Electric scooters seem to be a hot item these days. They are relatively inexpensive and are an environmentally friendly means of transportation. Both young and old can be seen riding scooters in our Massachusetts city and suburb streets. In fact, if you live in a city environment, scooters seem one preferred method of transportation to and from work.
From an insurance standpoint, however, scooters are not seen as an innocent form of transportation, like riding a bicycle. What sets them apart is they are motorized. The fact the scooters are motorized puts them in a category similar to a motorcycle and/or moped. If you are riding a scooter and are struck by a motor vehicle in Massachusetts, and the motor vehicle is found to be at fault, you can certainly put in a bodily injury claim for the injuries suffered. However, there are certain insurance benefits that may not be available to you because you were riding a motorized scooter.
If you have been injured in a scooter accident or car crash, our Framingham car accident lawyers are here to help. We have extensive experience successfully representing people who have been severely injured in car crashes. We have recovered substantial compensation for our clients after being seriously injured in an accident. If you have questions about your accident and injuries, feel free to call our attorneys at 508-879-3500 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Electronic Scooter Accidents in Massachusetts Raise Critical Legal and Insurance Issues
If you regularly ride an electric scooter or have been injured in an accident while riding an electric scooter in Massachusetts, there are several things you should be aware of. The following issues are important for anyone who has been hurt in an accident while riding their electric scooter.
Scooters Are Not Covered by Personal Injury Protection Benefits
Recently, a client of ours was injured while riding his electric scooter in Framingham, Massachusetts. The scooter was similar to those that can be purchased at Walmart or other type retailers with an average price of approximately $700.00. Our client was riding on the sidewalk and crossed an exit, within a crosswalk, toward a commercial establishment. A motor vehicle was exiting the commercial establishment and carelessly struck our client causing significant injuries.
As with all motor vehicle accidents and injury claims in Massachusetts, our experienced Framingham accident lawyers file the necessary injury claims with the respective auto insurance carriers. This is done by filing notice of the accident/injury and our representation of the accident victim (our client(s)). In a typical motor vehicle accident, we would file a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim and request the PIP application. The PIP claim offers specific PIP benefits from the vehicle that the accident victim operated or occupied at the time of the car crash. The PIP benefits are available to cover a certain amount of medical bills for treatment related to the injuries suffered in the accident as well as a portion of lost wages, if any.
However, if the accident victim was hurt in a car accident but was not operating or occupying a vehicle at the time – when a pedestrian or cyclist is hit by a car – the PIP claim is filed with the vehicle that struck the pedestrian. You may think that if a person riding an electric scooter is struck by a motor vehicle, the same PIP benefits would be afforded from the car that hit the scooter. Think again.
When a person riding an electric scooter is hit by a car, the vehicle’s auto insurance carrier will deny coverage for PIP benefits. The basis for the denial come from the language of the standard Massachusetts Auto Policy, which reads as follows: “We will not pay PIP benefits to or for anyone who, at the time of the accident, was operating or occupying a motorcycle or any motor vehicle not subject to motor vehicle registration, or a motorized bicycle, including a moped.” Is a scooter a motorized bicycle? A bicycle is defined as “a vehicle composed of two wheels held in a frame, one behind the other, propelled by pedals and steered with handlebars attached to the front wheel”. Now add to that an electric motor and the scooter becomes something else other than an innocent form of transportation.
In the example above, our client certainly has a Massachusetts bodily injury claim for the injuries suffered in the crash with the car’s auto insurance company. This is separate from a PIP claim. The bodily injury claim is the process whereby the accident victim seeks to be compensated for the injuries suffered and damages incurred as a result. The vehicle’s auto insurance company has accepted liability for the accident. Therefore, our client will likely recover compensation for his injuries and financial losses sustained once his damages are ascertainable (i.e., he recovers from his injuries and the full amount of his medical bills are determined).
What our client does not have, however, are the PIP benefits for medical bill coverage and/or lost wages reimbursement incurred because of the collision. He has health insurance which will cover his medical expenses, but the health insurance carrier will likely assert a health insurance lien seeking reimbursement for the portion of the medical bills and expenses they paid. In the event he is out of work for his injuries and unable to earn wages, there is no PIP coverage available from the offending motor vehicle insurance carrier. The lost wage coverage from PIP provides a portion of lost wage coverage soon after the lost wages are incurred. While the lost wages or earnings may be recoverable from the at-fault vehicle’s auto insurance company, the recovery for lost wages will not be obtained until the end of the claim or case. This, unfortunately, does not provide much help for any lost wages incurred soon after the accident or during treatment for injuries suffered.
Accidents Involving Electric Scooters Often Raise Issues of Fault
Another client of ours was injured when he struck a pothole in Framingham on a private rain-soaked roadway while on his way to work. Rain had filled the pothole so that it was virtually invisible. He was thrown from his scooter and sustained facial and neck injuries requiring substantial medical attention.
The general liability insurance carrier isn’t denying liability but is using the fact that the scooter was motorized and, therefore, falls into a different category. The response from the insurance carrier to our demand for settlement was “[he] was not appropriately following the rules of the road for the operator of a moped which does require the operator to wear a helmet. Due to these reasons, we are willing to compromise on this claim”. In other words, the insurance carrier is suggesting that the scooter falls under the definition of a moped or motorized bicycle and his failure to wear a helmet contributed to his injuries. This is a typical insurance tactic to minimize or reduce any amount of compensation the insurance company may have to pay to the injured party.
Although the insurance company’s argument has merit, our counter argument was that even if he were wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, he would have nonetheless sustained facial and neck injuries based on the manner in which he was thrown from the scooter.
Based upon this legal issue raised by the insurance company, if you own and ride an electric scooter, you should familiarize yourself with the motor vehicle laws and rules of the road in Massachusetts.
Accident Victims Need Qualified Massachusetts Injury Attorneys
Both our clients have strong cases against the parties responsible for their injuries. Our Framingham injury attorneys will fight to have our clients compensated for their injuries, pain and suffering, medical bills and property damage. But what seems like an innocent, almost playful means of transportation, if you have been involved in an accident while operating an electric scooter, there may be a number of unknown legal and insurance complications. It is important to have qualified legal counsel on your side in the event of an accident.
Our Massachusetts accident lawyers are experienced in handling all accident and injury type cases. We are well versed in the various insurance coverage matters and legal actions to get our clients the compensation they deserve after being injured in a motor vehicle accident. We offer free consultations and are happy to discuss your situation with you, answer any questions you may have, and willing to help you pursue the compensation you deserve.