A senior Canberra lawyer is calling on the ACT Government to make electric scooter insurance policies mandatory, with the soaring popularity of the devices expected to lead to a rise in injuries to innocent road users.
There’s been an increase in personal injury claims made against e-scooter riders around the world, and Maliganis Edwards Johnson (MEJ) lawyer James Treloar expects Canberra won’t be far behind.
“I anticipate this will be an emerging area of the law in the future because these things are heavy and fast – they’re a disaster waiting to happen,” he says.
James believes it should be compulsory for third-party insurance to be attached to each e-scooter, whether it’s a hired or privately owned device.
“Overall, I think there are a lot of positives with electric scooters – they are convenient and, if implemented and overseen correctly, they can be beneficial to the environment,” he says.
“However, if the government is allowing these vehicles on our roadways, including footpaths where there are pedestrians and other road users present, insurance should be mandatory.”
While some insurance companies do provide e-scooter liability cover as part of their home and contents insurance policies, the majority of people are scooting off without any insurance, leaving them personally responsible for any damage or injury caused to another person or property.
As a result of an accident involving an e-scooter, damages could include medical expenses, mental and emotional injuries, time off work, and could potentially extend to paying for help around the home, such as a cleaner.
“If the scooter operator hits a pedestrian and doesn’t have insurance, or can’t afford to pay compensation, that’s a significant financial burden to the person who is injured, through no fault of their own,” says James.
With more than 19 years’ experience working at some of Australia’s top law firms, and a member of the ACT Civil Litigation Committee, James says the responsibility of e-scooter riders is an “untested and emerging area of the law in the ACT”.
“As a general principle, the operator of a scooter owes a duty of care to other road users – which could include a car park or public footpath – and if they fail to steer or properly control their scooter, they may have breached that duty and can be held responsible for any damage they cause,” he says.
“However, claims against e-scooter riders can be complex and can depend on how fast the scooter can go, how large the engine is, where they’re being ridden, and whether they’re privately owned or one of the public scooters we’re seeing everywhere around Canberra.”
James says anyone injured in an e-scooter accident should, first and foremost, ensure their safety and seek medical assistance. If possible, they should also obtain the details of all parties involved, including any witnesses, as well as taking photos of the location and the scooter.
If it’s a public e-scooter, take a photo of the device’s identification number.
“As with any accident, safety comes first, but after the dust settles, any details that can be collected at the scene will help with a claim,” he says.
For almost 17 years, James has acted as a legal adviser for insurance companies so he knows how the other side thinks when it comes to claims.
“It’s definitely an advantage to understand what motivates both sides in terms of settling claims,” he says.
Electric scooter owners can check with their insurance company to see whether their device is covered under their home and contents insurance when off the premises. If not, some insurance companies now offer separate third-party insurance for e-scooters.
James holds degrees in law (hons) and science from the Australian National University, and a Master of Laws from Sydney University. He specialises in personal injury claims.
After being mentioned multiple times in the 2021 Doyle’s Guide as a ‘Preeminent Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation Lawyer’, ‘Recommended Work Injury Compensation Lawyer’ and ‘Leading Public Liability Compensation Lawyer’, he says “it’s nice to be recognised for working with vulnerable Canberrans and fighting to achieve the best results for them”.
Maliganis Edwards Johnson lawyers has seen an increase in enquiries regarding e-scooter claims and insurance responsibilities. James Treloar says anyone involved in an e-scooter accident can contact him for advice about their rights.