This week’s question comes from Quinton in San Francisco, who asks:
Q: “I have been reading your columns on the electric scooters being rented in San Francisco. Is there one scooter company which, from a legal perspective, you believe is better to rent from?”
A: Quinton, based upon my review of the terms and conditions set forth by Skip and Scoot, I do have an opinion: Scoot is the way to go. Not only does it provide you with a free helmet if you request one after signing up, Scoot Networks’ user contract binds the company to provide you with insurance benefits in the event of an accident with a third party or the theft of a scooter. Skip provides neither of these amenities. While both Skip and Scoot are required to maintain insurance with the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority, it is not clear from the permit language that those regulations require insurance for the benefit of the rider, in addition to the company.
Unfortunately, if you are injured in a collision with another vehicle, whether it’s your fault, the fault of another, or because of a defective product or a defective roadway, no scooter provider will offer you any insurance coverage for your medical bills, lost wages or personal injuries, so you should make sure you have good health insurance before you go riding. If you are harmed by the fault of another then contact an experienced trial lawyer, like myself, for a consultation on your rights.
However, Scoot’s terms of service require the company to provide ”third-party” liability coverage, up to $2,000,000, for damages arising from a rider’s non-negligent use. Third-party liability is implicated when someone, not a party to the agreement between the rider and Scoot or its insurance company, is injured by the rider. Additionally, If a scooter is stolen during the rental period through no fault of the rider, the customer will only be liable up to the deductible amount. You should make sure to follow all required procedures to close out your ride so that you are not deemed negligent and held fully financially responsible for the theft. By using their service, you also give the company the right to bring an action in your name (termed subrogation) against any third party which it believes may be responsible for any incident.
There are several conditions and limitations to Scoot’s insurance coverage. Any independent vehicle insurance you own will be applied first, before Scoot will become financially involved. It is important to note that this coverage requires the user to pay any and all deductible amounts (listed at $500 for the Bay Area) per claim that arises out of a collision. Therefore, if a claim is for less than the deductible, the user will be responsible for paying the entire claim and the third-party insurance does not “kick in.” Scoot also prohibits you from engaging with any other parties to negotiate any outside offer, promise of payment, settlement, waiver, release, indemnity, or admission of liability in relation to a collision.
Scoot provides itself a way out of providing this insurance if you do not strictly comply with all of its terms and conditions of use. Indeed, Scoot clearly states that it “does not cover damage due to User’s breach of the Terms and in such an event User will be responsible for the full cost of such damage.” Scoot’s Terms of Service can be found at scoot.co/legal/united-states/terms-of-service/. You should also familiarize yourself with their Collision and Insurance Policy: scoot.co/legal/united-states/collision-and-insurance-policy/. Those terms include obligations to contact the police and Scoot within one hour, fill out a police report and provide Scoot with a factual description as to how the incident occurred and other details concerning the incident. You will be required to submit the involved license plate numbers, makes and models of involved vehicles, involved drivers’ license numbers and contact information, insurance information, witness information and any information concerning insurance policies you have that may provide you with insurance coverage.
So, if you or someone else is injured and you are on a Scoot scooter make sure to call the police and get a police report. Make sure you get an incident report number, so you can request a copy of the report. If there is only property damage, the police usually will not respond, but you can file a “counter report” at the nearest police station. You can request a copy of the report online at https://sanfranciscopolice.org/traffic-collision-report. This usually takes 10 days to process.