Since 4 July 2020 the Department of Transport (DFT) has fast tracked and expanded trials of rented electric scooters (e-scooters) in UK cities as part of its plan to transition out of the travel and public transport restrictions put in place due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
It has been reported that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has selected three e-scooter operators to roll out a trial in London. TFL has said that the ‘‘trial is to promote safety standards and better understanding of the impact of this emerging mode of transport on London’s roads’’.
With the likely rise of e-scooters, in particular after the lifting of the third national lockdown, it is unfortunately inevitable that there will be increased reports of accidents involving this mode of travel.
In this blog my aim is to address the most common questions which may arise after an accident whilst using an e-scooter.
What is an e-scooter?
Some people are unfamiliar with this development. An e-scooter is a light, battery operated scooter which is ridden standing up.
What is the current UK law on e-scooters?
An electric scooter constitutes a “powered transporter” which is a term used to cover a variety of emerging personal transport devices which are powered by a motor, including e-scooters and falls within the definition of a motor vehicle. An electric scooter is therefore currently covered by the same laws and regulations that apply to all motor vehicles under the Road Traffic Act 1988.
For e-scooters within the definition of motor vehicles to use public roads lawfully, they must meet a number of different requirements as set out in the Road Traffic Act 1988. These include insurance, payment of vehicle tax, licensing, fitted with number plates and not to be used on pavements or cycles lanes. A breach of these rules would represent a criminal offence for which users can be arrested and prosecuted.
It is difficult to meet these standards for an e-scooter as they were not designed to do so and therefore currently there are no privately owned e-scooters legally allowed to be used on the roads in the UK.
In addition, powered transporters are forbidden from using footpaths. A footpath is a public right of way over land which may only be used on foot (as opposed to a bridleway or a carriageway). Mechanically-propelled vehicles are forbidden from using footpaths by Section 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
In order to allow trials of e-scooters in the UK the DFT has amended existing legislation such as allowing e-scooters to use cycle lanes (England only), exempting e-scooters from vehicle registration, anyone with a full or provisional driving licence can use a trial e-scooter and wearing of helmets is not mandatory.
Users of trial e-scooters are still required to be covered by motor insurance vehicle insurance which is to be secured and provided by the rental operators and users will need to have a valid driving licence.
Does that mean I can ride my e-scooter on the road?
You still cannot use your privately owned e-scooter on the road as it is illegal to do so and the law has not changed yet for private e-scooters. You can only use a private e-scooter on private land to which the public does not have access but with the permission of the owner or occupier of the land.
Only rented scooters used on these trials can be used on the roads in the UK.
What if I am involved in an accident with another motor vehicle, can I claim compensation?
If you are involved in an accident whilst using a privately owned e-scooter on the road and suffer injuries, you are unlikely to be successful in making a claim as it is illegal to use a private e-scooter anywhere on the road in the UK. If found to be riding an e-scooter on the roads in the UK, you can be reported to the police as you would be committing an offence and you could get a £300 fixed-penalty notice and/or six points on your driving licence and/or your e-scooter could be seized.
If you are involved in an accident with another motor vehicle whilst using a hire e-scooter on a trial through an approved company, you may be entitled to compensation if the other driver was at fault for the accident. A claim would need to be made against the driver’s insurance company. Ensure you take name and address of the other driver, photographs of any damage to the vehicles, take details of any witnesses to the accident and report the accident to the Police if necessary.
In cases where the driver of the other motor vehicle was uninsured or has fled the accident scene without exchanging details, a claim would need to be made with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.
How long do I have to make a claim?
You have 3 years from the date of the accident to make a personal injury claim, otherwise it will be statute barred and you will not be able to make a claim. It is always advisable, however, that a claim is made as early as possible after an accident to ensure an investigation can be made promptly and evidence such as witnesses secured without delay.
What if I am a pedestrian and I am involved in an accident with an e-scooter?
If you are involved in an accident with a private e-scooter on a UK road or pavement, then it is unlikely that you would be able to make a successful claim, as there is no requirement for the private e-scooter to have motor insurance. A motor insurer is unlikely to provide insurance for a private e-scooter to ride on the UK roads and pavement as it is illegal to do so. In these circumstances, the rider of the private e-scooter would be committing a criminal offence as they should only be using their e-scooter on private land with permission of the land owner. However it is possible to make a claim against the private e-scooter rider personally if it can be shown that they have financial means to meet a compensation claim.
With the likely rise of e-scooters due to the Government’s fast tracked trials in the UK, the Government has made it mandatory for trial e-scooters to have motor insurance.
In the unfortunate event that a pedestrian is involved in an accident with a rented trial e-scooter, then the same steps should be followed, such as taking name and address of the rider, insurance details, photographs of any damage to the e-scooter and details of any witnesses. The time limit of making a claim within three years from the date of accident also applies for a pedestrian.