Indianapolis Electric Scooter Laws & Accident Laws
Given their quick rise in popularity, now is a good time to review and discuss the Indianapolis electric scooter laws. If you have been downtown recently, you have no doubt noticed all the Bird and Lime electric scooters zipping around downtown Indianapolis. It is estimated there around 3000 of these electric scooters currently on the Indianapolis streets, with the electric scooter companies applying to bring in more.
These electric scooters can travel up to 15 mph, which is faster than you may think. While this new mode of transportation is a lot of fun and is convenient, it will also create a lot of legal issues. Since their introduction to Indianapolis, I witnessed most of the electric scooter riders violating the current Indianapolis electric scooter laws. This can mean two things for the riders:
1) The electric scooter riders can be ticketed; and/or
2) The electric scooter riders MAY not be able to recover for their injuries if they are involved in an accident while riding an electric scooter.
The IMPD has already announced they have begun issuing tickets to those who violate the Indianapolis Electric Scooter Laws. The tickets start at $20 but increase to $40 if not paid in time. However, IMPD has also stated they temporarily stopped issuing tickets because of a discrepancy with how the rule is written in the electric scooter apps. I wouldn’t count on this temporary stoppage lasting too long.
So first, we are going to look at the Indianapolis electric scooter laws to determine the legal way to ride an electric scooter in Indianapolis.
Then, we are going to look at the Indiana negligence laws to determine the laws involved in an Indianapolis electric scooter accident.
Indianapolis Electric Scooter Laws
Recently, IMPD issued a public service announcement by creating a video explaining the Indianapolis electric scooter laws. In short, those rules are:
- Most importantly, you CANNOT ride an electric scooter on the sidewalk, Cultural Trail or any of the Greenways.
- You must ride the electric scooter on the street, following all normal traffic laws, including:
- You can ride in the bike lane;
- You cannot travel the wrong way on a one way street; and
- Like a car, you must ride with the flow of traffic. You cannot ride the electric scooter in the oncoming traffic lane;
- Helmets are recommended but not yet required.
- The electric scooters must be parked leaving four feet of clearance on the sidewalk.
The rest of the Indianapolis electric scooter laws are aimed more at the financial and regulatory side:
- Electric scooter companies must have a license to operate in Indianapolis. Those companies have to pay a $15,000/year fee and $1/day in order to pay for law enforcement and bike lane maintenance;
- Electric scooters have to be equipped with lights, a pedometer, and either a bell or a horn;
- Electric scooter companies have to provide Indianapolis with usage figures and scooter serial numbers;
- Electric scooter companies have to carry liability insurance to protect the city, if the City would be liable for any accidents
- Electric scooter companies must have a 24-hour service line. Those numbers are:
The next question that arises is how do these laws impact a personal injury lawsuit when a electric scooter rider is involved in accident.
Indianapolis Electric Scooter Accident Laws
Although electric scooters have only been present in Indianapolis for a short time, there has already been quite a few accidents. One electric scooter accident was caught on camera. Another article states that in September of 2018, there were 22 ambulance rides to the hospital for electric scooter related injuries in Indiana, as well as lots of ER walk-ins for electric scooter injuries.
Beyond getting a ticket for violating the Indianapolis electric scooter laws, a rider who violates the electric scooter laws MAY not be able to recover for injuries they sustain if involved in an accident.
So does that mean if an Indianapolis electric scooter rider is hit while illegally riding on a sidewalk they cannot recover in a personal injury lawsuit? Not exactly.
Since electric scooters are new to Indianapolis and Indiana as a whole, there is not an established body of case law or Indiana statutes specific to electric scooter accidents in Indiana. Instead, the general rules of negligence in Indiana still applies. So let’s review Indiana’s negligence laws to understand the legal issues that might arise.
Indiana’s Modified Comparative Fault
In determining liability (whose fault is an accident), Indiana uses a system known as modified comparative fault. This system recognizes that an accident is not always black or white. An accident is not always the fault of just one person.
For example, maybe Mike is trying to turn left at an intersection. Mike has a green light (not a green turn arrow) but still has to yield to oncoming traffic before turning. Mike sees Daniel’s car coming but thinks he has enough time to turn. Mike hits Daniel’s car as he crosses the intersection. Mike thinks the accident is his fault; however, as it turns out, Daniel was traveling 25 mph over the speed limit. In this case, both drivers may have some comparative fault assessed to them by a jury.
In Indiana, a jury (or judge) decides how much comparative fault to assess each party in an accident. Under Indiana’s modified comparative fault system, a party can recover in a lawsuit for injuries as long as his fault does not exceed 50%.
