ACROSS the UK and Ireland, many more people are using electric scooters or electric bikes as an alternative to cars or public transport to navigate busy city centres. The drive to reduce carbon emissions is another reason why many have opted to purchase one of these trendy devices.
As with many quick innovations, the law has to react to them, so what are the legal issues surrounding ownership of an e-scooter, or being involved in an accident with someone using one?
With the range of products on the market, some with a top speed in excess of 30mph, the number of accidents has increased exponentially. For example, from January to July last year in the Republic of Ireland, there were 453 e-scooter traffic incidents, which compares to 640 for all of 2021 and 280 throughout 2020.
In England and Wales, the use of privately owned e-scooters on public highways is currently illegal, unless the e-scooter is adapted significantly to make it compliant akin to the specification of a moped.
There are however a number of e-scooter trials which have been rolled out across mainland UK. These make it legal for individuals to rent and use e-scooters within the designated trial area. It is envisaged that in England the laws will be changed to allow for increased usage, but presently, privately owned e-scooters can only be used on private land.
In Northern Ireland, there has been no trial roll out comparable to that in England and Wales. The absence of a functioning Executive has meant that no legislation on legalising e-scooters has been passed. This means that using e-scooters on footpaths and public roads here is illegal and their use should be confined to private land.
So what do you do if you have been injured by an e-scooter? If you are a pedestrian or vehicle driver that has been hit by an e-scooter, it is almost certain given their usage is illegal on public roads, that a valid insurance policy will not be in place for the e-scooter rider. Whilst the rider of the e-scooter would potentially be exposed to criminal penalties from the PSNI such as a fine, the Civil remedies for personal injury are less conventional.
The injured party can issue a letter of claim and subsequent legal proceedings directly against the rider if they know their address. However, if the rider does not have the financial means to defend the claim and pay compensation to the injured party, this would inevitably be a futile exercise.
The injured party can however pursue their claim through the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB), which was set up to compensate victims of accidents caused by uninsured drivers who otherwise would have no civil remedy for accidents that were not their fault.