Liability Issues in Bikeshare and Dockless Scooter Accidents
June 17th, 2019
Not too long ago, probably about the time Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing companies took off, someone had a really good idea. Why not do the same thing for bicycles?
Shortly thereafter, bicycle sharing apps began popping up in the Apple and Google stores. The bicycles themselves began appearing as well. These systems proved quite popular in downtown urban areas, in big cities like Houston and smaller cities like The Woodlands.
Bicycles are a great way to get around, and they are also a very dangerous form of transportation, especially in the Houston area. Over the past six years, Harris County has had more fatal bicycle crashes than any other county in Texas. And, it’s not even close. Harris County had more than four times as many fatal wrecks as Dallas County, which was number two on this dubious list.
Due to the serious nature of the injuries, a Houston bicycle accident lawyer may be able to obtain substantial compensation in these cases. That compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
What Causes Bikeshare Accidents?
Vehicle operator negligence causes a significant number of bicycle accidents in Houston. Typically, that negligence involves one of the five types of impairment, which are:
- Alcohol: This substance causes about a third of the fatal vehicle collisions in Harris County. Alcohol slows motor skills and replaces good judgement with an unnatural sense of euphoria.
- Drugs: Illegal street drugs, like heroin and cocaine, do not cause very many accidents. The substance is usually a legal one. That could mean a prescription painkiller, like Oxycontin or Vicodin, or certain over-the-counter drugs, like NyQuil and Sominex.
- Fatigue: Drowsiness and alcohol affect the brain in about the same way. In fact, driving after eighteen hours without sleep is like driving with a .05 BAC. People who would never dream of drinking and driving have no problem driving home after a very long day at the office.
- Distraction: Hand-held cell phones cause many of the distracted driving crashes in Texas. Even though lawmakers recently passed a tougher cell phone law, these devices are still legal to use for many purposes. Additionally, hands-free speakerphones may be even more dangerous than hand-held phones. Speakerphones are still distracting.
- Medical Condition: Many people suffer from epilepsy, heart disease, and other conditions that could cause a sudden and unexpected loss of consciousness. Many people think that if they are incident-free for a few months, then it is safe for them to drive. But that’s normally not the case.
Tailgating, speeding, and aggressive driving also cause quite a few bicycle accidents in Houston.
Poorly maintained bicycles also cause a number of crashes. Dangerous conditions like underinflated tires or loose chains make it very difficult to control bicycles. Furthermore, bikers have very little protection in these situations. Vehicle occupants have multiple restraint layers along with steel cages for protection. Bicyclists have none of these things.
Your Claim for Damages
Driver error usually involves negligence, which is a lack of ordinary care. The aforementioned damages are not a penalty for bad driving. We all make mistakes, including driving errors. And, we must all accept the consequences of those mistakes.
Anyone who has ever been in a bicycle or scooter accident knows how difficult it is to recover from these incidents, both physically and emotionally. Victims should not bear the costs of their own recoveries. That burden should fall to the tortfeasor (negligent driver).
Houston is one of the only cities in the country with a vulnerable road user ordnance. THis law gives additional protection to bicycle riders. Tortfeasors who violate this ordinance may be liable for damages as a matter of law.
Accident Due to Defective Bicycles
If a poorly-maintained bike caused the crash, the legal ramifications are a bit different. Bikesharing companies and other property owners have a duty to provide safe equipment for people to use. However, to establish liability for damages, the victim/plaintiff must prove not only that there was a dangerous or defective condition in the bicycle itself, but also that the ridesharing company knew or should have known about the dangerous condition.
Part of the duty to provide safe equipment is the duty to conduct frequent safety inspections and make needed repairs. This can help establish what the company “should have known.” If the condition is such that a reasonable inspection should have uncovered it, then the company should have known and made repairs.
I Signed a Waiver. . .Do I Still Have Legal Options?
Waivers are commonly incorporated into rideshare contracts. These are written agreements that prohibit the rider from suing the company over a defective condition. As long as the waiver is conspicuous and signed by an adult, it is likely enforceable between the rideshare company and the adult.
However, they are not always enforceable even as to the company. Many bike riders are children. Children are not of legal age to contract (18 in Texas.) Thus, even if the child signs a waiver, the waiver will typically be held void against public policy as to a minor child. If a parent sign the waiver, however, they may be stuck paying the company back under an indemnity clause within the waiver.
Connect with an Aggressive Attorney
Bikesharing is a great way to get around downtown areas.For a free consultation with an aggressive injury lawyer in Houston, contact Simmons & Fletcher, P.C. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury cases.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.