AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin leaders say the city should consider whether dockless scooter companies should bear more responsibility in cases of crashes involving injuries that happen within city limits.
The head of the Public Safety Commission told KXAN Tuesday that one area that needs to be regulated in particular is the language in the liability waivers that users must sign before they rent the scooters.
Driver Michael Fuchs says rules and regulations for dockless scooters, as a whole, need more attention. He says that became clear when someone riding a Lime dockless scooter hit his vehicle and left the scene.
“A scooter came out, lost control, and side-swiped my vehicle. He said, ‘Dude, I’m sorry,’ and just kept going,” explained Fuchs.
The accident happened on July 30 near the intersection of Barton Springs Road and First Street.
While the damage was relatively minor, Fuchs says the process to fix his vehicle and file his insurance claim has been comprehensive because the scooter didn’t stop. Now he has serious questions about liability and responsibility for e-scooter companies.
“They are considered a vehicle and so, therefore, they must abide by the laws of reporting collisions, as well as stopping, providing insurance information, ensuring the other driver is OK, as well as providing contact information,” said Commander Jennifer Stephenson, who works in downtown patrol at the Austin Police Department. “If you’re in the right of way on the roadway, yes, you must abide by all traffic laws.”
However, APD says even though these dockless scooters behave like bicycles and are considered vehicles on the public right of way, they’re not technically a motor vehicle, so they are not legally required to have motor vehicle liability insurance.
Because scooter users sign liability waiver agreements in order to use the equipment, companies won’t take responsibility for damages or accidents.
“The user is incurring all of that liability themself,” added Commander Stephenson.
Meaning, cases like Fuchs’ may need to be resolved in civil court.
“I believe that they should have liability insurance and that they should be maintaining their safety standards within the city,” said Fuchs. “I think that the city really needs to sit down and think about all the loopholes that they allow based upon dockless mobility and the current regulations that they passed through their emergency ordinance.”
Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan says there’s no perfect mobility device, but that the situation could be worse.
“There’s a big difference between the potential liabilities involved on a low-speed device versus a high-speed device,” said Flannigan. “The other thing to remember is that these incidents are often very minor. It’s not like a 30 mile an hour car hitting a pedestrian, which is not a minor incident.”
Safety, Fuchs says, is still his first concern. “I don’t want somebody to get hurt or to have an incident where the city has to have an emergency resolution in order to deal with a death because it’s preventable now.”
KXAN reached out to Lime, who told us that people can submit claims to their customer service team, which they say are dealt with on a case by case basis.
They also said Lime has insurance coverage, which “meets or exceeds all requirements from cities, campuses and businesses.”
The city of Austin does require all of the dockless scooter companies to have liability insurance to protect public property.
For more information and to read Lime’s full user agreement, click here.