Electric Scooters – Health or Hazard

Tom Goudkamp interrupted his recent holiday to share with us, his amazement at the number of electric scooters zooming around the Rues and Boulevardes of Paris at great speeds. ‘We’ve even seen people being doubled on e-scooters on major Parisian roads. According to Tom, no-one wears helmets and many e-scooters are, once used, simply discarded on footpaths creating hazards for pedestrians.

The Times ran a story on this very topic highlighting the craze for electric scooters in France (250,000 sold in France in 2018) and in particular Paris where there are 25,000 of these scooters in the rental fleet. The article suggests these scooters can reach speeds of up to 60 kmph and even 85 kmph. It is not hard to imagine the injuries these things could inflict on their riders not to mention other road users. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/e-scooters-bringing-broken-bones-and-jungle-law-to-france-g5lmbswd5?shareToken=4582e088e00dd359ebbaa507f341d9a5

Electric scooters are, like electric bicycles, a convenient means of getting about and cost anything from a couple of hundred dollars to one I have seen with a head-light and tail lights that has a price of over $1,000. One of the companies operating electric assisted pedal bike rental in Sydney has recently been involved in the pilot of electric scooter rental in Brisbane and they may be heading to South Australia. Sydney could be soon in their sights.

Budget Direct has provided a useful summary of the laws relating to machine powered scooters and how they apply in Australia. https://www.budgetdirect.com.au/blog/australias-electric-scooter-laws-by-state.html

In NSW, they are not allowed on public roads at all and therefore can only be driven on private property. Where they are allowed, there is generally a speed limit (e.g. 10 kmph in WA, 25 kmph in Brisbane), a requirement that the user wear a helmet and limits on where they can be used (e.g. in WA not on footpaths or cycle ways and only on footpaths and not on roads or in cycle ways in Brisbane).

Although powered by a motor, an electric scooter is unlikely to be considered a motor vehicle within the meaning of the Motor Accident Injuries Act. An accident caused by the rider of an electric scooter could not result in a Nominal Defendant claim because a power assisted scooter would be incapable of registration in NSW.

The Insurance implications of e-scooters (and e-bikes for that matter) are many and varied:

If a pedestrian is injured tripping over a discarded e-bike or scooter is there any liability on the part of the company that allows these vehicles to be used in that way?

  1. If a user of an e-bike or scooter is injured because of a defect in the bike or scooter what liability is there on the part of the company? What system of inspection do they have?
  2. If there is no helmet on or near the e-bike or electric scooter, what liability is there on the part of the company if the user sustains a head injury?
  3. If a user of an e-bike or electric scooter injured a pedestrian or other road user on a public road what liability is there on the part of the company that owns the bike or scooter and what recourse does the innocent injured person have against the user?

All these questions I might leave for Tom to answer when he returns from his holiday – Bonne vacances Monsieur Tom.

Written by Belinda Cassidy

Belinda Cassidy holds the position of Special Counsel at Stacks Goudkamp. She had previously held the position of Principal Claims Assessor at the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) for 18 years, and currently holds an appointment as a Claims Assessor under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act.