So in our example above, if Daniel sues Michael for personal injuries he sustained in the accident, he can recover as long as a jury (or judge) does not find him more than 50% responsible for the accident. If Daniel is 51% responsible for the accident, he can recover nothing – no matter how serious his injures.
Negligence Per Se
Indiana follows another legal doctrine called negligence per se. Under this doctrine, an act is considered negligent because it violates a statute, law or regulation which was designed to protect the public.
For example, the Indianapolis law preventing electric scooter riders from riding on the sidewalk is designed to protect both pedestrians and the electric scooter riders. So if an electric scooter rider is involved in an accident while having violated the Indianapolis electric scooter laws by riding on the sidewalk, they can be found by a jury to be negligent per se.
But as I explained before, even if a rider is found to be negligent per se for illegally riding on the sidewalk when involved in an accident, under Indiana’s modified comparative fault system, it would still be up to a judge or jury to decide if the electric scooter rider was more than 50% at fault for the accident to prevent any recovery for the rider.
Lawsuits Against the City of Indianapolis – Contributory Negligence
Beyond being involved in an accident with another vehicle, an electric scooter rider may hit a pothole in the street causing an accident and injury. In fact, this has already happened in Indianapolis. Could the rider then sue the City of Indianapolis for negligent maintenance of its roads or infrastructure?
The answer is yes, but with an asterisk. Lawsuits against Indiana government or political subdivisions do not use the modified comparative fault system we looked at above. Instead, contributory negligence is applied – which is a black or white analysis regarding fault.
Under contributory negligence in Indiana, a Plaintiff will be barred from recovering for injuries if they are found to be even 1% at fault by a jury. So these lawsuits are more difficult to recover and require a Plaintiff to have done absolutely nothing wrong.
Lawsuit against Electric Scooter Manufacturer
If there is a defect in the scooter itself that causes the accident, you may be able to bring a suit against the electric scooter companies directly. Indiana products liability law holds companies responsible for defects in the manufacturing or design of their products as well as failure to provide proper warnings or instructions.
Can an Injured Pedestrian Sue an Electric Scooter Rider?
Yes. The same rules applying Indiana’s comparative fault scheme apply. However, it is unlikely an electric scooter rider’s insurance will cover them for their negligence while on an electric scooter. Many insurance policies have exclusions for motorized vehicles that are not included in their policy. So while a pedestrian can sue an electric scooter rider, that rider may not have any insurance or any/enough assets to cover any judgment against them.
However, a pedestrian may be able to make a claim against the uninsured/underinsured motorist provision of their own insurance policy depending on the specific terms of their insurance policy.
Damages in an Indianapolis Electric Scooter Accident
Beyond liability, or who is at fault for the accident, the other side of every personal injury case is damages. Damages is the monetary compensation a Plaintiff can recover for the injuries from whoever caused or contributed to an accident.
Here are a few factors a jury may consider when determining the value of an injury and damage award:
- Whether the Plaintiff was partially responsible for the collision;
- The permanence of the Plaintiff’s injuries;
- The amount of time the Plaintiff was out of work due to the injuries and lost wages;
- Whether the injury has reduced the Plaintiff’s ability to earn an income or return to the same profession;
- The cost of medical bills Plaintiff has already incurred;
- The expected cost of Plaintiff’s future medical bills;
- Whether the injury is preventing the Plaintiff from participating in activities that he or she enjoyed before the accident;
- Whether the injury has caused intense pain or psychological distress; and
- Whether the defendant was grossly negligent or acted with willful or wanton misconduct.
Another important thing to note is how comparative fault affects a damage recovery. As you can see by number one on this list, whether Plaintiff contributed to the accident is considered in calculating damages. This is because under Indiana comparative fault scheme, any percentage of fault will reduce damages proportionally.
For example, using our example from above, if Mike is found to be 50% at fault for the accident, he can still recover. However, if the jury awards him $100,000 for his injuries, he can only recover 50% of that amount, or $50,000. If he was found to be 10% at fault, he could recover 90%, or $90,000.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Indianapolis Electric Scooter Accident Lawyer
If you have made this far through this article, you can see that the laws surrounding an Indianapolis electric scooter accident can be complicated. Each case is very fact specific and as the Indiana laws surrounding electric scooters develop, you need to speak to an attorney who is abreast of all the changes in the law regarding electric scooters. It is important that you speak to a qualified Indianapolis Personal Injury Lawyer to discuss the specific facts of your case.
As you can see, Avnet Law understands the issues, the law, and can advise and represent you regarding an Indianapolis electric scooter accident.