With electric scooters expected to return to city streets as soon as Friday, there's a new question Portlanders may be asking: Where does the buck stop when riders start to roll?
Experts say e-scooter users expose themselves to liability whenever they hop into the saddle.
"Individuals have a significant amount of risk of financial loss based upon damaging somebody's property or injuring somebody while they're riding a scooter," explained Thom Rickert. "They're also assuming financial risk for injury to themselves."
Rickert, a specialist with Trident Public Risk Solutions, notes that scooters aren't covered by traditional auto insurance policies, because scooters aren't cars, or homeowners insurance.
Many personal "umbrella" insurance policies stretch to cover e-scooter accidents, while trendy new pay-per-mile insurance companies may begin offering plans aimed at ride-share users soon. A rider who injures only themselves would likely be covered by personal health insurance, and workers comp if injured on the job.
"The individual operating the vehicle has responsibility and assumes risk by using the scooter," said Rickert, who was recently quoted in a New York Times article on the topic. "The problem is there is little insurance available."
But while riders of the two-wheelers may be left out in the cold, e-scooter companies and Portland City Hall are taking steps to protect themselves. The Bureau of Transportation has mandated e-scooter companies take out at least $2 million in insurance in order to operate within city limits.
New rules require the companies to indemnify the city, protecting the government when lawsuits inevitably are filed. The mobility tech firms must also agree that it's not the city's responsibility to educate users about helmet requirements or how to ride safely.
Twelve companies have applied for Portland's year-long second test drive of the upright contraptions — but residents won't know the specifics until Friday, April 26, at the earliest.
"We're not sure how many companies will be approved for permits," PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said in an email.
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