, or trip over a dormant one, have no contractual rights against the company.”
“If you are struck by an e-scooter, you do have the option of suing the rider directly, but this is rarely an optimal course of action unless the rider has assets from which financial recompense can be made to the injured party. It may be possible that the terms of the at-fault rider’s home and contents insurer would cover the negligent acts of the rider, though from several of the policies I’ve read, it’s common for those policies to specifically exclude devices such as e-scooters from third-party coverage.”
There are also instances where you might be riding an e-scooter to or from your workplace, which again is a different matter.
So, what can riders do to protect themselves for any future injuries or accidents?
“E-scooter riders should also consider insurance options to protect themselves in the event of an accident. While e-scooter sharing companies often provide limited insurance coverage, riders should carefully review the terms and conditions to understand the extent of coverage and any potential exclusions.”
“Additionally, individuals who own personal e-scooters may want to consider obtaining their own insurance policy to ensure adequate protection in case of personal injury or property damage.”
As Canberra and its community navigating this changing transport landscape, James urgers riders to be aware of their responsibilities before they set off.
“Riding e-scooters in the ACT can be a convenient and enjoyable way to travel, but it is essential to understand the potential legal ramifications in the context of personal injury cases,” he says.
“In the event of an accident resulting in personal injury, e-scooter riders should consult with a qualified personal injury lawyer to understand their rights and navigate the complexities of the legal system.”
“By understanding the laws, proving negligence, and considering insurance options, riders can protect themselves and seek appropriate compensation if they suffer injuries due to the negligence of another party while riding an e-scooter in the ACT.”
Want to chat with James and his team at MEJ?