What liabilities do electric scooter distributors have in the event of an accident?
Electric scooters are considered by most as fun and harmless objects. But times have changed! This popular means of urban transport can pose risks for users as well as distributors, repairers and renters, who are very vulnerable and can become the target of recourse in the event of an accident. Matthieu Hugonnenc, a liability insurance loss adjuster responsible for the North Normandy region, explains the legislative and insurance context.
Laws that fail to take into account new urban means of transport
These days, buying an electric scooter couldn’t be easier as they are available online, from specialist stores and even supermarkets. The choice is vast, the models varied: with or without a seat, capable of different speeds…how do traffic laws deal with these new machines that have invaded our public spaces?
- Up to 6 km/h, electric scooters are considered in the same way as pedestrians and are allowed on pavements, but above this speed things get more complicated.
- Over 6 km/h, these machines become motor vehicles which, by definition, must be covered by liability insurance (Art. L211-1 of the French Insurance Code).
- Over 25 km/h, the situation becomes even more complicated since according to the decree of 2 May 2003 relating to two-wheeled motor vehicle approval, electric scooters can be considered as mopeds and therefore must be approved and registered, and riders must wear gloves and a helmet.
The current gap in the legislative and insurance framework and the lack of knowledge of the various actors raises the issue of liability in the event of a loss.
Who is liable in the event of an accident involving an electric scooter?
A young thirty-something executive suddenly falls from his electric scooter and is thrown onto the pavement at more than 20 km/h. He suffers bodily injuries and causes damage to third parties. This type of accident is on the increase as is, by extension, recourse against distribution professionals. In most cases, users do not wear any safety equipment and do not have any damage or liability insurance. Therefore, claims against professionals and their insurers are on the increase because of a fault with the intrinsic quality of the product sold as well as a lack of advice. If technical proof is required to assess the product’s quality, something that is often difficult to establish because of the hazards inherent to using an electric scooter, it is easier to accuse a professional of failing to offer advice. They are supposed to know the risks associated with the use of such machines and any associated insurance obligations.
How can we better anticipate the risks associated with new urban vehicles?
Given the current legislative and insurance gap, consumers are free to take action against professionals and their insurers. This new mode of transport foreshadows the future challenges associated with autonomous vehicles: industry professionals must therefore prepare themselves, train themselves, and dispense tailored advice before making any sales, or risk incurring liability.
In addition, on 23 October 2018, Élisabeth Borne, the French Transport Minister, stated that “new mobility solutions” represented positive innovations and that she wanted to build a “tailored framework”.
The law on mobility, scheduled for 2019, will no doubt include a new category of vehicles subject to the Highway Code and will, at the very least, prohibit the use of electric scooters on pavements.
Matthieu HUGONNENC – Transport & Lifting Loss Adjuster, Manager Normandy North