Your Views: Who is liable in scooter accidents?

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A new state bill, parts of which go into effect July 1, aims to define e-scooters in the state code and give local governments the power to regulate the vehicles. (Photo credit: Missy Schrott)
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To the editor:

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the use of e-scooters. Typically, the focus is on who uses the scooters and why, but there also needs to be a discussion about the liability for damages that may result from their use.

Recently, I was in Virginia Beach for a conference and saw individuals of all ages operating these scooters on the boardwalk, sidewalks and on Atlantic and Pacific Avenues at speeds that could cause serious injury in a collision.

If there was a collision with bodily injury or property damage, who is responsible, and would there be insurance coverage?

In all likelihood, it would come down to a judge or jury. My understanding of the scooter rental agreement is that the renter assumes all responsibility for damages. It is also my understanding that the rental companies have liability insurance only to protect their own interest.

The big question is, would the renter’s homeowner or automobile policies provide any coverage in an accident? The answer is simple for personal auto policies in Virginia – no.

Homeowner policies are not quite as straightforward. Policies only provide liability and medical expense coverage if the vehicle is a non-owned “motorized land conveyance designed for recreational use off public roads.” It is a fact that these rental scooters are being operated primarily on public roads.

Is that what they were designed for: use on public roads? The answer will determine if the homeowner policy in Virginia will provide coverage should there be an accident. Given our litigious society, it will most likely be answered by a judge or jury. It should also be noted that coverage for damage the renter does to the e-scooter is excluded, regardless of the circumstances.

Renters beware.

-Joe Hudgins, CPCU vice president, Technical Research & Government Relations, Independent Insurance Agents of Virginia

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