What started a Silicon Valley bro-fad is quickly buzzing towards Chicagoland. They’re already whirling around Minneapolis and last weekend scooter start-up “Lime” debuted their battery-powered people movers at the Sheffield Music and Garden Walk Festival.
It’s happening, and it’s happening fast.
There are many reasons to be excited about the electric scooter frenzy. Scooters quickly shuffle commuters short distances without traffic and parking worries, help close transportation gaps in underserved neighborhoods, provide cheap transit for students and folks with modest disposable incomes, and will, hopefully, address traffic congestion. In many ways, scooters provide the perfect solution to the “last mile” problem that city workers and urban dwellers face on a daily basis.
LegalRideshare is a close observer of the rideshare community. As Chicago’s only rideshare-specific accident/injury law firm, our success depends on the growth and popularity of companies like Uber, Lyft, Divvy and, now, Lime. Simply stated, LegalRideshare is pro-rideshare, pro-shared mobility, pro-innovation, and pro-tech.
But, above all, we’re pro-safety.
While we appreciate the utility and inevitability of motorized personal transport, we have concerns about scooter companies’ apparent waiver of liability.
Consider Lime, which recently received a massive investment from Uber and will be featured on the rideshare giant’s app. Several sections of Lime’s Terms of Service insulate the company from liability for user and third party injuries.
For example, riders must “assume all responsibilities and risks for any injuries or medical conditions” resulting from crashes on the scooters. Further, riders are “solely responsible and liable for all consequences, claims, demands, causes of action, losses, liabilities, damages, injuries, costs and expenses, penalties, attorneys’ fees, judgments, suits, fees (including impounding fees charged by any local government), and/or disbursements of any kind” as a result of using the services.
Let’s break that down.
Per our reading, Lime disavows financial responsibility for a rider’s medical bills, lost wages, disability, and pain and suffering caused by a scooter crash. If a Lime rider crashes into a third party, the rider — not the company — bears full financial responsibility to the injured person. If a Lime rider crashes into a parked car, the rider — not the company — must pay for the property damage.
Consider that, even if Lime is sued (and they will be), the rider must reimburse Lime for any money it pays to an aggrieved party, including the company’s attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.
Lime gets to throw its hands in the air and say, “Check the fine print, it’s not our problem.” Is that acceptable?
Let’s say a Lime rider crashes into a pedestrian and breaks an innocent person’s leg. A seemingly innocuous ride home could result in financial ruin for both parties. Per Lime’s Terms of Service, the pedestrian would need to sue the rider for medical bills and lost wages. That could cost the rider tens — if not hundreds — of thousands of dollars.
If the rider was not independently wealthy or have special liability insurance, the pedestrian would have no recourse; she would have to pay for those expenses herself. And, again, Lime would seemingly go on its merry way.
Companies like Lime want to change the way we think of transportation. We’re all for it. But with great innovation, comes great responsibility. We can’t have companies skirting their obligations to our community.
Look, we want electric scooters in Chicago. We want Lime in Chicago. But, first, we need to make sure scooter companies take responsibility for the harms and losses that will inevitably be incurred.