Editor: There’s been a lot of talk recently about the use of rental e-scooters. Typically, the focus is on who uses them 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?
It likely would come down to a judge or jury. My understanding of the scooter-rental agreement is that the renter assumes all responsibility for damages. Rental companies have liability insurance, but only to protect their own interests.
The 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 – one likely answered by a judge or jury.
Joe Hudgins, Richmond